In East Multnomah County, a Focus on Healing

Graphic image of Oregon map

Four groups are organizing a multifaceted approach to healing in East Multnomah County. Unite Oregon, Keep Growing Seeds, Black Economic Collective and The BIPOC Rise Moor Healing Center are bringing together nearly 1,000 community members to assess the viability of a Black wellness center.

These organizations comprise one of 14 collectives funded in the latest round of grants by Justice Oregon for Black Lives, Meyer Memorial Trust’s $25 million initiative co-created in 2020 with Black communities working to advance racial justice and equity.

Seeking to counteract Oregon’s traumatic legacy of erasure, displacement and exploitation, this collective brings a diverse set of perspectives and missions to healing Black communities. With experience ranging from movement building to food sovereignty, members envision a Black wellness center focused on self-sufficiency, skill building, therapies and more.

If their plan comes to fruition, the center could become a beacon for residents in East County where the Black population is increasing, largely due to displacement from rising housing costs in Portland’s urban core. East County comparatively lacks basic infrastructure like sidewalks, parks and natural areas. The collective intends to invest in this neighborhood with much-needed resources.

“An abundance of meticulous and thoughtful consideration has been implemented to provide this Black wellness center to East County,” Durrell Javon Kinsey Bey, co-founder of The BIPOC Rise Moor Healing Center, says. “Not as a fad but as a mechanism of hope and prosperity toward sustainability and self-sufficiency for Black people.”

Healing as a Catalyst for Flourishing Black Communities

When Justice Oregon was established, a steering committee of Black community members identified addressing trauma and healing as a core goal of the initiative. Plans for the wellness center fall firmly within this priority area.

“We heard that we can't have things like economic justice or investments in education without a strong foundation for healing in the Black community,” says Allister Byrd, Justice Oregon for Black Lives program officer.

For Je Amaechi, Unite Oregon’s reimagining community safety manager, the center could be the next Greenwood District or even New Nanny Town (now Moore Town).

“Healing is not an endpoint,” says Amaechi, whose Jamaican heritage and abolitionist principles shape their values. “To really get at the root level, we have to work on healing ourselves and healing each other. Then we’re able to work toward advocacy and collective action.”

Cultivating Black Joy into the Planning Process

To determine if a wellness center of this kind would be impactful, the collective is asking communities directly for their input. But, true to their values, they are prioritizing Black joy and healing throughout the planning process. By offering participants support for immediate needs as well as access to Black therapists, educational opportunities and more, the collective hopes to create a space of safety and comfort.

“These gatherings won’t be traditional meetings,” Kristin Teigen, Unite Oregon’s grants associate, says. “Simply by participating in the needs assessment process, community members will be able to access multiple modes of healing.”

To further their reach, the collective is partnering with two additional organizations with deep ties to immigrant and refugee communities from across the Black and African diaspora, Emanuel Displaced Persons Association 2 (EDPA2) and African Holistic Health Family Organization.

“Not only is [this project] long overdue for East County but for people of African descent,” Kinsey Bey says. “This is well deserving to make strides in the path of karmic reconciliation, moral rejuvenation and above all social equity.”