portland in color | 013: sashiko yuen

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Living in Portland can feel like living in a homogenous bubble: another coffee shop with white tile and minimalist decor, another magazine spread featuring only white women, another new business marketing luxury and convenience instead of accessibility. When we normalize these patterns, we continue to overlook the people and art that exist outside of these parameters.

As we move into the season of buying, please consider where your money is going. Who are you supporting? As activism and social consciousness become more "fashionable," understand that buying "feminist" branded merchandise from a boutique is not the same as giving your money to queer POC artists.

Sashi is a burst of color in a whitewashed town— an example of artists we should actively be seeking to support. As a queer, chronically ill POC, the battle to exist in a capitalist-driven market is exponentially more challenging. If you can't give your money to these artists, sharing their work is free. The more visibility they have in the media, the more likely they can survive with their art (and their art can survive, too). 

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Name: Sashiko Yuen aka Wishcandy

Pronouns: They/ Them, Space Bae, Cuddleboi, prince (lower p, not to be confused w/ the great Prince)

Background: Black/ Asian/ Latinx, Queer, Non-binary, Ex-East Coaster

Astrological sign: Liiibraa sun, Libra rising, Aries moon ;)

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Medium of choice: Watercolor and crushed souls

Karaoke jam: Dang, only one? Spiderwebs by No Doubt

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: My favorite memory is having a Maryland friend come visit, and taking off to travel Oregon in a camper van for a week. Hiking, exploring caves, ocean, volcanoes, lakes, fresh air, petting horses, but also driving past the forest on fire near Crater Lake. I had no idea all of these things were all in one state. Was really refreshing to clear my head and stay offline. 

Then be excited to come home, eat a real meal, and see more friends. I know this memory isn't centered in Portland, but the best thing about the town is leaving it. Then being excited to come back and spend time with my loved ones here.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland:  This past summer has been one of the most difficult times here. My dizziness and exhaustion was at its worst. I was sleeping around 16 hours a day. And when I was awake, I was barely able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time. 

I kept getting invited to the beach or to go dancing but I didn't have the health to do any of that. We talk about how important self care is, but we don't talk about how self care for the chronically ill leads to isolation. My mental health wasn't so great either, while trying to find sources and solutions. My doctors are still confused by it all too.

How do you stay inspired in Portland?  This city isn't personally an inspiring place for me. I feel creatively starved here. That's hard to admit. The art scene is lacking diversity in representation and who is actually creating. Of course diverse creators exist but it doesn't seem like they're being supported in this town. If you have a certain style and can adapt to a monoculture you'll do well here. 

If it weren't for my QPOC community I would have left shortly after I arrived. They bring warmth to my life and helping create the community I'm in has been nourishing on a personal level. But these exact ppl remind me I need to go live my life.

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How can Portland support you and/or your community? Honestly? Buy things from us, come to our shows, invite us to participate in events, advocate for us to be paid. Share our work with your friend circles, especially those who wouldn't normally be exposed to our work. Amplify our voices on social media by sharing/ regram/ retweet. Did I mention, pay us? 

See more of Sashi's work on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and their website wishcandy.net.

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 012: jonny sanders

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On the Sunday before "Thanksgiving," it's important to acknowledge that this city exists on stolen land. The same is true nationwide, and in countless places beyond our country, but living in Portland today means we continue to witness this pattern of colonialism and displacement. 

This city was founded on theft and racism, and with the influx of gentrification we're seeing it further still. There are countless articles and discussions happening around this subject, but we ask Portland residents: if you've moved to here and/or you live in an area that was historically indigenous, black, or predominantly another marginalized group, what are you doing to give back to the community you now inhabit? What are you doing to justify the space you're taking up and the space you've taken to displace someone else?

This isn't to restrict where you live or what you call home, but be cognizant. It isn't enough to be a nice neighbor and maintain curb appeal. Give your money to the people, businesses, and communities you've welcomed yourself to. Understand the racial wealth gap that's allowed you be where you are and patronize the local businesses that are still standing despite everything else changing around them.

To that end, I'm excited to introduce this week's guest-- a musician and Portland native, Jonny Sanders. As Portland continues to change, I hope this city will proactively reach out to and support artists like Jonny who are still here, still taking up space, still thriving.

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Name: Jonny Sanders 

Pronouns: Jonny Cool Star Gazer 

Background: Egyptian/Native American, born and raised in Portland, Oregon. The youngest of 5 kids. Mom was a soul singer, and my father is a keyboardist. I started my music journey at the age of 20.

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Medium of choice: Laptop and Keyboard, Microphone and Beat machine 

Karaoke jam: Too High by Stevie Wonder 

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: My favorite Portland memory is when NE Portland was considered a black neighborhood. It was a time when it felt like a community and felt welcoming. There weren't a lot of apartments, people of color lived in houses. 

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: This time is difficult to live in Portland, the cost of living is so high, it's hard to see so many people struggle with finding living space. Also, the roads are so full of cars, it makes the trees and I sick. 

