Hank’s Dairy, Les Femmes, House of Sound, Fred Hampton’s Health Clinic — these are all important parts of the history of North Williams Avenue that have been all but erased today.
North Williams Avenue, Portland’s busiest biking street that’s full of new shops and housing, was once the heart of our city’s black community.
But due to the negative impacts of systemic racism, city policies that hurt people of color, and recent demographic shifts, Williams has changed dramatically. Some of that original culture still thrives, but it’s a shadow of its former self.
Now a public art project wants to help Portlanders remember what was lost and celebrate what exists today.
As we reported last March, the City of Portland has about $1.5 million to spend on the North Williams Traffic Safey & Operations project. That’s enough money to build all recommendations put forward by the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) in April 2012.
However, PBOT was in a tricky spot when they found out the state grant that’s funding the project ($1.3 million of the total) could not be used for one small but crucial piece: the “Honoring History Streetscape”. That element of the project is a $100,000 piece of public art that will, “honor N Williams Avenue’s importance in local African-American history.”