The Black Portlanders
3/13/14 UPDATE: IndieGogo kicked us back LIVE. Several people who missed the first deadline asked about how to contribute. There's still time to contribute. Thank you all so much!
UPDATE: Stretch Goal: Full-scale Black Portlanders Summer Photo Exhibit
Listen in, world!
I’m going to tell you about The Black Portlanders!
My name is Intisar Abioto. I’m a writer, photographer, dancer, and explorer. I’m the face behind the lens and blog, The Black Portlanders. I’ve always believed in the magic of storytelling, art, and exploration. I’ve known since I was 19 that I was an explorer destined to connect the stories of people of African descent - around the world - through photography. Since then, I’ve traveled to photograph in Senegal, San Francisco, Mississippi, Morocco, DC, Djibouti, Jamaica, and beyond … seeking the authentic story of the travels and migrations of Black people around the world.
Originally from Memphis TN, I moved to Portland in 2010. But, after having lived in Portland for almost 3 years, I felt isolated, ghost-like and a shadow of my former artistic self. Where or how could I connect to the Black cultures here? One day last February, I saw this Black woman in a wheelchair - high-speeding like a BMX biker- down the sidewalk of Martin Luther King Blvd with her trusted dog beside her.. gunnin’ down the street. It was amazing! She was vibrant, alive, and most importantly, herself. I became curious. I had to know her story. I had to say hello. So, I said hello and I photographed her. This was the beginning of The Black Portlanders. It reminded me of my true self and my true work. This was the spirit of fun and adventure, the vibrancy, fabulousness, and boldness of life I'd been missing.
I began approaching Black people I saw around Portland, talking with them, and taking their portraits. I began to once again do what I loved - photography, arts, and adventure. I felt alive again and I began to “ get in the mix” of Portland's Black cultures. It was an awakening - an opening - a coming out. Black people were in Portland and they were Portland.
When Oregon was established in 1859, it was illegal for Black people to live, make contracts, or hold real estate in Oregon. This exclusionary law was in Oregon’s constitution until 1926. Despite this law, there have been communities of Black people making a life in Oregon since its establishment. Black Oregonians have been here and we are here today. Currently Portland, OR has a Black population of 6% or about 35,000 and in the State of Oregon about 2%. Regardless of the percentage of Black people in Portand or the State of Oregon - we are here and we have been trail-blazing since the beginning.
I soon published these first portraits of Black Portlanders on a tumblr blog entitled The Black Portlanders. I invited friends. I emailed the people I’d photographed. It didn’t take long for something to begin to happen. Person by person, portrait by portrait, word of The Black Portlanders spread.. quickly. People across Portland, of all identities began to share The Black Portlanders blog and the images via "likes", shares, rebloggings and retweets. The photographs, the portraits, the blog began to connect people.
Through art, people were connecting people... Black Portlanders to other Black Portlanders - Portlanders to Portlanders - Portland natives to transplants - to ex-Portlanders in Seattle, Chicago, Hawaii, and New York … and onwards even .. to people outside of Portland - in New York, Atlanta, DC, Florida, San Francisco .. - people who had never been to Portland, but wanted to connect to this sense of cultural renaissance and awakening.
When I approached people on the street, they already knew about The Black Portlanders and I wasn’t so anonymous. Local and national news outlets wrote about The Black Portlanders. Something was happening.. Some people call/ed it a movement. Some people called it photography. Some called it transmedia. Some didn't know what to call it. But something was happening .. and something is happening … now.
Shhh! I'll tell you a secret that is not a secret. The power of The Black Portlanders comes very simply from believing in the importance of people without any reason, with nothing to prove, nothing to show. The Black Portlanders is about celebrating Black people with no reason. No explanation! I won’t give you one. We are. That’s it. Nothing to explain.
Over the course of a year, I have photographed over 500 Black Portlanders and met amazing people all over Portland.. of all identities. The beauty of this project is that by highlighting the presence of an “ unseen people” you show the truth - a fuller expression of who we all are.
The Black Portlanders is the face of a growing arts and culture renaissance in Portland OR. The Black Portlanders is about celebrating, exploring, and affirming the presence of Black people and people of the African Diaspora in Portland, Oregon through arts, innovation, and exploration.
The Next Stage of The Black Portlanders:
I started The Black Portlanders with what I had available to me: a Canon 20D, an old Dell laptop, and my love for arts and adventure. Now, a year later, I need funds to continue and to develop The Black Portlanders work. I’m seeking $15,000 in funding to secure equipment needed to expand the media formats of the work, the retrieval of original Black Portlanders photo files from a damaged hard drive, and travel fees to document the perspectives of Black Portlanders outside of Portland. We are expanding The Black Portlanders in 2014! Along with continuation of The Black Portlanders photo blog, we are embarking on..
- The Black Portlanders radio segment on Portland's newly kickstarted XRAY.fm
- The integration of filmed interviews and vignettes of Black Portlanders
- Portraits and interviews with Black Portlanders outside of Portland proper
- The Black Portlanders art parties, events, and pop ups!
