Annexation & Assimilation: East of 82nd Ave.

As artist-in-residence at the Portland City Archives, I studied communities within the city not well represented in Portland’s “official history.” Until the 1980’s the official eastern city limit was 82nd Avenue. My research examined how the lack of city records impacted East Portland’s sense of “belonging” to the greater city. The multi- faceted, buried story of East Portland is one of forced annexation creating two incredibly segregated communities living on either side of 82nd Avenue.

I created a 10-minute video “How East Portland Was Born” to animate 170 years of Portland’s urban growth, including annexation maps and archival documents that told a one version of an “official” story. I read and included testimonies from residents and minutes from angry city hall meetings. I interviewed 80-yr old activists who fought for a separate city and included oral histories from the Hmong, Vietnamese, and Somali immigrants who resettled in East Portland. Racist rental policies on the west-side sent immigrants and people of color to rent from landlords were housing was cheap, but lacked basic infrastructure like sewers and sidewalks. By unearthing what was invisible or buried in the official city archives, I was able to discover a more inclusive, multifaceted history of Portland’s present day uneven and segregated growth.

I served as the Archives ambassador to the outer east side communities and partnered with Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) on SE 82nd Avenue. The resulting exhibit included immigrant oral histories, video projections, poster installations using archive documents, and a shadow theater performance by Harrison Park students. Using their bodies as art instruments, the kids worked through phases of conflict, compromise, rejection, isolation and, ultimately, inclusion. “Annexation & Assimilation along 82nd Ave” was installed in the 8,000 sf APANO/JADE space at 82nd and SE Division. The works are now included in the official Portland City Archives.