February 8, 2019

In a room adorned with more than 60 portraits celebrating local black women and femmes, the Board of County Commissioners on Feb. 7 proclaimed February Black History and Future Month in Multnomah County.

The annual proclamation honors the vital role of African-Americans in the history and culture of Multnomah County and beyond. It also acknowledges the troubling history of inequity and oppression that the black community continues to face. The proclamation was sponsored by Chair Deborah Kafoury and District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.

 

The Turner Capuia Sisters
The Turner Capuia Sisters

“What a joy it was this morning to walk in to this room in the presence of these radiant powerful portraits, in the presence of these radiant powerful women,” said Commissioner Jayapal. “I am so thrilled to be celebrating this year’s Black History and Future Month in Multnomah County, with a focus on the arts and our local black woman/femme artists.”

The proclamation opened with a rendition of the song, “Can’t Give Up Now” by a local family: the Turner Capuia Sisters whose members include sisters Doris, Patrice, and Angela Turner; their cousin Quete Capuia and niece Brandie Albertie.

Following the performance, a panel including Janine Gates (Commissioner Susheela Jayapal’s office), Joy Alise Davis (Portland African-American Leadership Forum), Stephanie Griffin (Siren Song Stitchery), and Dana Thompson (Multnomah County Health Department), spoke about the significance of Black History and Future Month.

Janine Gates, Constituent Relations Liaison for Commissioner Jayapal’s office addresses the Board of County Commissioners
In honor of this year’s theme, “Celebrating Black Women and Femme Artists and Creatives,” the  board room was filled with 24 by 30-inch portraits of “Albina Queens.’’ Beginning two years ago, PAALF solicited more than 160 nominations and then selected about 100 women and girls who were photographed in colorful and intricate head wraps. Davis said the head wraps signify not only a history of oppression, but also the “resiliency, resourcefulness, and creativity that black women have employed as a method of survival and self-empowerment for centuries.” Rob Lewis, the Art Director at the Portland creative agency, Kamp Grizzly, was the photographer on the project.  

“The images captured marks an occasion where black women and femmes are seen, counted, loved and valued,” continued Davis. “It is our hope that when black women and femmes will experience this exhibit they are instantly filled with love and acceptance because they deserve to be in spaces like this.”

The Albina Queens Photo Project honors local black women and femmes representing a spectrum of ages, genders, and abilities. They range from Justice Adrienne Nelson of the Oregon Supreme Court, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, and poet S. Renee Mitchell, to young girls in their mothers’ arms.

Among others photographed were County employees Janine Gates and Kim Melton, Chair Kafoury’s Chief of Staff. Melton became Chief of Staff in Feb. 2018 and has been instrumental in strengthening the County’s culturally-specific services. During the meeting, Chair Kafoury honored Melton for her service to the community.

“Every day our team and our entire County gets to come to work and share space with this most amazing and incredible woman,” Chair Kafoury said. “We see you, we appreciate you, and we love you.”

Chair Kafoury went on to read the proclamation, which honored the diversity of Multnomah County, the rich heritage, traditions and accomplishments of the African-American community, and the work that must continue to overcome historical inequity and structural racism.

“This proclamation is more than just acknowledging our history of racism and committing to do better moving forward,” Chair Kafoury said. “It’s also about making visible the black women and femmes who have made extraordinary contributions to our community.”

The Board of Commissioners poses with community members featured in the "Albina Queens" photo exhibition.

Portraits from the “Albina Queen” photo exhibition were hung on display on the walls of the Multnomah County Board Room.

Kim Melton, Chair’s Office Chief of Staff and Chair Kafoury embrace following the Feb. 7 Board meeting.

Janine Gates, Constituent Relations Liaison for Commissioner Jayapal’s office, was among those featured in the photo exhibit.