Commissioner Hardesty Unveils Portland Black Youth Leadership Fund, Provides Tour Opportunity for Media

News Article

February 23, 2022 

Commissioner Hardesty and Dr. S. Rennee Mitchell smile for a picture at the Soul Restoration Center

Later today during the afternoon council session, Commissioner Hardesty will bring forward the Portland Black Youth Leadership Fund for a presentation and first hearing to the Portland City Council. Council will vote on approving the fund the following week.  

Before the Council hearing, Commissioner Hardesty joined Dr. S. Renee Mitchell, who designed the programming for the fund, for a media tour of the community space where programing will occur. 

Responding to Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice and police accountability, Commissioner Hardesty pledged to develop a fund that invests in the leadership development of Portland’s Black youth. These community investments aim to help close the racial inequality gap locally by providing our youth opportunities for leadership and prosperity.   

“I couldn’t be prouder to bring this investment in Portland’s Black youth forward during this Black History Month.” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “The racial inequalities of today did not happen overnight and have been exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To create a more equal and just Portland, we need to invest in the communities that have historically been disinvested in. These investments will provide hope and opportunities for our Black community that has always been left behind in Portland. That enriches our entire city.”  

The development of this fund was intentional about finding the right vision and partners. Beyond the ongoing $950,000 provided by the City of Portland, the fund will now be able to receive donations to grow even larger. The Black United Fund will oversee the program, which was designed by Dr. S. Renee Mitchell. Community granting opportunities will be created by youth themselves and will be administered in collaboration with the Oregon Community Foundation. There will also be a community advisory body to oversee the program.  

“We at the Black United Fund of Oregon are grateful for Commissioner Hardesty's tenacity and dedication to this work and are ready to continue our community fund stewardship. We are more than excited to see Black youth leadership development work come to fruition,” said Black United Fund of Oregon President  & CEO Dr.  LM Alaiyo Foster. “This specific focus on traditionally marginalized youth and their ability to thrive is deeply aligned with our principles. This is an exciting time as we are on the precipice of historical changes.”  

“Oregon Community Foundation is proud to leverage our philanthropic capacity in partnership with the Black United Fund of Oregon to support youth-led grantmaking,” said Niyati Desai, Director of Community Engagement at Oregon Community Foundation. “Together, we’re working to create leadership opportunities for Black youth in the City of Portland with the broader goal of advancing equity.”  

“I am honored to be able to pour my heart, my passion and my years of management experience into helping Black youth, which research acknowledges as THE most prodigiously traumatized adolescent group, benefit from an evidence-based path toward healing, entrepreneurship and self-awareness of their own genius and creativity,” said program designer Dr. S. Renee Mitchell. “To be able to do this important and necessary empowerment work in a NE Portland location, the former Albina Arts Center, which was once the space that activated generations of creative Black genius, is particularly rewarding.”  

A live stream of the City Council presentation (3pm time certain) can be watched online at…;

Picture of community space where Black Youth Leadership Fund will take place. In display is a number of art pieces, a sitting area, and a sign that reads "Black Joy."

Dr. S. Renee Mitchell Bio 

Dr. S. Renee Mitchell is an educator, poet, playwright, multimedia artist and author and community healer and visionary. She is a 2019-20 Spirit of Portland Award winner and Multnomah County honored her with a 2021 Gladys McCoy Lifetime of Excellence Award. During Dr. Mitchell’s 25 years as an award-winning former newspaper journalist, she was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize and was named the No. 1 columnist in five Western states, while working at The Oregonian.  She also is a dedicated heARTivist and a trained Community Health Worker, which has resulted in multiple community awards for her dedicated empowerment of her community with her skills as a project manager, grant writer, performer, and researcher. In late 2018, Dr. Mitchell became the visionary founder of a nationally award-winning, youth-development program called I Am MORE (Making Ourselves Resilient Everyday), which started an intergenerational Spreading The Black Joy Virus campaign ( Dr. Mitchell holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Oregon, where she  refined her strong research agenda around helping Black youth heal from trauma - racial and otherwise, which is often a focus of her consulting, facilitating and professional development trainings. This Spring, Dr. Mitchell is publishing her book, titled "In My Power, I Empower: Moving Black Youth from Spirit-Murder to Emotional Emancipation." 

Niyati Desai Bio 

Niyati Desai (pronounced Knee-ah-tea Duh-sigh) is the Director of Community Engagement at Oregon Community Foundation. She has over 15 years of experience in developing, managing and evaluating community engagement initiatives and programs. Through tools such as community engagement, grant making and research, she leads a statewide team responsible for listening, learning and responding to the needs facing those most impacted in Oregon. Prior to OCF, Niyati led the community outreach and engagement team at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute where she co-developed several initiatives aimed at addressing cancer health disparities from prevention to access to care, including the Community Partnership Program. She is dedicated to leveraging her role in philanthropy to increase impact and advance equitable outcomes.