PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) — When the Portland City Council voted to cut millions of dollars from the police bureau’s budget, some of that money was earmarked for community programs that would serve black Portlanders.
Two years later, a picture is beginning to emerge as to how some of these funds are being spent.
As part of the reallocation of funds, the city pledged to spend $1 million a year on a black youth leadership development program. This funding is administered by the Black United Fund of Oregon. It contracts with RISE for Black Youth Initiative to provide an “evidence-based, culture-based engagement process” intended to “increase the leadership and entrepreneurial skills of Black youth in Portland.
The RISE program, which stands for Really Inspiring Places of Empowerment, currently operates out of the Soul Restoration Center on Northeast Killingsworth Street.
“This space stinks of darkness,” said Dr. S. Renee Mitchell, who created the RISE program. “They don’t get that anywhere else, and sometimes they don’t even get that at home. (There are) books to consult that reflect your culture. There is art to look at that reflects you.
The space is designed to be trauma-informed, to better serve black youth. They represent the most traumatized demographic group in the United States.
“We have traumatized youth growing up to be traumatized adults contributing to a traumatized community,” Mitchell said. “If we’re talking about ‘How can we become a more grounded, healthier community?’ It starts with young people.”
The space has historical roots in Portland’s black community and the former life of the Albina Arts Center in the 1960s, and connects black youth to programming in the arts, music and business opportunities.
“It’s the belief that we are capable of more, that we deserve more, and that we will become more,” Mitchell said.
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