portland in color | 015: emilly prado

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If you read about Portland in Color in Street Roots earlier this fall, you can thank our guest today for writing the feature. Her work spans music, culture, and art, with intersectional activism and community at the the heart of her pieces. 

Not only does Emilly's work highlight people and issues of marginalized communities, it asks the larger community to act. It's natural to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the state of society and the greater world, but reading her pieces are grounding because they emphasize how can change begin with our own actions, right in our local communities. If you aren't familiar already, her From Slacktivism to Activism column is an incredible resource for locals to educate themselves on current events and get involved. It's a reminder that we can look to ourselves and our communities to move forward.

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Name: Emilly Prado

Pronouns: She/her

Background: Chicana by way of California and Michoacán, Mexico

Medium of choice: Writing but also photography, zine making, & dabbling in digital illustration

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Astrological signs: cancer sun, gemini rising, sag moon

Karaoke jam: “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” by Tammy Wynette, “The Jump Off” by Lil Kim, and “Como La Flor” by Selena

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Because I can’t pick just one, I’ll share two.

Even though I’ve lived in Portland for eight years, two standout memories happened this past year. In early March, I was super lucky to attend a beautifully intimate Helado Negro show at the Doug Fir. I actually wrote a live review for the Portland Mercury detailing just how blown away I was, but the entire evening was magic. My friend Daniela Karina set the mood with a killer DJ set and shortly after, my cousin and incredibly talented musician, Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba, played a set accompanied by nearly all femme musicians. Anis Mojgani, an award-winning slam poet, performed before Helado Negro went on and I cried. I had never experienced a lineup that included a poet, but more shows should! Finally, Helado Negro went on. It was my first time seeing him live and his music came alive for me. Soft glowing bulbs lit up every time he sang into the mic and the tinsel mammals added another shimmery element of sound. My favorite moment came when he played “Young, Latin, and Proud” and the entire front row (nearly all Latinx) linked arms and we gently swayed and sang along.

And another favorite memory occurred in October after I partnered with NXT LVL to throw a benefit for Puerto Rico and Mexico relief called #LaFuerzaPDX. So many wonderful musicians, artists, and community members came together to collectively raise over $2300!

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: 2012 was an incredibly tough year for me. I was feeling really isolated and lost after several major life changes occurred within weeks of each other. In a nut shell, I expected my life to be very different from where I was at and wasn’t prepared for the changes that had come. I didn’t have as strong of a network of friends as I do now and my mental health had tanked. I almost left Portland but decided to stay after I had my first tarot reading and she totally accurately warned I was running away from my problems but had to work on myself. It was true! Instead of leaving, I took a long solo trip, and five years later, I’m really happy to have made that choice.

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How do you stay inspired in Portland? There is so much in this city to be inspired by. Connecting with the amazingly powerful and growing POC communities in Portland keeps me going. When dealing with the stress and alienation that can come with being Brown and living here, I hibernate or escape by traveling when I can. Spending extended periods of time alone can help reinvigorate inspiration, especially when it comes to my own (not for journalism) writing. And while I dig getting close to all the beautiful nature around Portland when decompressing, I prefer my outdoor adventures to be comprised of yurt glamping and hot springs.

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How can Portland support you? People can support me and my work by donating to my meals-out-while-working-fund (aka venmo @emillyprado or cashapp $emillyprado), buying my zines, and attending and/or donating to the events/fundraisers I share whether through my From Slacktivism to Activism column or through social media.

To stay up to date on Emilly's writing and events, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. See more of her work on her website www.emillyprado.com.

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 014: ev'yan whitney

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Feeling alone because of your skin is one thing, but not knowing how to love the body you're in is another world. It can be difficult to separate these two ideas when they feel so inextricably linked, especially when we live in a society that can be so narrow-minded about what is beautiful.

But the conversation is changing. The people who have been excluded are seizing this narrative for themselves— a celebration of black and brown, of queer, of fat, of everything they told us not to love.

Our guest today takes this celebration to a simple but radical level: stepping outside of shame to embrace and understand our sexuality. Her work is an ongoing conversation about what it means to be queer, black, and femme today. From The Sexually Liberated Woman podcast to her workshop on erotic self portraiture, Ev'Yan is empowering femmes to find radical self love through their sexuality.

