The Albina neighborhood was the traditional home of Portland’s Black community, which was forced there after the Vanport Flood of 1948 then displaced again by urban renewal projects including Interstate 5, Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and a planned expansion of Emanuel Hospital.
Hundreds of homes were raised and the promise of generational wealth went unrealized.
Now, Knight’s gift has created the 1803 Fund – referencing the year York, an enslaved American of African descent, was directed to join the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The 1803 Fund’s CEO, Rukaiyah Adams, a fourth generation Portlander and a former merger and acquisitions specialist on Wall Street, previously served as the Chief Investment Officer for one of Oregon’s largest philanthropic organizations — Meyer Memorial Trust — and is currently on the board of the Albina Vision Trust.
She’s already working to get the 1803 Fund to grow over $1 billion as the organization to administer the fund is being created.
“I think it’s an opportunity to try to address some of the longstanding ills that fostered on the Black community. It’s an opportunity if we manage this correctly,” said 1803 Fund Board member Ron Herndon, CEO of Albina Start and founder of the Black United Front Portland Chapter.
“I have every belief that given Rukaiyah’s experience in investing and the financial community that this fund will be able to grow over the years unlike funding that the community’s received in the past for two or three years and the money’s gone. This will be an investment that will continue to flourish for decades, and it will give the community an opportunity to plan in a way that it has never had before…it is a monumental opportunity,” Herndon said.
Herndon furthered, “this opportunity, I believe, is because the way in which the Black community came out and said forcefully over a long period of time, ‘We deserve to have an opportunity to develop our community in a way that will help not only our children but our grandchildren.’”
The fund is not limited to just the Albina neighborhood but aims to help Black families throughout Multnomah County, Herndon noted.
Tony Hopson, another 1803 Fund board member and Self Enhancement Inc. CEO says he hopes the fund will support education, affordable housing and businesses for the Black community.
The two board members say the fund is not a form of corporate reparations and that Knight approached them with the fund because he was impressed by their work in the community.
Hopson added that other events pushed the fund forward including the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter Movement and Nike contributing $140 million to Black communities.
“Phil gave me a call to say [the $140 million contribution] was happening and he wanted to make sure that we were aware of that and that we should be a part of that. And then that’s when we made the ask of, ‘Well, Phil, would you and Penny be interested in looking at something we thought could be even more transformational?” Hopson said.
Hopson added, “when you look at the data, a lot of the data for Black folks hasn’t changed drastically. This time around, we want to plan something that would be transformational enough that the overall data that impacts Black children and families actually gets better.”
Hopson, who was born and raised in Portland, reflected on gentrification in the Albina neighborhood through his lived experience.
“I can remember a sense of community that we saw begin to disappear. I live two blocks from the I-5 corridor and watch houses being destroyed and friends having to move out of that area,” Hopson said.
Now, through the fund, Hopson hopes to empower Black families across the county.
“This is not a normal foundation that folks can apply for resources,” Hopson explained – noting it’s focusing on three areas including education along with “place and culture.”
Hopson added, “in order to make the difference, it’s going to take a collaborative effort that drills deeper and wider to connect with a much larger portion of our community.”