From May 18th to May 29th, the 8th Vanport Mosaic Festival will offer in-person, virtual, and self-paced memory activism opportunities to Remember, Repair, Reclaim, and Re-image our collective story.
The Vanport Mosaic began as a participatory oral history project focused on the forgotten community that was formed in Vanport, a temporary housing project built in 1942 between Vancouver, WH, and Portland, OR, to house the thousands of people pouring into Portland to work in the shipyards.
In a state founded on the unceded traditional lands of the many indigenous Tribes and with a constitution that initially made it illegal for Black people to live or own property within its borders, Vanport provided housing to a multicultural and multiracial community. At a time when exclusion and racial segregation were the norm, Vanport was a place of belonging.
On Memorial Day in 1948, a flood wiped out the entire city within hours, killing at least 15 and displacing 18,700 residents. The 1948 Flood is often referred to as Oregon’s Katrina. The response to the disaster was marked by a lack of preparedness, inadequate infrastructure, and a failure to prioritize the needs of vulnerable citizens. This tragedy forced Portland to open its doors to thousands of local refugees. Many stayed, forever changing the social, economic, and political fabric of our region.
Vanport was never rebuilt. Today a few signposts and a slab of concrete from its movie theater are the only physical reminders of the largest WWII federal housing project. The site of the second-largest city in Oregon is nothing more than a golf course, a raceway, wetlands, and a dog park.
About: The Vanport Mosaic is a memory-activism platform. We amplify, honor, and preserve the silenced histories that surround us in order to understand our present, and create a future where we all belong. The Vanport Mosaic’s work honors the experience of Portland’s underrepresented communities by surfacing, celebrating, and preserving their cultural and historical memories. One of our core values is: telling stories WITH and not ABOUT communities,