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Name: Ev'Yan Whitney

Pronouns: She/hers + Boss Ass Bitch

Background: Black american from the African Diaspora with German and Native American ancestry (my great-great-grandmother was Choctaw)

Medium of Choice: I've been writing about women's sexuality and sensuality for almost eight years and I've created a private practice where I help others heal and actualize themselves as sexual beings on their own terms. And up until recently, those were my only mediums, with writing being the most used. Lately, though, my work has expanded in such ways where I am using my actual voice rather than just writing (I podcast); my physical body (I use erotic self-portraiture as a political act; I also perform occasionally); and my spirituality (I use my intuition and connection with my ancestors to guide me when I'm in session with my clients) as methods to create, heal, and take up space.

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Astrological signs: Virgo sun, Cancer moon, Sagittarius rising. I'd also like to mention that my Venus AND Mars are in Virgo, which speaks very accurately to the way I am in my relationships (much to my dismay).

Karaoke jam: "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead. Also, "Formation" by Beyoncé.

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: I'm originally from Southern California and for 23 years I had never lived anywhere else in the world but that area; the parched desert was all I knew. So when I made the decision to move up here, one of the first memories I have of Portland was going into Forest Park and being enchanted by the landscape. I remember putting my hands on the trunks of these giant trees and petting thick tufts of moss and feeling so held and supported by everything around me. It literally felt like I was in another world and I remember leaving the forest that day feeling really high and being unsure if it was because I had spent the last hour frolicking in this magical forest or if I just wasn't used to breathing clean, highly oxygenated air - ha!

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: I lived in the Beaverton area for the first year that I moved here and it really gave me a false impression of what the rest of Portland was like. My neighborhood was super diverse—I was one of a handful of POC on my block—and I was naive enough to think that the rest of Portland would be like that. When I finally moved to Portland proper (SE Buckman), I was confused—where were all the brown people? Was I the only non-white person on my street? (I was for a time.) It was such a rarity for me to see POC and black people in my neighborhood back then that I whenever I did see them I felt relieved, like I could breathe a little easier. Which was nice in the moment, but because of the lack of people of color in my area, it meant that I wasn't breathing easy often. To feel that isolation, that depth of otherness, was really new for me and during those times, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. And then I stumbled upon Portland's racist history by way of Walidah Imarisha's work and I hit an existential crisis. I felt myself shutting myself away from the world and when I did leave the house, I made myself small and took up as little space as possible. I didn't feel safe in my skin, I didn't feel wanted or welcome here. I didn't feel seen. I felt the weight of my race and the color of my skin in such a visceral and inescapable way, which made me really insecure. I went through a huge and painful identity crisis, which, on the brighter side, resulted in me becoming radicalized in my Blackness and grounded me into my culture in a way I had never been before. But it was a very hard, very rocky process and I almost left Portland because of it. Finding the POC and Black community here saved me.

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How do you stay inspired in Portland? Being around my people inspires me. When I can code switch and use my body and voice to unapologetically take up space, relief/release floods my body. Like, "Finally, there is a space where I can let my guard down and just be my very Black ass self"—that feels so, so good. That feeling of relief/release inspires me. It grounds me back into my body, into the truth of who I am on a cellular level and in that grounding, I am able to access myself in more authentic ways—which inspires me to take up space and create important work and it helps me serve my clients better. It also helps me get out of the funk I sometimes land in that can make me isolate myself. And when I don't have those spaces—like, when I can't make it to the potluck or when the weather is so atrocious that it makes me even more of a homebody—communing with and staying connected to my ancestors inspires me. Remembering that they've been here before, that they dealt with far greater tribulations, and that their strength, wisdom, tenacity, and stubbornness lives within me. . . that's something that keeps me grounded. I think that's why I've continued to stay here in Portland, because I feel my ancestors with me and telling me constantly, "This space is yours. You deserve to be here. You belong here, too. Don't let nobody keep you from your home."

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How can Portland support you and your community? Love me like you love my culture. And not just love me, but respect me, hear me, see me, believe me.

To see more of Ev'Yan's work, visit sexloveliberation.com and follow her on Instagram

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 013: sashiko yuen

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Living in Portland can feel like living in a homogenous bubble: another coffee shop with white tile and minimalist decor, another magazine spread featuring only white women, another new business marketing luxury and convenience instead of accessibility. When we normalize these patterns, we continue to overlook the people and art that exist outside of these parameters.

