Pan Africa festival helps people remember their roots
The city's first Pan African festival offered a contrary picture to one that's often painted of Portland: that it's whitewashed.
Large crowds, the majority people of color, filled Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday, Aug. 12, to get a taste and feel of Africa.
Music from local groups like DIOLOG featuring Charles Robertson filled downtown, performing genres like R&B and soul.
Audiences, mainly made up of people of color, clapped, danced and sang along to joyful gospel tunes, while othes lined up for delicious culturally-specific eats, including West African and Jamaican cuisine.
African Americans and other people of color came out in droves to support and relish their heritage, whether they hail from Portland or were a refugee from Mozambique.
Many came dressed in traditional African attire: bold-colored shirts embroidered with square and triangular patterns. Some men wore a dashiki, which mainly comes from West Africa, while women could be seen wearing kangas, African dresses.
"I have to come out to this, you know. There's not too much of this in Portland. It's really important," said Valin Primus, also known as DJ Prime, who was there with his daughter, Vada, 3. He was holding a snake, which fascinated his daughter. He came from St. Lucia, an island in the Caribbean.
"I want to expose my daughter to more culture and diversity," he said.
Several political leaders made appearances, including State Sen. James Manning, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, State Rep. Janelle Bynum, Sen. Lew Frederick, and Mayor Ted Wheeler.
"When you think about the history of Oregon and what our city and state looks like today, it wasn't very positive," Bynum said. "But it's up to us to make sure that the images that are out there are reflective of the good in all of us."
Maria Alves, who was attending the festival, is a political refugee from Zambia. She's lived in Portland for 18 years, formerly in Northeast Portland, now living closer to Gresham. Many African Americans had been displaced from North and Northeast Portland because of gentrification.
Alves just came to support her culture and share it with her family. She said there's sometimes smaller more targeted festivals for one country, but hasn't been something that celebrated the culture in its entirety. She was happy the Pan African festival appealed to a broader audience.
"In Africa, they have many countries. There are a lot of our kids growing up here, and they forget where they come from," she said.