How can Portland support you and/or your community? Portland can support me by supporting my art, keep communication open, spend less money on the Trail Blazers and Timbers, put that money into the art scene. My community is full of artists and healers, support their grind.

See more of Jonny's work on Instagram, Twitter, and www.jonnycool86.com

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 011: soleil ho

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Today's feature is unique in that the portraits were taken over the course of a few days and not in Portland but in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

In the fall of 2016, I attended Feast Portland where I met a photographer and editor who boasted of the impoverished countries he visited and the photos he took that were "completely unposed." He described Senegal as "a cross between Jamaica and India" (whatever tf that means) and when I asked how he decided to visit these countries, he said he just went "wherever [he] felt like going."

As a photographer tired of the homogeny and classicism in food media yet still struggling to find work, I, like the mighty of my generation, turned to Facebook to vent. I was immediately validated by POC peers who pointed out this photographer's problematic white gaze, the "poverty porn," and white savior complex of visiting these countries under the guise of empathy but who instead, perpetuated poverty tourism by exploiting the images of locals (i.e. photos taken without context, consent, or compensation).

This is where I met Soleil, and I call tell you that our conversations after a year, two podcast episodes, and endless tweets have helped shape my consciousness as an activist today.

If you're not already listening to this critical conversation, Soleil is a cohost of Racist Sandwich, a podcast that discusses food as it intersects with race, class, and gender. Somehow, on top of posting biweekly episodes, she's also a chef and a writer. I would say that her pieces on Assimilation Food and "A Guide to Avoid Cultural Appropriation" are my favorite, but the truth is I love everything she does because she's consistently a voice of reflection and change.

Soleil only lived in Portland for a year (and has since moved to Puerto Vallarta to open Bonito Kitchen with her mother), but her impact and voice are still here. 

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Name: Soleil Ho

Pronouns: she/her

Background: Vietnamese American, Brooklynite

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Astrological signs: Virgo sun, Libra moon, Libra rising

Medium of choice: Food, writing, podcasting/audio

Karaoke jam: “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5

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Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Probably the apex of my Portland life was performing at the YOUTHHOOD event at the Holocene in fall of 2016. I was terrified, and I didn’t know why anyone would ask me to do such a thing, because I have heaps of social anxiety. I puked on a tree just outside of the venue before I entered. I kept telling people, “I’m gonna die, this is gonna be awful, why am I doing this,” and pacing around the room in a frantic haze. When I couldn’t put it off any longer, I got up to the mic and told a story to the beautiful, diverse crowd about a time when I failed to be an advocate for myself, when I let someone else decide who I was. Having that opportunity—and hearing people echo my feelings and applaud my vulnerability—was an amazing feeling.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: In order to afford to live in Portland, I worked a lot, in addition to pursuing my side projects. There was a period of time where I was working 60 hours a week managing two restaurants on top of doing the podcast biweekly and completing freelance writing assignments. I barely saw my husband and my roommates and I was so frustrated with my inability to have a social life, though I valued my time spent on the podcast because that was time that I truly felt was my own. I felt like I couldn’t cut back on any of that work when we had to pay rent, bills, and student loans—and we had to fucking eat.

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How did you stay inspired in Portland? I found people who understood me, validated me, and wanted to help me make the best work I could. And vice versa. I went on endless coffee dates and reached out to any and all folks who inspired me.

How can Portland support you and/or your community? For starters, check out the Racist Sandwich’s PoC food directory as a jumping off point toward being more intentional with the money you spend when you go out to eat. It’s a small step, but it does more to help close the racial wealth gap than going to BORC would.

Follow Soleil on Twitter or via Racist Sandwich on Facebook, Twitter, or racistsandwich.com. You can support her work by donating on Patreon or visiting her bombass restaurant Bonito Kitchen in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Listen to Celeste's cameos on the podcast here and here.

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 010: mercedes orozco

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It's been a great week for connecting with likeminded publications. This past Tuesday, I spoke with Freelancers Union about balancing freelance and passion/social responsibility. On Friday, I got to drop in at Pacific Underground, a local radio show by and for Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs), talking about freelance life and of course, this series. Sometimes working in a predominantly digital sphere can seem isolating-- it's often difficult to know who reads and finds value with this medium.

After last month's Street Roots feature and this weekend's Pacific Underground cameo, I'd hope to be more intentional about connecting with likeminded people outside the digital medium. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I'm putting it out there! A pop up gallery, a panel-- who knows? 

This desire to hold space and connect beyond the internet ties in eloquently with today's guest, the director of a local gallery that prioritizes work by marginalized artists/communities. In a town prone to a homogenous perspective (read: the white gaze), it's critical to know and support spaces like UNA Gallery, who centers their work around POC, queer, and femme voices.

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Name: Mercedes Orozco

Pronouns: she/they

Background: Born and raised in Mexico

Medium of choice: I value the conceptual value of art so much that I couldn't possibly single out a medium. But I personally tend to mix media by collaging with illustration and photography.

