by Julia Truillo

PortLand of Opportunity is a strategic action plan powered by the City of Portland Office of Economic Opportunity. OEO was created to address persistent inequities that challenge our communities of color. Since 2017, OEO has brought light to existing, systemic inequities and racial disparities. It works toward a strong sense of belonging for everyone who calls Portland home, especially our racially and linguistically diverse neighbors.

To highlight the importance of fostering an overarching sense of belonging, our work focuses on Economic Inclusion and Development, Civic Inclusion, Cultural and Social Inclusion, and Welcome-ability.

Everyone can contribute to the urgent work of addressing racism while bringing opportunity to all. This mandate, in the very fabric of our mission, should guide actions as an institution and as individual community members.

Simple steps you can take:
• Educate yourself on U.S. history, including all its shame. White supremacist ideals served as this country’s foundation, embedding racism in our systems and culture still today. “Facing our collective history and how it informs our attitudes and behaviors allows us to choose a world of equity and justice.” (Facing History). It is time to build a collective sense of purpose.
• Insist on the highest standard of collective and individual accountability. Allyship is not only about showing up, but about contributing to change. Being anti-racism doesn’t require you to pretend to be “free of racism.” Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.
• Listen with empathy. Listen to understand. Listen to intimate stories, around the country and here in Maine. As Bryan Stevenson said at the 2016 Carnegie Summit: We must get “proximate” to suffering and understand the nuanced experiences of those who suffer from and experience inequality. “If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.” Feeling this discomfort is part of the work.
• Engagement and commitment is essential to moving forward. Despite feeling defeated and frustrated, we must find, individually and collectively, ways to keep defeating racism, and keep engaging in productive dialogue and actions, now and for future generations. More brings us together as human beings than tears us apart.
• Check and re-check your narratives to avoid intentionally and unintentionally perpetuating exclusionary language.
• Acknowledge the systematic, pervasive, and painful disparities unique to our African American neighbors, here and across our country, as a crucial first step. “We cannot ignore” as Thomas Shapiro said, “that toxic inequality is not equally distributed.” Inequality across our socio-economic fabric causes our communities of color, particularly the Black community, to fall far behind.
OEO’s new resource page features stories, facts, and reports to help turn frustration into action and sadness into empowerment. Try not to this moment make you feel powerless, but motivate you for the work ahead and the actions we all can take.

Each month, OEO will feature a key organization with tangible resources for expanding opportunity among all of our communities, especially in our communities of color, right here in Portland.