portland in color | 007: miss renée

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If Portland has taught me anything, it's the importance of carving out space for POC, particularly for self care. Growing up as the daughter of a single immigrant parent, I only thought I could exist in two modes: working tirelessly or not at all. I didn't understand how exhausting it could be to simply exist, but in this society-- and especially in this town-- the strain is a daily reminder.

I think that POC have fought harder to validate their self care even though we arguably need it the most. A lot of us come from backgrounds and families where the option to prioritize mental health never existed. To this day, the ability to care for myself feels like a privilege. And it is, but it's also a necessity. And as our guest today says, "for POC, self care is an act of resistance."

Last night I had the joy of sharing space with a group of POC femmes. We were all tired-- from work, from explaining ourselves, from existing. Some of us almost canceled, some of us barely made it there. But we ate, held space together, and knew that this time together was essential to our mental wellbeing. We delighted in the ways we were similar, we learned from how we were different, and explored our astrology charts to tie it all together-- which brings us to Miss Renée. 

At this point, I think it's fair to say that Miss Renée is a local legend. Whether slaying as the frontwoman of Gold Ensoul or slaying our hearts during an astrology reading via Miss Renée Healing, her energy and presence speak for herself. Lucky for us, she's also speaking with us today.

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Name: Renée (aka Miss Renee)

Pronouns: She/Her

Background: Black/ African American

Medium of choice: I've been singing since I physically literally could. My family was deeply religious so I grew up in the church and my entire family sings so it was as part of me as breathing. I also love writing, in many forms but it typically ends up coming out via song lyrics, astrology blogging (professional astrologer/all around "woo"layperson), and loonnnng ass heart-filled, insightful FB posts either on my biz page or my personal page.

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Karaoke jam: Honeyyy! So many! But I guess for a group jam it'd be Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry . For myself though...I feel sorry for the person up next after I mic drop it on Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman or Back To Black by Amy Winehouse.

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Portland introduced me to life outdoors. The first time I walked the trail at Bagby, or hiked down to swim in a rushing river, or experienced the different natural hot springs at Breitenbush, it just lifted my very soul. I don't purport to speak for all Black people, but I know it isn't uncommon for us to be unfamiliar with hiking trails and camping and experiencing the healing glory and beauty of the wild outdoors. Which is the saddest irony, really, because people of color have historically had such deep, spiritual, harmonious and inter-dependent relationships with mother earth. Maybe that's why it felt like coming home to have these experiences.

I moved here in 2005 for love after a year of back and forth long distance romancing. However, it was after we parted in late 2010 that I realized I'd made my world so small and begin to put myself out there, which for an introvert is.... work! I have slowly acquired what I call my "crew". The people I've drawn to me here are highly intelligent, community centered, nature oriented and deeply spiritual/witchy-woo.

Lastly, my business exploded here in a way that I don't know would have/could have happened anywhere else. There is a LOT of support here for people on their grind who want to live life outside of the rat race. I will ALWAYS be deeply and profoundly grateful to the people who held it down for me and lifted me up. I've really learned the beauty and the value of community here.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: Ugh. I think it would be easier in ways if Portland was just straight up racist, like, upfront instead of these low key and sideways ways. I really think that Portland is mostly racially ignorant. It is so taxing on a psychic level to be around so many white people that have rarely ever had to interact with people of color. Their discomfort is palpable and you don't even have to be an empath to feel it. But I am deeply empathic so it's that much more unbearable. Like, I'm sitting in my car trying to pep talk myself into going into the damn store 'cause I/m wondering which grossness it's gonna be this time: Dred Locs Becky? Gonna Reach Out and Touch Your Hair Becky? Over React To Your Nearness and Dramatically Move Out of Your Way Black Lady Becky? Speak AAVE To You As A Show Of Solidarity Becky? This is always especially difficult to navigate after police brutality/murder of Black /Brown people has been major news.

I'm also queer, and being queer in predominantly white spaces is so disheartening at times. In regards to white queers, my options here have often been tokenized, fetishized or invisible. Also, the level of performative wokeness/awkward racial..um.. apology here is .....beyond. I'm at a point where I'm not sure I can date a non-POC.

Which brings me to non white queers: It was a blow to my heart when I realized that, often, queers of color don't tend to date other queers of color. DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME.... I have tasted the rainbow when it has come to dating and I support loving whom ever it is you love. I do not have stank face for interracial couples. But when you consistently ONLY see one type of coupling....it's troubling. All I'm saying is that it makes my heart sing seeing Black on Black love. It would be healing to see and experience more of that.

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How do you stay inspired in Portland? Artistic collaboration. I'm currently in a soul cover band named Gold Ensoul. Within that project I am very purposeful with bringing specifically other artists of color (spoken word artists, dancers) onto that platform with me. May we all get paid and love what we are doing in the process! Ashe!!! I am also in the process of recording an EP of my own music. I cannot tell you how nervous and excited and ready to put my thang down on it.

How can Portland support you and/or your community?
White Portland can:

  • Not live homogenized lives
  • Speak less and listen more.... a little more... no, more still.....keep going...
  • Do what is right by POC when moments arise to use your privilage AND THEN....tell no one of your "good deed"
  • Put your $$ into Black and Brown owned businesses, projects, and create space for people who dont look like you.

For POC:

  • You can always feel free to come have a tarot/astrology/reiki session with me
  • You can always feel free to come to my singing gigs
  • One day soon I'll have an I-Tunes for you to download
  • You can always feel free to ask me to artistically collaborate
  • You can value your spiritual health
  • You can love yourself and know that self care is an act of resistance, that your worth is not measured by what you can produce for capitalism, and most importantly that I think you, fellow/sister POC, are love and loved. Blessed and a Blessing.

You can find Miss Renée on Facebook and her website, missreneehealing.com. Support her music by attending Gold Ensoul's performance on Saturday, October 21st at Santé Bar.

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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