Moving In: A Non-Profit Feminist Bookstore and the Politics of Place 2008


In other words is Portland’s nonprofit feminist bookstore just by a show of hands is you mind telling me this is your first time here You mean at this locate at this location? We just moved here to this beautiful old building on the corner of Killingsworth and Williams, this is the space we inhabit In other words bookstore is not just a bookstore Obviously that sells feminist books books about women by women But it’s also a community space something is happening here every day yoga non-sexist children reading our queer polyamory The third thing the bookstore does is serve as a Resource Center to help connect people to the resources that exist in Portland In other words women books and resources was founded in 1993 by three women’s reproductive rights activists filling the void left behind by the previous feminist bookstore closing In other words open its doors on Hawthorne and what became prime real estate but ultimately the rent became too high and in other words as a feminist organization had to Make a choice to move or die This beautiful building is owned by The albino women’s league and the abaya women’s league is a non-profit and they ran the albino Art Center That’s what this building was. I like so many people have cast that building many times over the past 15 years and kind of bemoaned the fact that it was boarded up and we remember the days of the Banda Art Center being a very Full of life place that was In one place in the community where you can come and you can take painting classes you can take dance classes There’s some music going all the times It’s a place for young people to go particularly and it was the live performance place in Northeast, Portland funding dried up in the 80s and basically to the best of my knowledge from 1984 to 2006 this building sat unused we are the property owners of this building at one time the building was the Albina Arts Center and We subsequently came in and took over part of their programming and added our own. It’s disconcerting to see all of The old neighbors a lot of the african-american nonprofits who owned property none of whom own property anymore and I wanted to see some of our organizations be able to Make the transition We caught wind of that and called them and had a series of discussions about what? how it could work between us almost everybody that we met that was associated with in on other words was very sensitive to be helpful to those Organizations that remained then I thought that it made them a perfect tenant for the league when we finally got permission from the Albina women’s league to utilize the building one of The bargains was that we would help them clean it out. The most heartwarming thing was How many people came out and worked tirelessly? Just to get this place beautiful Compared to what? It was it’s amazing I’m sure there are black people who walk by the bookstore and You know see this is just part of everything else that’s going on in the neighborhood Because all the businesses that have come in are white Some people did have the impression that since it was the albino Art Center, which was primarily an African American They felt that it should kind of stay that way Another words bookstore moved into a neighborhood that is being gentrified. So the question of whether or not it participates in gentrification Absolutely. It does you can’t separate that from the larger kind of social economic Forces that are happening that’s like saying do you think that white people benefit from? Racism even if they’re not personally racist. Absolutely. I believe that African Americans will make up I just recently checked one point six percent of the population of the state of Oregon and Something along the lines of six point nine percent of the population of Portland being a minority We had a community here that we could at least come to and call home So working-class people are being pushed out of the neighborhood while middle-class And an upper middle and upper-class folks are moving in. There’s a racial. Dynamic to that It’s mostly people of color moving out and white folks moving in and the whole social character of the neighborhood is changing Well, we’re gentrifying I would define gentrification being that you’re bringing it. You know, you’re you’re changing the economic playing field Some of what people are calling gentrification if you want to revitalize the community is absolutely necessary you you can’t have the playing field where it was and Improve the climate of the economic climate of a neighborhood. I Don’t think the bad guy is necessarily a nonprofit feminist bookstore But yes, it does benefit from these larger trends what I think is hard for me Sometimes is having spent eleven years working with girls who are from this neighborhood and whose grandmothers moved to this neighborhood when they were in their 20s and Watching most of them be forced out of the neighborhood I think it’s hard to see who the new people are that are moving in that not intentionally but you know because that’s the way life is are in some ways taking the very homes that girls I worked with lived in the question of Am I part of the problem is? One that I must always ask myself and I am part of the problem I’m also part of the solution. These guys owned a building so they have wealth in the building and they’re an african-american organization that has a long history in this community and as we continue to Revamp this building. That’s that creates an opportunity for them to Again, do good things. I really believe that the work that the albino women’s league did out of the Albina Arts Center 20 and 30 and 40 years ago Enables us to do the work that we’re doing right here If only because we’re in the building that they own but more so because I think that they are are and were an active Organization for social change and In a lot of ways, we’re doing some of those same things What I felt when I went into the urban art center in terms of the energy was You know traces of the energy because the building In the walls and the floor and all those things the atmosphere mixed with a new energy I think that’s really kind of Emblematic of what’s happening in? our community you have the old energy and you have the new energy and So the question and the challenge that we face in Northeast Portland. Yes that how do you marry those energies? How do you make those work and create a new community? One of the things I’m hoping to do is to really diversify the bookstore I think it becomes more pressing that it’s in this neighborhood that it actually has Significantly more leadership by women of color in terms of our board and our I believe our volunteer base Has not been as diverse as we wanted. This is going to be our next push You know if you if you’re a person of color and you’re walking in and the music is not familiar to you or Nobody speaks to you when you walk in is is you know an experience that you have, you know People are looking for people who look like them for places that feel like them or feel like hey I want to be like that and so I think that Until there’s been an opportunity for women of colors to define that to shape that create that in the bookstore then and only then will it really be a bookstore that’s been mutually defined and Mutually shaped and mutually created to then serve multiple communities

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