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MULTICULTURAL MARKET. The Jade International Night Market took place on two Saturdays this August at Portland Community Collegeís Southeast Campus and the Jade/APANO Multicultural Space. The markets featured food, live entertainment, retail vendors, activities for children, and much more. (AR Photos/Maileen Hamto)
From The Asian Reporter, V25, #17 (September 7, 2015), page 11.
Jade District night markets build community, challenge displacement
By Maileen Hamto
An event that had its beginnings in a small corner of a parking lot at an Asian mall has blossomed into a large assemblage of thousands of Portlanders celebrating culture and lauding the growing diversity of east Portland.
"To me, itís all about the great variety of food," said Clackamas resident Gary Tran, who attended the Jade International Night Market, held over two Saturday evenings at Portland Community Collegeís (PCC) Southeast Campus. More than 90 craftspeople, food vendors, and informational booths dotted the campus commons. The parking lot was packed all night. Cultural dance and musical performances from Portlandís global community were punctuated by short speeches by community leaders and elected officials.
In true Portland form, a beer garden was located at one of the cityís newest community centers ó the Jade/APANO Multicultural Space.
"This is great fun, because I get to meet new people and see whatís going on in this community," said Tran.
Organized by the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and Jade District community partners and contributors with financial support from local government agencies, organizations, and businesses, the annual community cultural event reflects the diversity of the Jade District, the area near S.E. 82nd Avenue and Division Street. Working with community partners, APANO is helping to build social and economic capacity among residents and businessowners in southeast Portland, amid the threat of gentrification and displacement.
Neighborhoods in east Portland make up one of the most diverse communities within the city, according to the "Portland Plan," a long-range plan prepared in 2012 by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. More than 10 percent of residents in southeast Portland neighborhoods identify as Asian. Moreover, east Portland has both the greatest concentration and the largest population of foreign-born residents.
Despite growth and increasing diversity, east Portland is known as one of the most underserved areas in the city. Southeast Portland has the most number of households in poverty.
The Jade International Night Market is "an important way to bring community together as part of starting a conversation for larger issues that are important for the neighborhood and the city," said Stephanie Routh, a volunteer for the Jade District steering committee, which includes local businesses, government agencies, property owners, and community members.
"Weíre hearing more about affordable housing and anti-displacement," Routh said. "There are lots of investments that are coming into this area, and we want to make sure those investments are good for locally owned business and the residents. We want to make sure that the future includes them."
At the two night markets, nonprofit, business, and government organizations made an effort to connect with east Portland residents. Several City of Portland agencies ó the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the Portland Water Bureau, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, among others ó all hosted informational booths highlighting city services available to east Portlanders.
PCC, the venue host, welcomed young people with games and activities linked to programming at the new PCC Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Center. Program coordinator Sarah Rose Evans drew children and families to the PCC STEM Center booth with a showcase highlighting a 3-D printer, a circuitry workshop, and other activities. The center is working with area middle and high schools to foster an interest in STEM careers. Evans supports student clubs, events, and workshops at Vestal, Bridger, Mt. Tabor, Harrison Park, and other area schools.
"We are getting young people excited about science," Evans said. "When young students come to PCC and see what a college campus is like, then college seems so much more attainable, especially for students who are underrepresented in STEM fields."
The summer before a major election year, officials attended the night market for a bit of airtime in between diverse cultural performances. Others, like Oregon representative Jessica Vega Pederson, simply reminded people to vote.
Oregonís passage of the Motor Voter law is gaining national attention, for good reason, according to Vega Pederson. "It is a game-changer, making voting easier for thousands of people across the state. If you havenít registered to vote, donít be surprised if you get a ballot. Just make sure you vote!"
While headliner acts The Slants and Portland Taiko electrified the main stage, booths hosted by nonprofits that serve immigrant and refugee communities drew in visitors with the depth and richness of diasporic experiences among Portlandís newcomers. Weaving Together Portland, a program of Lutheran Community Services Northwest, had a booth. The organization brings together Karen women from Burma who weave traditional designs and textiles for sale at a local crafts shop. Selling the handmade bags, blankets, and scarves supplement the incomes of the families.
Even more important than the economic incentives of weaving is building community, explained program coordinator Kaw Kleh Wah. An incoming PCC freshman, Wah also is a member of the Karen community. She organizes the weekly weaving circles and helps interpret for the participants. She also triages issues that come up at the weaving sessions, such as family problems, accessing healthcare, and other community resources.
"As refugee in a new country, the women feel lost. Women weave with others back home, and when they get here, thereís nothing to do," Wah said. "This program helps us all feel like this is our home country."
Another nonprofit, Outgrowing Hunger, was at the night market to feature the produce and farmers of the S.E. 162nd location of East Portland Neighborhood Gardens. The site includes gardeners from Nepali and Bhutanese communities.
Outgrowing Hunger works with local communities to access land where people can grow their own food, according to Francesco Tripoli, a part-time staffer. Much of the work is centered in outer southeast Portland, among newcomer communities who have a deep desire to continue gardening and food-growing traditions.
"Food is a conduit for identity, a way of orienting oneself in the universe," said Tripoli. "From my perspective, certain communities have a memory of the value and what it means to grow food."
"Itís awesome to have these gardens where a mixing of cultures gives the opportunity to mitigate the acculturation pressures of making a new home in the United States," Tripoli added.
In addition to the many retail and nonprofit booths, there were also more than 20 food vendors tempting attendees with options such as teriyaki, lumpia, tamales, humbao, fried chicken, fish-ball sandwiches, arepas, empanadas, pad thai, yakisoba, boba, ice cream, and more.
The Jade International Night Market will take place again next summer, and it is not too early to get involved. To learn more, contact Jade District manager Todd Struble at (971) 340-4866, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or visit <www.jadedistrict.org>.
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