Celebrate Black Portlanders

Image of single rose in red, yellow, and green, next to strong text that reads "Celebrate Black Portlanders". Bottom of images features six black and white photos of Black Portlanders featured in the video content.
Celebrate Black Portlanders is brought to you by Portland Parks & Recreation as part of the Stay and Play video series.
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Celebrate Black Portlanders is a new virtual program within Portland Parks & Recreation’s Stay and Play video series. The program aims to offer a festive space for Black public employees as well as Portland’s Black community, at large; to celebrate one another and be their true, authentic selves. We welcome all Portlanders to view, learn from, and engage with this program.

We recognize, understand, and encourage the celebration of the differences that surround us. Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other. 

Program and Performances

Celebrating and Elevating Black Public Employees of the Past, Present, and Future
This foundational debut video is a collaboration between PP&R and our partners at Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Keynote address by Markisha Webster, Ed.D

The Brown Sisters
Born and raised in Portland, the soulful Brown Sisters have been singing and performing gospel, inspirational music, and acapella for over thirty years. Deemed by audiences far and wide as singing angels, the powerhouse trio is highly influenced by Black traditional gospel performers: Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, and Shirley Caesar. Their flair and love for music have led the group to perform at the Rose Festival, Portland Trailblazers’ games, Davis Cup Tennis Championships, and New York City’s historic Riverside Church. The joyous songbirds have shared the limelight with Aaron Meyer, CeCe Winans, the Oregon Symphony as well as opened for the late Dr. Maya Angelou.

Jessica Thiessen
Self-described room shaker and result maker, Jessica Thiessen, presents Branch Out – a choreopoem that explores the performer’s connection to her ancestral roots, nature, and use of mindful practices against discrimination. Highly influenced by community arts, oral tradition, digital storytelling, as well as the art of mermaiding; the spirited actress, singer, producer, and playwright produces dramatic works centered on personal empowerment, morale, and community.

Kayla Banks and Olaoye Onipede
Multimedia performing artists and choreographers, Kayla Banks of Banks Movement and Olaoye Onipede of Viva La Free, pair up in this experimental dance and movement piece that confronts themes related to nature, personal connection, and the complexities of human existence and displacement. Juxtaposed by scenic landmarks of North Portland, St. John’s Bridge, and Cathedral Park; the duet uses the performing arts as a catalyst for telling diverse stories on an emotional and spiritual basis.

World Stage Theatre
Who I Am - a Civil Rights Medley is a commissioned community theater piece under the direction of Shalanda Sims, founder, and director of World Stage Theatre. The work explores the monumental legacy of the US Civic Rights Movement, from the 50s to modern-day BLM Movements across the country.  Severely impacted by police brutality, school policing, and the deaths of George Floyd and a myriad of others; the theater performance aims to empower youth and community by giving voice and access to live performance and artistic expression.

Dancer, educator, actor, and singer, ONRY, is a tour du force performer and social media influencer. The multilingual and classically trained opera singer, is a lyricist who fuses soul, indie rock, traditional classical, and Black gospel music. Highly influenced by Spirituals and urban contemporary, this soulful artist was born and raised in Portland.

LaRhonda Steele Band
Lead vocalist and band frontwoman, LaRhonda Stelle, is a legend and icon in Portland’s eclectic music scene. Steele is a blues and gospel powerhouse and master entertainer. Praised for her gusto, signature gravelly voice, and high-energy performance; the energetic diva brings classic southern blues and contemporary gospel to life.

Tahirah Memory with Charlie Brown III and Tyrone Hendrix
Portland native, Tahirah Memory, is a singer-songwriter well versed in all things fusion jazz, R&B, and soul. Known for her beautiful and agile vocals as well as her lyric-focused, outspoken, original compositions; the engaging songstress is the daughter of Grammy award-winning jazz trumpeter, Dr. Thara Memory.

Special Thanks

Along with the significant contributions of Black public employees, their workplace allies, members of the Black Portland community at large, and you. Thank you for supporting Celebrate Black Portlanders. 

Celebrate Black Portlanders Planning Committee
  • Alexis Gabriel  
  • Aly’ce Brannon-Reid     
  • Ariane Kunze 
  • Curtis Scott  
  • Deborah Harris
  • Durelle Singleton  
  • Jennie Birt    
  • Kawana Bullock Clayton
  • Kenya Williams
  • Lolita Broadus
  • Lori Steen
  • Madeleine Hanlon-Austin
  • Michelle Harper
  • Phil Armand
  • Som Subedi
  • Soo Pak
  • Vicente Harrison


Black Space
This meeting is specifically for City of Portland’s Black employees. We will provide support where needed, and work together to identify common experiences as well as ways the City can better support and retain Black employees. Meetings occur on the last Monday of every month at 1:00pm. For access to monthly meetings, please contact Judith Mowry at judith.mowry@portlandoreon.gov at the Office of Equity and Human Rights.