As we move into the season of buying, please consider where your money is going. Who are you supporting? As activism and social consciousness become more "fashionable," understand that buying "feminist" branded merchandise from a boutique is not the same as giving your money to queer POC artists.

Sashi is a burst of color in a whitewashed town— an example of artists we should actively be seeking to support. As a queer, chronically ill POC, the battle to exist in a capitalist-driven market is exponentially more challenging. If you can't give your money to these artists, sharing their work is free. The more visibility they have in the media, the more likely they can survive with their art (and their art can survive, too). 

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Name: Sashiko Yuen aka Wishcandy

Pronouns: They/ Them, Space Bae, Cuddleboi, prince (lower p, not to be confused w/ the great Prince)

Background: Black/ Asian/ Latinx, Queer, Non-binary, Ex-East Coaster

Astrological sign: Liiibraa sun, Libra rising, Aries moon ;)

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Medium of choice: Watercolor and crushed souls

Karaoke jam: Dang, only one? Spiderwebs by No Doubt

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: My favorite memory is having a Maryland friend come visit, and taking off to travel Oregon in a camper van for a week. Hiking, exploring caves, ocean, volcanoes, lakes, fresh air, petting horses, but also driving past the forest on fire near Crater Lake. I had no idea all of these things were all in one state. Was really refreshing to clear my head and stay offline. 

Then be excited to come home, eat a real meal, and see more friends. I know this memory isn't centered in Portland, but the best thing about the town is leaving it. Then being excited to come back and spend time with my loved ones here.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland:  This past summer has been one of the most difficult times here. My dizziness and exhaustion was at its worst. I was sleeping around 16 hours a day. And when I was awake, I was barely able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time. 

I kept getting invited to the beach or to go dancing but I didn't have the health to do any of that. We talk about how important self care is, but we don't talk about how self care for the chronically ill leads to isolation. My mental health wasn't so great either, while trying to find sources and solutions. My doctors are still confused by it all too.

How do you stay inspired in Portland?  This city isn't personally an inspiring place for me. I feel creatively starved here. That's hard to admit. The art scene is lacking diversity in representation and who is actually creating. Of course diverse creators exist but it doesn't seem like they're being supported in this town. If you have a certain style and can adapt to a monoculture you'll do well here. 

If it weren't for my QPOC community I would have left shortly after I arrived. They bring warmth to my life and helping create the community I'm in has been nourishing on a personal level. But these exact ppl remind me I need to go live my life.

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How can Portland support you and/or your community? Honestly? Buy things from us, come to our shows, invite us to participate in events, advocate for us to be paid. Share our work with your friend circles, especially those who wouldn't normally be exposed to our work. Amplify our voices on social media by sharing/ regram/ retweet. Did I mention, pay us? 

See more of Sashi's work on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and their website wishcandy.net.

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 012: jonny sanders

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On the Sunday before "Thanksgiving," it's important to acknowledge that this city exists on stolen land. The same is true nationwide, and in countless places beyond our country, but living in Portland today means we continue to witness this pattern of colonialism and displacement. 

This city was founded on theft and racism, and with the influx of gentrification we're seeing it further still. There are countless articles and discussions happening around this subject, but we ask Portland residents: if you've moved to here and/or you live in an area that was historically indigenous, black, or predominantly another marginalized group, what are you doing to give back to the community you now inhabit? What are you doing to justify the space you're taking up and the space you've taken to displace someone else?

This isn't to restrict where you live or what you call home, but be cognizant. It isn't enough to be a nice neighbor and maintain curb appeal. Give your money to the people, businesses, and communities you've welcomed yourself to. Understand the racial wealth gap that's allowed you be where you are and patronize the local businesses that are still standing despite everything else changing around them.

To that end, I'm excited to introduce this week's guest-- a musician and Portland native, Jonny Sanders. As Portland continues to change, I hope this city will proactively reach out to and support artists like Jonny who are still here, still taking up space, still thriving.

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Name: Jonny Sanders 

Pronouns: Jonny Cool Star Gazer 

Background: Egyptian/Native American, born and raised in Portland, Oregon. The youngest of 5 kids. Mom was a soul singer, and my father is a keyboardist. I started my music journey at the age of 20.