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Karaoke jam: I keep it safe with screamy stuff like Violent Femmes, but have recently decided that next time, I'm going to do Smash Mouth's "Rock Star"

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Probably the very first fall season I experienced here. I am still in awe every day, even after 5 years, of the beauty that is the fall. But that very first one... wow. 

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: It is often difficult living in Portland, unfortunately. I'm often drawn to seek out bigger cities with more diversity.

How do you stay inspired in Portland?: "An art a day keeps self-loathing away!"

How can Portland support you and/or your community?
By $upporting UNA Gallery and helping us stay open with fund$!

@UNAgalleryPDX on PayPal & GoFundMe, or $morozcob on Squarecash. Or by sharing this information with your rich friends or your boss.

UNA is currently hosting an exhibit celebrating Día De Muertx. For more information on upcoming exhibits, visit www.UNAgalleryPDX.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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portland in color | 009: carlos the rollerblader

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There were many factors to beginning this series— the lack of diversity and POC visibility in creative industries, the tokenization/racism in the little representation we do have, and ultimately, creating a space with agency to tell our own stories. But as I come up on four years in Portland, I remember that these goals and intentions were inspired by an even earlier, simpler sentiment: feeling alone and unseen in this town. 

I think most, if not all POC here experience this. Which is why today, it hits hard to remember that I began as such a lonely person here but now find myself surrounded by a community that feels limitless in its creativity, love, and fight for one another. These spaces are direct result of that isolation. They were born as a response to the overwhelming whiteness. And they continue to exist because our survival here depends on it.

Today's guest is an integral part of creating and maintaining these spaces. Not only do they consistently organize potlucks and community spaces, their presence and voice overflows beyond their own circles, breaching the whiteness responsible for these spaces in the first place. From managing a free advice hotline to hosting intersectional stand up comedy shows, Carlos the Rollerblader is here to keep the party going.

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Name: it’s Carlos the Rollerblader to you, Big Daddy

Pronouns: they/them

Background: Black Queer Punk Painter Speaker Rollerblader Big Brother Marylander

Medium of choice: Ideally, oil painting or anything using my voice

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Karaoke jam: "A Milli" by Lil Wayne & "Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge

Tell us about one of your favorite Portland memories: Something you should know about me is that I’m all about The Party. All of my favorite memories include friends, old & new. Many of favorite memories here involve dance floors, visits to the bar, loud music and late nights. Just as important are the groggy mornings-after, complete with big sunglasses, breakfasts from a kitchen not my own, retracing my steps & piecing my day together. Being a stand-up comic also brings me joy (sometimes) when the shows have great lineups where people gel, like when I perform with my partner-in-comedy-crime Jen Tam, on Dirty Angel Showcases or with Lez Stand Up. Give me good company and any night can become a favorite memory.

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Please share a time it was difficult living in Portland: Y’know, this time around is actually my second bout with Portland. The first didn’t go so well haha. I originally moved here in 2013 from Maryland with little knowledge about Portland— I came here on a lark, moving in with an internet friend whom I’d never met in person and her (now ex-)husband with basically no knowledge about the city. In those first two years, almost everything was hard. From dealing with the hasty move from city to city, to family struggles, to the city’s seemingly-accidental yet totally unapologetic whiteness, to the culture shocking differences between the DC area & Portland. It all hit me at once too. I remember having the hardest time trying to figure out just HOW to communicate with people here, it seemed impossible because our styles were/are so different.

I unexpectedly ended up going back to Maryland for 10 months to reset and recuperate before returning in 2016. Things became easier as I learned how to better navigate Portland’s culture, along with building a better network of mostly POC. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard! Just less so – it’s much easier now.

In this series, the sequel is better than the original.

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How do you stay inspired in Portland? By surrounding myself here with people who fight, who laugh, who create, who sustain. My life now is close to an ideal by Portland standards; out of my inner network, I think I only now have three white friends. The rest are people of color. Artists, writers, comedians, photographers, tastemakers, dancers, DJs, educators, librarians, facilitators, implementers, etc. etc. etc. Being able to indulge in such a wealth of creatives has enriched my life almost to the point of nonchalance. Almost. It’s a catch 22! I’m often really insulated, in my friendships, from Portland’s whiteness but it’s that same force puts a fire under our asses to excel, create and break out in ways that is downright mind-boggling sometimes. We as individuals are remarkable, but the power of the networks that we’ve built here has not ceased to amaze me.

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How can Portland support you and/or your community? The general community trust aspect of Portland has gotten me a great many things and I’m very grateful for all the time, energy, money saved on kindred person-to-person exchanges. As long as that continues, I have a future here. Also, open up a bit and listen to one another. If there’s one thing that running the Free Advice Hotline has taught me, it's how closed off people have become from each other. Beyond that, financial support for/to myself and other queer, trans people of color is always appreciated. Especially from allies with (more) privilege. Thank you in advance.

Follow Carlos on Instagram and Facebook to see more work and info on upcoming comedy gigs!

Portland in Color is a self-funded project. If you enjoyed this feature, please consider donating to keep the series going.

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