City African American Network (CAAN)
CAAN seeks to build a common bond of fellowship among Black employees who honorably serve the City of Portland. CAAN advocates for fair employment and equal promotional opportunities for African Americans through positive relationships with City and community leaders who value and embrace “diversity” beyond just awareness.

Diverse and Empowered Employees of Portland (DEEP)
DEEP is dedicated to enhancing a work environment that is inclusive and supportive of the City of Portland’s diverse workforce that is committed to quality public service. DEEP envisions that affinity groups will be organized around the protected classes set forth in non-discrimination laws such as race, disability, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

Diversity and Equity Committee (DEC)
Portland Parks & Recreation's DEC advises the Bureau Director and Equity and Inclusion team on bureau policies and budget. DEC facilitate the implementation of Bureau policies and practices to remove barriers to and promote diversity, inclusion, and racial equity best practices. 

Fostering Equity and Support Team (FEST)
Portland Parks & Recreation's FEST is a standing bureau committee that meets as a support group representing non-dominant cultures established to safely discuss work experiences, share ideas and perspectives, and provide recommendations for organizational development. Committee meets monthly at various locations throughout the bureau. For more information, contact Curtis Scott at curtis.scott@portlandoregon.gov, or Jennie Birt at jennie.birt@portlandoregon.gov.

Eagle Caddie Scholarship Program (Portland Parks Golf)
The EAGLE Caddie Program is a unique internship program that is a cooperative venture between Portland Parks & Recreation, The Western Golf Association, and public and private high schools located within the city of Portland, aimed at introducing students to all aspects of golf course operation. Qualified students are paid an hourly wage, receive work credit hours, and have a mentor who monitors their progress. In addition, Evans Foundation Scholarship opportunities are available from their involvement in our program.

Office of Equity and Human Rights
The Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR) provides education and technical support to City staff and elected officials, leading to recognition and removal of systemic barriers to fair and just distribution of resources, access, and opportunity, starting with issues of race and disability. To learn more, please visit portlandoregon.gov/oehr.

Portland Park Rangers (503-823-1637)
Portland Park Rangers serve multiple roles by providing park visitors with resources and information, helping solve park user conflicts, and enforcing City Code. Park Rangers help ensure visitors have a positive experience and that our cultural and natural resources are protected. Portland Park Rangers are not law enforcement but do have authority under City Code to issue park exclusions or citations. In most instances, Park Rangers are trained to educate park users on the impact a prohibited activity may have on others and the natural environment and provide options for compliance. For more information, call Park Rangers at 503-823-1637 or email rangercallcenter@portlandoregon.gov.

Racial Equity Support Line (503-575-3764)
This is service-led and staffed by people with lived experiences of racism. Racial Equity Support Line offers support to those feeling the emotional impacts of racist violence and microaggressions, as well as the emotional impacts of immigration struggles and other cross-cultural issues. More information is available at linesforlife.org/racial-equity-support-line.

Social Equity Contracting
Information on the City's small business programs and business community engagement. To learn more, please visit portland.gov/omf/brfs/procurement/social-equity-contracting.

SummerWorks- Active Transportation and Safety Internships
SummerWorks is a paid summer internship program for youth, ages 16 through 24. Regardless of little or no work history, SummerWorks teaches real job skills by giving youth a chance to experience working in the real world. Community partners like schools and nonprofits refer about 600 to 800 youth to SummerWorks each year. For information on active transportation and safety internships, please contact Xao Xiong at xao.xiong@portlandoregon.gov.

SUN Community Schools
SUN Community Schools are a collaboration between Multnomah County, Portland Parks & Recreation, and various school districts. Faubion SUN Community School is 1 out of 11 sites operated by PP&R in N/NE Portland. Critical components of the program include education, social services, multicultural and cultural arts, recreation and leisure services, health services, and community involvement. The current initiative includes accessing culturally-specific food boxes for BIPOC families.

Portland Parks & Recreation’s TeenForce team is honoring the breadth of contributions that black and brown-skinned people have made towards the betterment of our community, our country, and the world. Through social media, TeenForce highlighted one person per day throughout the month of February with an emphasis on celebrating local heroes or national leaders that are not often recognized. We invite you to follow the TeenForce Facebook or Instagram pages and enjoy a true celebration of #BlackExcellence. We guarantee you will learn something new.

Volunteer Transportation Ambassadors Program (ATS)
Ambassadors are volunteers who represent the Bureau of Transportation and share information and resources about how to get around Portland. This rewarding opportunity situates Ambassadors at community events and activities to educate the public about all the ways Portland offers for getting around, which in turn saves people money, increases physical activity, and helps the city reduce congestion and preserve air quality. Pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and transit riders alike all share our roadways every day. Ambassadors advocate for all road users to share the road safely and courteously. Applications to become an Active Transportation Ambassador are accepted in March and April. Want more information? Contact Rachel Lobo by email at rachel.lobo@portlandoregon.gov or by phone at 503-865-6837.