Phil Knight, owner of Nike shoes, has donated $400 million to help restore Albina, the core of the Black community in Portland, Oregon.
Black history in the state of Oregon is a complicated thing. In 1851, it was literally a crime to be Black and be in Oregon territory. The state’s original constitution, written in 1859, forbade Black or mixed race people from living, working, or owning property on Oregon land, and from voting. It wasn’t corrected until 1926 and racist language wasn’t removed until 2002.
Today, Portland is still the whitest large city in the United States, with only 2% of the population Black. Albina was founded as a company town for the Union Pacific Railroad, and it was originally mostly European immigrant workers until Portland made a push to remove Black households, sending them across the river into Albina, where they could rent but not own.
“The red lining that took place in Albina prevented Black people access to money, to purchase homes, and also the so-called urban renewal, which the Coliseum first, then Emanuel Hospital came in and took out hundreds of Black-owned homes in this area,” said Ronnie Herndon, director of Albina Head Start, talking about the history of the area.
Phil Knight will be investing his $400 million in a new initiative called the 1803 Fund, to work on long-term projects. Projects will include education, home ownership assistance, and long-term funds to support projects currently operating on short-term grants.
“We created it. We talked about a number of different ways in which this could be done,” said Herndon. “The money could be used wisely and in a way to perpetuate itself over the years. One of the biggest problems that the Black community is faced with, it’s got small amounts of money in grants that have 2-3 years attached to them. After the years have passed, the money’s gone, so we hope this fund will be invested, as well as making grants to organizations that fulfill the mission of the fund.”