This week I'm really thinking about intention. Being wholehearted and relentless about the decisions we make, the collaborations we pursue, and work we put into the world. I'm so honored that Portland in Color was the cover feature of last week's Street Roots, and is now available to read online.
It's particularly significant that PIC's first media coverage was with this publication, because Street Roots' whole mission is to fight homelessness and poverty in the city. Its articles are only available in print for the first week, incentivizing readers to pay to pick up a print copy before making the material available online a week later. There's so much thoughtfulness and intention behind this publication― it's refreshing when we've grown accustom to media wrought with perfunctory or performative work.
Today's guest is equally wholehearted and intentional about the work they do― in every capacity. They are both relentless yet vulnerable, putting themselves constantly at risk for the hope and insistence of a better future for their community. Please welcome poet and sex worker Carrissa Paige.
Name: Carrissa Paige
Pronouns: they/them/your royal highness
Background: an overly outspoken non-binary/black/queer/polyam/chronically ill femme poet, health advocate, and sex worker
Medium of choice: I write poetry and perform visual art through sex work online. Poetry is my ultimate love affair. It helps me through grief processing and allows me to connect with my actions while understanding their artistic implementations. I am passionate about writing about my experiences with kink, sexuality, and brutality. Somehow they all connect, and they all have been affected by the stereotypical Portland straight/cis/white male. Getting my words out and lashing forward with my sexuality is always a heavy conversation. I’m thankful my dedication to poetry and writing can help break that barrier.
Karaoke jam: Bodak Yellow, among many MANY others. One of my partners hosts a POC karaoke about once a month at VoiceBox so the list is always evolving. However, the way Cardi B has risen really inspires me to keep going. That song is for every person (read: all women/femmes) that has ever felt like all they could do was be their body and rise through trauma related to oversexualization and abuse. I never thought that empowering your own sexuality could lead to respect and profit. It’s not something they teach you about in the standardized public school system. Cardi’s ability to reclaim her own sexuality, make her money moves, and squash anyone who gets in her way (cough Taylor Swift cough) is my absolute favorite thing.
Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: My favorite memories of Portland pretty much all run together. I have found so much refuge in my community over the last few months, especially since the election. I was lucky enough to join a group of Portland creatives directly after Trump was named the next president. The group has taught me patience, confronting racism― even racism perpetuated by other people of color, allowed me access to a large number of friends, and shaped me as a person in general. My favorite memory of Portland will always be the community I’ve created around me.
Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: Living in Portland has been extremely cut throat for me. From getting punched outside of Holocene at a safe-space queer party to being asked to move out because of “reverse racism” to being constantly approached by men on the MAX― I’ve had my share of terrible experiences.
During my apartment search, an older male full of white privilege literally accused me of having a credit score of under 500 when I inquired on an arbitrary form of credit check based on their housing association's rules. He had no basis for this, he didn’t exactly greet me or make me feel like I deserved to even share the same space with him. I felt really terrible about that entire interaction. That man felt the need to berate me before even checking the facts. It left me wondering if he treated those who looked like him in a more respectful way as he didn’t exactly greet me when I entered his for rent space to see if it was a proper fit, and when I had a single question, he was dismissive and inappropriate.
The racism in this city is so grossly and apparently real, and the majority white people here are too busy being allies instead of accomplices. They want to scream “woke” and wear pink hats, but do nothing to break up what is actually happening to people of color and at risk communities. The people in this town are so worried about making money in the booming market. It makes me incredibly sad to see that the city of Portland is incapable of cleaning up the housing crisis many are facing. This combined with infrastructure issues, rent increases, and systematic racism creates a very hostile space for people of color to navigate.
How do you stay inspired in Portland? I stay inspired in Portland by going out often, smoking a lot of the devil’s lettuce and staying safe with pals, eating at the many delicious establishments Portland has to offer, and by connecting with friends online.
Overall, I try my best to stay out and aware of what’s happening in the city. I am easily one of those people that takes bad experiences and shares them. I think that being vulnerable to yourself and (your) community is incredibly important to staying inspired. A lot of the situations I find myself in seem to be spaces to learn and navigate systematic white supremacy and misogyny. Dismantling those oppressive forces is my number one goal, so allowing myself to be vulnerable and aware of the presence of these forces helps me write, contribute to spaces online, and protect myself and other femmes and people of color.
How can Portland support you and/or your community? Portland can support me and my community by being more active in creating long lasting relationships with queer, chronically ill and disabled, and black and brown people. I find that their are a lot of flaky folks plaguing this city. A heavy amount of passive aggressiveness, fetishization and tokenization of black, brown, and queer identities, and cultural appropriation is what Portland continuously reeks of. All of those things are terrible and should be combatted. As a chronically ill, busy as hell, black femme― it’s difficult to navigate this without the help of white hands. If you aren’t standing up every time, you are complacent. You don’t have to be, but you must be willing to be uncomfortable to combat these realities.
I’ve also become familiar with members of Portland communities willing to blacklist domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. I know that this isn’t specific to Portland, but I hate watching those I love struggle through outing and interacting with those who hurt us. I encourage those in Portland to hear survivors out instead of talking over us. There are so many resources that I am personally willing to share, but it takes establishing a real relationship. It cannot be beneficial to only one side.
Next, if you’re in a space to donate to me or other femmes of color and we have performed emotional and/or educational labor, donate! If you are in a space to speak up for sex workers, speak or forever hold your complacent peace.
Ultimately, it takes so much more than reading articles online of folks with stories adjacent to mine. If you aren’t appalled and in the streets walking with me/us every time we lose a black and/or transgendered person at the hands of a police officer or white terrorist, you aren’t for me or my community. If you are happily sitting in your high-rise office with extra money and not giving back to impoverished folks in this city, you are complacent in gentrification and upholding systematic racism, classism, sexism, and injustice. I would prefer Portland to put its money where its mouth is -- support the weirdness you beg to keep in the city and understand that people of color are people too. We are here and we are here to stay.
Follow Carrissa on Instagram or support them directly via Squarecash or Venmo. For safety, their sex work isn't posted but you can get in touch with Carrissa to learn more.
Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.