Eliot Neighborhood Association unveils oral history tour of vanishing black community, thanks to help from many groups



30 July 2011

About Picture: Courtesy Laurie Simpson
Boise-Eliot School student Anthony Brown interviews neighborhood resident Joe Nunn.

More than a year after the Eliot Neighborhood Association launched an oral history project to strengthen community and capture the past of a rapidly gentrifying community, the effort has grown to include several other groups and now features an extensive walking tour and history guide.

The tour, designed by Portland State University students, features the oral history interviews of 18 North and Northeast Portland elders. The interviews began in the spring last year and were first conducted by students at Boise-Eliot School.

The effort, funded by a $1,500 grant through the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, expanded, and adults with disabilities participating in Project Grow activities conducted a second round of interviews. Then the project grew yet again to include students from the Ivy School.

The students, in the university's Community Development Program, conducted further interviews and did a community outreach program at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. Then yet another group got involved. Night shift workers at Calaroga Terrace Retirement Community transcribed many of the interviews as a volunteer service.

The PSU students distilled all the interviews conducted by students and adults at Project Grow, and created a 45-minute audio tour that starts and ends at Matt Dishman Community Center and covers three miles with 13 stops. The audio tour comes with an accordion-style brochure and is played on MP3 players that are checked out at Dishman in exchange for a driver's license.

Project coordinator Laurie Simpson, who recently went on a dry run of the tour with other organizers and participants, called it an amazing look at the history of North and Northeast Portland as heard through people who lived the history. The tour covers history, culture, gentrification, and the urban development that pushed many people from the predominantly African American community between the 1950s and the 1970s.

The tours will officially be unveiled during the 25th North-Northeast reunion event, The Gathering, held the last Sunday of August in Dawson Park.

"We were trying to build connections in the community, to break down barriers, and to reaffirm the history of the neighborhood," Simpson said.

To learn more, go to www.eliotoralhistories.com.

-- Larry Bingham
Follow me on Twitter and check out The O's new Northeast Portland blog
© 2011 OregonLive.com. All rights reserved.
http://blog.oregonlive.com/portland_impact/print.html?entry=/2011/07/eliot_neighborhood_association.html

 By Larry Bingham, The Oregonian 



 
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