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Medium of choice: Laptop and Keyboard, Microphone and Beat machine 

Karaoke jam: Too High by Stevie Wonder 

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: My favorite Portland memory is when NE Portland was considered a black neighborhood. It was a time when it felt like a community and felt welcoming. There weren't a lot of apartments, people of color lived in houses. 

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: This time is difficult to live in Portland, the cost of living is so high, it's hard to see so many people struggle with finding living space. Also, the roads are so full of cars, it makes the trees and I sick. 

How can Portland support you and/or your community? Portland can support me by supporting my art, keep communication open, spend less money on the Trail Blazers and Timbers, put that money into the art scene. My community is full of artists and healers, support their grind.

See more of Jonny's work on Instagram, Twitter, and www.jonnycool86.com

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 011: soleil ho

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Today's feature is unique in that the portraits were taken over the course of a few days and not in Portland but in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

In the fall of 2016, I attended Feast Portland where I met a photographer and editor who boasted of the impoverished countries he visited and the photos he took that were "completely unposed." He described Senegal as "a cross between Jamaica and India" (whatever tf that means) and when I asked how he decided to visit these countries, he said he just went "wherever [he] felt like going."

As a photographer tired of the homogeny and classicism in food media yet still struggling to find work, I, like the mighty of my generation, turned to Facebook to vent. I was immediately validated by POC peers who pointed out this photographer's problematic white gaze, the "poverty porn," and white savior complex of visiting these countries under the guise of empathy but who instead, perpetuated poverty tourism by exploiting the images of locals (i.e. photos taken without context, consent, or compensation).

This is where I met Soleil, and I call tell you that our conversations after a year, two podcast episodes, and endless tweets have helped shape my consciousness as an activist today.

If you're not already listening to this critical conversation, Soleil is a cohost of Racist Sandwich, a podcast that discusses food as it intersects with race, class, and gender. Somehow, on top of posting biweekly episodes, she's also a chef and a writer. I would say that her pieces on Assimilation Food and "A Guide to Avoid Cultural Appropriation" are my favorite, but the truth is I love everything she does because she's consistently a voice of reflection and change.

Soleil only lived in Portland for a year (and has since moved to Puerto Vallarta to open Bonito Kitchen with her mother), but her impact and voice are still here. 

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Name: Soleil Ho

Pronouns: she/her

Background: Vietnamese American, Brooklynite

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Astrological signs: Virgo sun, Libra moon, Libra rising

Medium of choice: Food, writing, podcasting/audio

Karaoke jam: “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5

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Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Probably the apex of my Portland life was performing at the YOUTHHOOD event at the Holocene in fall of 2016. I was terrified, and I didn’t know why anyone would ask me to do such a thing, because I have heaps of social anxiety. I puked on a tree just outside of the venue before I entered. I kept telling people, “I’m gonna die, this is gonna be awful, why am I doing this,” and pacing around the room in a frantic haze. When I couldn’t put it off any longer, I got up to the mic and told a story to the beautiful, diverse crowd about a time when I failed to be an advocate for myself, when I let someone else decide who I was. Having that opportunity—and hearing people echo my feelings and applaud my vulnerability—was an amazing feeling.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: In order to afford to live in Portland, I worked a lot, in addition to pursuing my side projects. There was a period of time where I was working 60 hours a week managing two restaurants on top of doing the podcast biweekly and completing freelance writing assignments. I barely saw my husband and my roommates and I was so frustrated with my inability to have a social life, though I valued my time spent on the podcast because that was time that I truly felt was my own. I felt like I couldn’t cut back on any of that work when we had to pay rent, bills, and student loans—and we had to fucking eat.

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How did you stay inspired in Portland? I found people who understood me, validated me, and wanted to help me make the best work I could. And vice versa. I went on endless coffee dates and reached out to any and all folks who inspired me.

How can Portland support you and/or your community? For starters, check out the Racist Sandwich’s PoC food directory as a jumping off point toward being more intentional with the money you spend when you go out to eat. It’s a small step, but it does more to help close the racial wealth gap than going to BORC would.

Follow Soleil on Twitter or via Racist Sandwich on Facebook, Twitter, or racistsandwich.com. You can support her work by donating on Patreon or visiting her bombass restaurant Bonito Kitchen in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Listen to Celeste's cameos on the podcast here and here.

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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