Two and half years later I left Bend with my tail between my legs. Unemployed and living on selling all my personal effects which mostly consisted of guns, books, and sound equipment. Living in that town had taken an awful lot out of me. Its racist as hell there while everyone was telling me its all in my mind. That was always so frustrating since I know I can detect racism with the finest and most exact precision.
In late 2010, early 2011, I returned to the Portland area without a decent job and although I didn't realize it then, it was going to be like that for a while. I had always had recession proof job skills, but my luck had apparently run out. In fact, I spent from the beginning of 2011 until mid 2012 bouncing from hustle to hustle, barely making enough money to put gasoline in my vehicle. Things got so bad that I spent about 10 months during that time sleeping in my truck. Thank god for the 24 hour coffee shop on Powell. I'd park on that street and often stay right there, all night. During that time, my largest fears were my truck breaking down and my not having enough money in my account to pay my monthly gym dues since that place was providing my daily showers. Those were lonely days, but I'll never forget that coffee shop and the gym on McGloughlin. That was my community during that time.
In late 2011, the Occupy movement happened and since I didn't know many people in Portland, and I knew I had strong organizing skills, I decided, against that voice in my head, to venture down there and get involved. I ended up writing the code of conduct for Occupy Portland. Physically chasing some abusive men out of Portland, and making many friendships that I plan to have for the rest of my life. From Occupy I was informed about a group of African people in N.E. Portland who were forming to fight illegal foreclosures. With my finance background and organizing experience, I was the first one at the new group meeting held in the former Reflections Bookstore/coffee shop. By the conclusion of that meeting, I was the chair of that group and that led to me helping guide the Black Working Group as it was called into several successful home defense actions that led to my opportunity to get the job I've had for the last five years. There's a video that captures all of the intensity of that work on youtube called "We are Unevictable."
From that housing justice work I met enough people to create enough of an organizing foundation for myself in Portland that I felt confident enough that I could successfully move to doing the work that I've done all of my adult life...Organizing for revolutionary Pan-Africanism inside of the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A_APRP). It was April of 2013 and I can't even remember how I got the room at Portland State University, but I organized a seminar on Pan-Africanism that night that I worked hard to put together and get the word out. I did all of that without any help. Actually, at that time, when I talked about wanting to organize the A-APRP here, most of the time what I got was deer in the headlights from people. The event that night was very well attended. About 50 people. I did the standard thing. I took names and I followed up with people, abiding by the holy axiom of the A-APRP; "its not the event, its the work that comes after the event." There was an orientation and the first work study circle for the A-APRP in Oregon since the early 70s was birthed. I'm keeping it honest here so I'm not going to say anything except the truth when I say that circle was a collection of dysfunction and immaturity. Still, I did what we do in the A-APRP, we try our best to work with what we have to work with because we are only concerned about one thing. Building capacity to organize our people for liberation and elitism can never be an ingredient in that formula. We had a revolving door of that dysfunction for about a year or so with some very serious accompanying problems, but with a strong focus, we continued and eventually, we started to get people who were at least willing to engage the A-APRP's stated objectives. With quite a bit of pushing and follow up, there was a meeting in December of 2014 in N.E. Portland where the plan for work in New Columbia was laid out in front of an all African crowd of about 75 people. From that process evolved the breakfast program in New Columbia, a twice a week effort to use pancakes as a strategy to talk to our youth, and their parents, about Pan-Africanism. There were still a lot of internal issues that we struggled to work through, but the program developed and the A-APRP in Oregon began to build some real credibility. Today, that effort has evolved into the School of African Roots and the A-APRP has produced some very quality institutions here in Oregon with the annual Fourth of the Lie and Pan-African Women's Day programs along with the Pan African Film political education series.
Some reflections on all that work includes an assessment that there's something in Oregon that really breeds a strong fragility and a complete unwillingness on the part of far too many people to face the simple reality of a very bad word in Oregon - accountability. A lot of people see the work for justice through the lenses of their personal trauma and if you are going to seriously organize here, you are forced to engage that sad reality and try your best to struggle through it without being pulled down in the carnage. People have allergies here to addressing contradictions head on and the way people use the internet is a postage paid package for police sabotage and infiltration. And, I think the biggest problem is people here love to talk about revolution, but the minute there is difficulty they disappear. Revolution is always about dialectical struggle and if you understand anything about dialectics, its that everything has opposite forces of nature that are struggling against one another for dominance. So, if you understand these scientific principles, than you have to accept that if you are not willing to struggle through problems than do us all a favor and leave this work alone. We will move forward with or without you. Just stop talking and talking about revolution when you know that you have no intention of engaging any struggle that falls even a hair outside of your personal comfort zone. In other words, there is a lot of wasted time and energy here and that isn't going to change until people get mature enough to seek out emotional support if you need it so that we can stop using our justice organizations as vehicles for us to try and work out our personal dysfunctions.
On the positive tip, as I leave this place, my overall memories will be overwhelmingly positive. That's true even of Bend. The truth is had I not lived in Bend, I would never have started writing literary fiction. It was the benign racism in that town that motivated me to pin my first book in 2008. I got tired of people there telling me that there was no racism. I was thinking one day and it occurred to me that if there were suddenly 800 Africans who appeared in Bend, the racial conflict that everyone there kept telling me was in my head would blow up so fast it would cause Oregon to fall into the Pacific Ocean. So, I sat down one day and started writing "Find the Flower that Blossoms" which is a story based upon 800 Africans moving to a fictional town called "Central Oregon." From there the sequel "The Courage Equation" was released in 2014, and I'm currently working on the third installment. Literary fiction is my personal therapy and I'd be lying if I didn't give Bend at least an assist here. Regarding Portland, and the rest of Oregon, there are a number of extremely positive people here who are good people who really want to do good things. There are enough that its not fair to try and name people, but I love you and I'm going to be intentional about maintaining contact with you even after I leave. You have transformed my life in ways that I am eternally grateful and I'm just hopeful I have been able to have the same effect on you. There are also many organizations in Oregon that deserve respect. No names again, but I'll just use some initials and say one is the A-APRP here, with or without me, and ROP is another one. Nothing like organizing effectively in the most neglected neighborhood in North Portland and facing off armed white supremacists with some of the bravest people I've ever met. I love and respect all of you.
Keep banging Portland and stop avoiding the problems I mentioned earlier and get to work confronting them directly so that you can really move forward. Really. Start doing that and stop faking the funk and fronting. As for me in Cali, I'm going to hit the ground running. I joined the A-APRP in Sacramento in 1984 and from 84 through 2007 I worked hard to build capacity for us there. I'm humbled and offended at the same time that today, there is no A-APRP activity in Sacramento, but like mice reproduce, you can be assured that once I get there, that's going to change. I blame myself, as I often do about everything, for things falling apart in Sac, but I've learned a lot over the last 10 years in Oregon and I plan to use that wisdom to help me build better in Sacramento this time. If you are sincere, let's please stay connected. You are always welcome at my place (even though as I write this, I don't yet have one, but I'm a determined organizer. You should know that about me by now). I don't recognize these imperialist borders anyway. Its all Indigenous land. So, we'll meet again and lets make sure that when we do, we are just a little farther up the ladder towards our chimerenga!