Vanport Fest to educate, honor memory of flooded city
When Laura Lo Forti first moved to Portland, she thought she'd made a huge mistake.
Born in Milan, the journalist and historian worried that Portland's notoriously white landscape would create an "unhealthy" backdrop to raise her half-Italian, half-Filipino daughter.
Then she opened her eyes.
"There's so many communities that you don't see. You don't see their stories, their contributions and you don't see their strength and resiliency," she tells The Tribune. "What's unique (in Portland) is that people can choose not to see them."
So along with well-known performer and teaching artist Damaris Webb, she co-founded the Vanport Mosaic Festival, which returns to the Rose City for its third year starting this Wednesday, May 23 through Monday, May 28.
The festival honors Vanport, a multi-racial community of 40,000 constructed on the banks of the Columbia River in what is now North Portland. The city was wiped off the map on May 30, 1948, after a levee collapsed during intense flooding, killing 15 and leaving thousands homeless.
This year's event is offering staged performances, a concert, documentary screenings, walking and bike tours, art exhibitions, public forums as well as the opportunity to tour by bus the original site of Vanport near the Portland International Raceway and the Kenton neighborhood.
About 100 former residents and their guests are expected to attend parts of the festival, including a private reunion where Vanport locals will share their stories for an ongoing oral history recording project.
"They're not fun stories, yet we tell them with the community, and it's such an intentional way of gathering where we can all see our shared humanity, and I feel like we all crave that," says Lo Forti.
For more information about the Vanport Mosaic Festival and to view the complete line-up of events, click here.