There once was an 100 year old cottage in an odd little city
it had no electricity but it’s garden was pretty
in that overgrown wild harmony a good gardener achieves
it had roses and boulders bamboos and trees
some piles of things not really of note
and a family of feral cats living under a boat
a rusty old car laid out like a carcass
it was our block’s moss covered cottage
surrounded by darkness
it flied in the face of gentrification
keeping it real in our inner zipcode
it defied the persistent homogenization
that for development is code
yet our block’s moss covered cottage
sat smack in our economy’s cross roads.
Our block has a lot of crows, 12 children, 2 affordable rentals, 4 black owned homes, 4 white owned homes, a first generation Vietnamese Mama and an immigrant Brazilian Mama that is me. As the bulldozers tear at the fabric of a place I don’t see development enhancing a diversity of people and business. We no longer live in a culture that respects the soul of a place, especially an urban place. But we can do the creative work of finding heart and forging connection.
My first urban love was São Paulo, Brazil. São Paulo’s a monster of a noisy city, Portland pales in comparison. I’ve inherited from my mother this social contract family theory that goes something like this: We all know not to go around punching each other in the face right? That’s no different than knowing your loud party will keep us up at night.
We start out on a gentrifying inner city block of Portland (OR). This is the same tale of many cities, through housing discrimination and redlining most African Americans moved to one of the few sections of the city that was open to black residents. As Portland grew, the inner city became more desirable. And that’s where our block is. A Cherokee farmer who had moved to Oregon once told me: we’re all settlers in someone else’s land.