The Lost Miracle City of Vanport by Christa McIntyre

"Salvage workers recovered the bodies of a boy and a girl at Vanport. That city of 18,700 people was smashed to kindling last Sunday in the greatest single disaster of the Pacific Northwest." - Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1948

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Vanport, the largest war time housing effort built in the United States. It was a mecca that drew people from 46 of the then, 48 states. Vanport's new residents increased the black population of Portland by 5 fold.

There was a city of East Vanport, which was also taken by the flood. A few of the duplexes still stand and are lived in from East Vanport.

There was a city of East Vanport, which was also taken by the flood. A few of the duplexes still stand and are lived in from East Vanport.

Edgar Kaiser built the shipyard and city for the wartime effort of building Liberty Ships. Kaiser was a welfare capitalist. In the 24 hour open city, workers had healthcare, childcare, housing, markets, libraries, a college, theater and made about $12 an hour by today's measurement. East Coast shipyards took 6 months to build a ship, while Vanport once finished one in 14 days.

For many young blacks who were born in the South, Vanport was a freeing experience. The first black teachers in Portland taught at the schools and the first black librarian was on staff at the housing library. Outside of Vanport, Portland ramped up its segregation and xenophobic tendencies. Oregon outlawed any free black person from living in the state until the 1920's. The state was a Mississippi of the West, drawing poor whites and KKK members because of its de jure racism.

A Vanport classroom. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society.

A Vanport classroom. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society.

Vanport was a microcosm of the United States with a mixed population of white, black, Native American and Japanese from the internment camps.

The city was built on a swamp with the Columbia River and lakes surrounding. Dykes and a railroad fill were put in place to hold rising waters back. In 1946 the river swelled, but the waters didn't break through. In 1948 they did and Vanport was washed away in one day, leaving thousands of primarily black residents displaced.

Today, not even in name is Vanport remembered on the site where its residents once thrived. A broken concrete slab with grass growing through the cracks is all that remains of the popular 750 seat movie theater.

May 30th marks the anniversary of the Vanport flood. A collaborative effort is being held over the weekend by the Vanport Mosaic Festival, a group of educators, artists, former residents who advocate for preserving the memory of the lost city.

Here is my interview with Marge Moss, a former resident of Vanport.

My article on James S. Harrison, Vanport Mosaic's historian and a leading expert on the city.

Oregon Public Broadcasting's documentary on Vanport.

The Vanport Mosaic Festival website.

Vanport residents escaping the flood primarily by foot on Denver Avenue.

Vanport residents escaping the flood primarily by foot on Denver Avenue.

Latest projects and writings by Christa McIntyre

It's been a busy Spring. Here's a few of my latest theater reviews for Oregon ArtsWatch and an article I wrote on the housing crisis in Portland:

Triangle Productions' performance of Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall, which has been making headlines around the country with multi-stagings.

A look into the mind of spree killer Elliot Rodger.

Beehives and 60's girl groups take the stage for a musical review. Not much could go wrong here, in my book.

Portland's housing crisis is pushing the black community out to the city edges and beyond.

I'm trying my hand at growing my own starts for the garden this year. I cleaned up, tilled and got the bed ready for cucumbers, green beans, radishes, beets and okra.

I'm not a big fan of baking; following directions and the exact chemistry isn't my style. It's rare for me to use measuring spoons or cups when I cook. I'm an old school, eyeball-it kind of person. I did make these macaroons recently and have to say I ate so many, I paid a small price in stomach aches after. It was totally worth it.

Thanks for reading and following me on Twitter and Facebook.

My latest writing by Christa McIntyre

It's been a harried few weeks for most of us in this country with changes happening on national and local fronts. I've been laid up for most of it, but hope to be on the mend soon. Here's some of my latest articles and reviews:

 

My brief history of graffiti

My review of Sara Fay Goldman's Tether at Fertile Ground 2017

 My review of Broken Planetarium's Atlantis

My review of Michael O'Neill's Shakespeare's Fools

My article on the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition's March for Justice and Equality

Portland's 8th Annual Fertile Ground Arts Festival by Christa McIntyre

Portland's Fertile Ground Festival kicks off in a few days. It's a great place to see labors of love, new work and new talent. It's a citywide 11 day festival which showcases performances at a host of venues. In a nutshell, Fertile Ground is composed of " fully staged world premieres, workshops and readings of theatre, to ensemble and collaborative driven work, dance, comedy and film…this festival spans the spectrum of creative endeavor and seeds the next generation of creation through artist conversations, workshops, lunchtime readings and more."

I'll be posting links to my many reviews from the festival on my blog.

For starters, here's a comprehensive list that describes most of the shows form the festival's meet the press night, which as a journalist and critic, is one of my favorite Portland arts events of the year. I get to hang out with those elusive beasts known as theater critics and share in the excitement artists bring around their work.

At the ArtsWatch table and beyond for meet the press night. Fertile Ground photo

At the ArtsWatch table and beyond for meet the press night. Fertile Ground photo

My Articles with Portland Activists for the Portland Observer's Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Special Edition by Christa McIntyre

Here are three articles I wrote for the Portland Observer, one of the country's oldest African American newspapers. I'm a reporter on staff there and we have a printed newspaper which comes out every Wednesday. The Portland Observer has a special annual Martin Luther King, Jr. edition published near the date of the national holiday. I spoke with one faith leader and two young black activists about their work.

 Pastor Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran is a faith leader and activist. He's a founder of the New Sanctuary Church Movement and one of the few to give sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant in the last few years. You can read my article here.

Margaret Jacobsen is a writer, mother, photographer and lead organizer of Let's Talk. This week after addressing inter-sectional issues with the Portland's Women March on Jan. 21 to protest the Trump inauguration, Jacobsen was handed the reigns as the lead organizer. Read about Jacobsen here.

Cameron Whitten is the executive director of the non-profit Know Your City, an activist, citizen journalist and member of Portland's Resistance. Learn about his citizen journalism here.

King speaks to Malcolm X at a press conference on March 26, 1964.

King speaks to Malcolm X at a press conference on March 26, 1964.

Plug In PDX by Christa McIntyre

PLUG IN PDX is a guide for folks wishing to: 1. fight against bigotry of the alt right, fascists, and that buried in each and everyone of us. 2.  to win new found liberation.

Our focus is on local democratic, direct action groups. We also list some bigger national groups that may offer useful tools.

We believe that building a social movement is not only the best way to protect each other, but also to build a path to a truly liberated world.

We’ve started from resource lists that 100’s of people, activists from Portland, around the country and The New Inquiry shared. We hope to keep building off of that. Thank you everyone for sharing your resources and Kathryn Kendall for citizen photojournalism.

Help Spread the word. Here’s a Quarter sheet of flyers and Full Sheet flyer.

Share, share, share PLUG IN PDX

photograph courtesy of Kathryn Kendall

photograph courtesy of Kathryn Kendall