Reclaiming A Stolen Community: Seniors in Literary Journalism Help Portland’s EDPA2

Sophia Elfrink

While reading Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, LJ Seniors explored the challenges that communities are facing in terms of housing. The class was excited by an opportunity to support the Emanuel Displaced Persons Association, a local organization of those affected by Portland’s Emanuel Hospital expansion forced removal. To learn more about the project, the class met with Ed Johnson, director of litigation at the Oregon Law Center. We were also joined by Byrd, “a North Portland native and founding member of EDPA2.” Together we made a PSA video to spread more awareness and information about what is happening right now. 

Portland’s Albina neighborhood was once a thriving community made up of mostly Black residents.  In fact, “during the ’60s and ’70s, more than 70% of Portland’s Black residents lived in Central Albina.” With racist intentions, Prosper Portland and Emanuel Hospital destroyed the community under eminent domain. In the early 1970’s “the homes of 171 families” were demolished. “At the time, racist lending practices meant the area was one of the only places in Portland where Black families could own property.” Additionally, businesses were lost and neighborhoods split up. In 1971 families were promised a new home for each demolished. They were never even built. Portland city argues that it “has since fulfilled the affordable housing requirements.” (OPB)

According to Byrd “what happened to our families, to me, is the equivalent of murder. … It’s real estate massacre.” (OPB) Years later, survivors and descendants are still looking for recognition and pushing for reparations. Today the organization is facilitating important conversations with the City of Portland, including, Mayor, Ted Wheeler.

I think the whole class would agree that the opportunity to make a real impact in our community was invaluable. Reflecting upon the experience, I realize the power of social media at the community level. “The video coincided with a City of Portland hearing on Wednesday with a proposed $67 million initiative that would help build 40 to 50 new single-family homes to own and at least 100 apartments to rent in the Albina neighborhood.” The class video was presented as just a piece in the journey towards justice. 

We can all use social media to share unheard stories, give momentum to discussion, and demand needed change… whatever issue you might be fighting for.

Here is more information about the EDPA2 Project:

Please check out the Seniors’ PSA video below!

Sources/ more information about the EDPA2 Project:

Photo from OPB & EDPA2