There were many factors to beginning this series— the lack of diversity and POC visibility in creative industries, the tokenization/racism in the little representation we do have, and ultimately, creating a space with agency to tell our own stories. But as I come up on four years in Portland, I remember that these goals and intentions were inspired by an even earlier, simpler sentiment: feeling alone and unseen in this town.
I think most, if not all POC here experience this. Which is why today, it hits hard to remember that I began as such a lonely person here but now find myself surrounded by a community that feels limitless in its creativity, love, and fight for one another. These spaces are direct result of that isolation. They were born as a response to the overwhelming whiteness. And they continue to exist because our survival here depends on it.
Today's guest is an integral part of creating and maintaining these spaces. Not only do they consistently organize potlucks and community spaces, their presence and voice overflows beyond their own circles, breaching the whiteness responsible for these spaces in the first place. From managing a free advice hotline to hosting intersectional stand up comedy shows, Carlos the Rollerblader is here to keep the party going.
Name: it’s Carlos the Rollerblader to you, Big Daddy
Background: Black Queer Punk Painter Speaker Rollerblader Big Brother Marylander
Medium of choice: Ideally, oil painting or anything using my voice
Karaoke jam: "A Milli" by Lil Wayne & "Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge
Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Something you should know about me is that I’m all about The Party. All of my favorite memories include friends, old & new. Many of favorite memories here involve dance floors, visits to the bar, loud music and late nights. Just as important are the groggy mornings-after, complete with big sunglasses, breakfasts from a kitchen not my own, retracing my steps & piecing my day together. Being a stand-up comic also brings me joy (sometimes) when the shows have great lineups where people gel, like when I perform with my partner-in-comedy-crime Jen Tam, on Dirty Angel Showcases or with Lez Stand Up. Give me good company and any night can become a favorite memory.
Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: Y’know, this time around is actually my second bout with Portland. The first didn’t go so well haha. I originally moved here in 2013 from Maryland with little knowledge about Portland— I came here on a lark, moving in with an internet friend whom I’d never met in person and her (now ex-)husband with basically no knowledge about the city. In those first two years, almost everything was hard. From dealing with the hasty move from city to city, to family struggles, to the city’s seemingly-accidental yet totally unapologetic whiteness, to the culture shocking differences between the DC area & Portland. It all hit me at once too. I remember having the hardest time trying to figure out just HOW to communicate with people here, it seemed impossible because our styles were/are so different.
I unexpectedly ended up going back to Maryland for 10 months to reset and recuperate before returning in 2016. Things became easier as I learned how to better navigate Portland’s culture, along with building a better network of mostly POC. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard! Just less so – it’s much easier now.
In this series, the sequel is better than the original.
How do you stay inspired in Portland? By surrounding myself here with people who fight, who laugh, who create, who sustain. My life now is close to an ideal by Portland standards; out of my inner network, I think I only now have three white friends. The rest are people of color. Artists, writers, comedians, photographers, tastemakers, dancers, DJs, educators, librarians, facilitators, implementers, etc. etc. etc. Being able to indulge in such a wealth of creatives has enriched my life almost to the point of nonchalance. Almost. It’s a catch 22! I’m often really insulated, in my friendships, from Portland’s whiteness but it’s that same force puts a fire under our asses to excel, create and break out in ways that is downright mind-boggling sometimes. We as individuals are remarkable, but the power of the networks that we’ve built here has not ceased to amaze me.
How can Portland support you and/or your community? The general community trust aspect of Portland has gotten me a great many things and I’m very grateful for all the time, energy, money saved on kindred person-to-person exchanges. As long as that continues, I have a future here. Also, open up a bit and listen to one another. If there’s one thing that running the Free Advice Hotline has taught me, it's how closed off people have become from each other. Beyond that, financial support for/to myself and other queer, trans people of color is always appreciated. Especially from allies with (more) privilege. Thank you in advance.
Follow Carlos on Instagram and Facebook to see more work and info on upcoming comedy gigs!
Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.