Rebuilding Community: A Disparate Impacts Analysis and Cross-Cultural Agenda to Prevent Displacement and Gentrification


Oregon’s history of displacement is steeped in the targeted and intentional genocide, exclusion and displacement of people of color. We have witnessed this from the time the Chinook Peoples called what we now recognize as the Portland Metropolitan Area “home”; through Oregon’s Exclusion Laws of the late 1800s to keep African Americans out of the state; and into mid-20th-century redlining and exclusionary zoning. Exclusionary and segregating policies carried out through public planning agencies, real estate, banking and insurance companies have consistently led to remaining communities of color living in disinvested areas. Many of these areas become gentrified later as a result of newer public plans and investments. 

The Importance of Community Advocacy

On the morning of March 1, 2017, 150 community advocates from around the state joined the Coalition of Communities of Color at the state capitol to share concerns with their representatives and senators. The atmosphere was full of excitement as we learned about a bold, cross-cutting legislative agenda that will help advance racial equity in Oregon through healthcare, education, environmental justice, housing, racial justice and civil rights, and economic stability. Communities of color worked in tandem with allies on these issues that affect all Oregonians. These issues, driven by compassion and concern, offered real solutions for some of the greatest challenges being faced by the state.

For many of the attendees, it was their first time visiting the state capitol. As they were being trained on the issues, participants shared deeply personal stories about how state policy affected Oregon families-- from evictions to lack of health care to wage theft to increased pollution-related asthma and cancer in their communities. Tokenization, disparate impact, marginalization, and exclusion were common themes that continued to surface. However, if one main lesson was emphasized in the training, it was that personal stories are the most powerful advocacy tool to drive change and fight for justice.  Throughout the day, over 50 legislators heard these stories and demands for equity loud and clear.

In the afternoon, a Clean Energy Jobs rally was held on the steps of the capitol.  Environmentalists and social justice advocates spoke about a path forward for holding major polluters accountable while investing in those Oregonians most impacted by pollution and climate change. Participants chanted, “Clean green economy, this is what we want to see!”  These chanters carried their passion and stories to a Joint Legislative hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs bills, which would put a cap and price on pollution, and reinvest those proceeds into a new clean energy economy and rural, people of color, and low-income communities throughout Oregon.

It is clear: no matter the area, policy needs to address the needs of all Oregonians and provide benefit to those who are most vulnerable to negative effects. The stories shared throughout the day in Capitol offices reflected these experiences.

As we were gathering to take group photos and as I spoke with individual participants about their experiences, the words of Dr. Cornel West kept resonating: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Truly, this lobby day was an embodiment of the pursuit of justice in Oregon.


Simon Tam is marketing director for Oregon Environmental Council and serves on the board of directors for the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Know Your CIty, Portland State University’s Cultural Resources Center, and is on the steering committee for the Jade District.

For more information about the Coalition of Communities of Color and their racial justice agenda, contact Maggie Tallmadge, Environmental Justice Manager at


REDEFINE Climate Justice Principles

Click on image to access REDEFINE Principles for Climate Justice.

Click on image to access REDEFINE Principles for Climate Justice.

We believe any environmental or climate initiative must lead with racial and economic equity, prevent harm, provide benefit, and ensure inclusive and accountable decision making. Keep reading to learn more about how we apply these principles. To see the 2016 Redefine Principles, please click here or hover over the image.

Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders

Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders—In December 2015, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the CCC, and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon were awarded a grant from the Kresge Foundation to implement Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders.  Tyee Khunamokwst is our three-year climate resilience plan for the Portland metro region that articulates how communities of color can shape public processes related to climate resilience.  We prioritized cross cultural climate action capacity, housing justice, transportation justice, green infrastructure and disaster resilience.  Additionally, our collaborative is working with national grantees to make the case of anti-displacement as a pillar of climate resilience. To see the full and abbreviated version of the plan, please click here.