A HUGE surprise development of The Black Portlanders.. to be debuted in June
Over the spring and summer, I’ll be doing a series of interviews and portraits of Black Portlanders outside of Portland. The current conversation around Portland is about natives and transplants, however I’m also interested in the stories of Portlanders who have left through the years. How might their perspectives on life and the world have shifted - or not shifted - by different physical and cultural environs? What did they find? Who are Black Portlanders within the world, not just within the geographic region of Portland.. Opening up the geographic frame.
I need your support to make these things happen!
I need $ 15,000 to get this show kicking and on the road..
Here's where it all goes!
Data recovery to save The Black Portlanders photographs already taken. In the fall a hard drive that held the body of The Black Portlanders images taken up to that time failed. These are irreplaceable original photo files of the first 10 months of The Black Portlanders, of which about 200 have never been published. Thankfully, the data on the hard drive can be retrieved, but I’m in need of the funds retrieve them.
Computer to process, edit, and publish The Black Portlanders. In the fall, my computer died halting the publishing of the The Black Portlanders photographs. Many of you wondered where we went during the fall and winter. This is why. I am writing this on a Google Chromebook, which is not capable of processing or editing images or media. I’m in need of a computer to keep producing and publishing The Black Portlanders. True story!
The purchase of a film-capable SLR camera to integrate filmed interviews and vignettes of Black Portlanders into The Black Portlanders.
Audio equipment - recorder, wireless mic - for Black Portlanders audio segments and interviews
Hard drives for data storage
Travel expenses to interview and photograph the perspectives and experiences of Black Portlanders outside of Portland proper
The creation of an accumulative and accessible portrait of Portland Oregon's current Black population - a photographic primary document - for both current and future Oregon generations to be enriched by
- To connect Black Portland's diverse communities through a photo-based meta-community using current and developing social media platforms
- The creation of a body of portraits to be later published in a photo book and shown in larger exhibits
- To celebrate and educate around the presence of people of African descent in Portland, Oregon through exploratory and experimental media arts
We have some sweet perks and rewards for contributors.
Thank you on The Black Portlanders blog
Electronic copy of The Intisar’s Illustrated Guide to Adventure.
Written by Intisar Abioto and illustrated by Intisar Abioto’s sister Aisha Abioto, The Intisar’s Illustrated Guide to Adventure is Intisar’s personal guide to finding adventure, exploration, travel, and surprise in destinations near or far - wherever you are.
Tickets to the post-campaign party and artist Q&A in March
Signed 5-card Black Portlanders postcard sets
The Black Portlanders t-shirts
The Black Portlanders hoodies
Signed 8 x 12 and 11 x 14 limited-edition prints from The Black Portlanders
"Black Portland Made" Pack - A curated selection of items by Black Portland artists and creatives.. includes Black Portlanders Hoodie, T-shirt, Button
Personal photo workshops, Art of Adventure Workshops, and photo walkabouts with Intisar Abioto
Photo shoot with The Black Portlanders photographer Intisar Abioto
Private dinner party for you and 5 friends .. by The Abiotos / The Green Lady
3 Limited edition, custom made Black Portlanders books. The very first Black Portlanders books printed ever.
Intisar Abioto is a writer, dancer, photographer, and explorer. Originally from Memphis TN, Intisar has traveled nationally and internationally photographing and documenting people throughout the African diaspora. She is the co-founder of The People Could Fly Project - where she turned Virginia Hamilton's award-winning children’s book, "The People Could Fly", into an international 200,000-mile arts expedition - and founder of Flier Arts and The Black Portlanders. With her family she is the co-founder of The Holy Mojo, Green Lady Foods, and Midnight Seed Mylks. She studied Dance and English at Wesleyan University in CT and Spelman College in GA.
Portland Mercury: Intisar Abioto Crowdsources "The Blackest Night"
Oregon Public Broadcasting: Photographer Intisar Abioto Approaches 'The Black Portlanders' By The Numbers
Al Jazeera America: Being Black In Portland
Portland Observer: Black Portlanders
The Oregonian: Black Portlanders blog shines light on African-American presence, joy
Street Roots: "This is Black Portland" bit.ly/17PfUUK
Portland Mercury: "The Black Portlanders: Profiling Photographer Intisar Abioto"
Portland Skanner: "The Black Portlanders Seeks to Build Community Through Art"
Other Ways You Can Help
Know a journalist or news outlet? We need local, national, and international media to write about The Black Portlanders. The unique history and present of Black Portlanders and Oregonians is largely unknown even as Portland, Oregon abounds in the national and international eye.
Every bit helps!
Intisar Abioto of The Black Portlanders
Many many thanks to all of the people I've photographed over the past year and everyone who has supported the work in one way or another.
Further Background on The History of Black People in Oregon:
Walidah Imarisha's Oregon Black History Timeline:
Why Aren't There More Black People In Oregon: A Hidden History
- Oregon Black Pioneers : Celebrating The Contributions of Oregon's Black Pioneers
Karen J. GIbson's Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940 -2000