Rukaiyah Adams ties King’s legacy to Albina vision

Civic Affairs

Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church holds annual Salute to Greatness celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Rukaiyah Adams give a keynote address during the Salute to Greatness Lunch at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. (PMG Photo/Jonathan House)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The restoration of Portland’s central African American neighborhood—the Rose Quarter—can’t be accomplished with concrete caps or rebuilt streets alone, according to one civic leader.

As Portlanders gathered in pews and volunteered across the city to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Meyer Memorial Trusts chief investment officer Rukaiyah Adams made the case for “structural hope.”

Rukaiyah Adams give a keynote address during the Salute to Greatness Lunch at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. (PMG Photo/Jonathan House)

“There’s a lot of spiritual and community healing and innovation that has to precede the built environment,” she said in an interview. “We have to come to the table not in protest, or in anger, but with vision and love and agency.”

Adams — who chairs the state board managing $100 billion in public pensions, alongside her duties for one of the largest charitable foundations in the Pacific Northwest — gave the keynote speech during the annual Salute to Greatness luncheon at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church on Saturday, Jan. 18.

Church leaders offered awards to a number of local citizens, including Donald Dixon, a beloved Jefferson High guidance counselor who developed the mentoring programs Boys to Men and Girls to Women. He is retiring this year after 41 years with Portland Public Schools.

Also honored was the entire family of Nike Greene, who was appointed head of the Office of Youth Violence Prevention in November. During a Friday night basketball game between Jefferson and Roosevelt high schools, her office took part as 160 students put on yellow caution-tape t-shirts as part of the Men Building Men’s Stop the Violence campaign.

Church leaders also awarded $1,500 scholarships to five talented students from local schools: Olivia Martin, Jefferson High School; DeShaun B. Knuckles-Morris, Rosemary Anderson POIC; Ladon Charles Redwine, the Second Home program; Bereket Getachew, De La Salle North Catholic; and Nyeplue Nuquay of Helensview High.

Former State Senator Margaret Carter makes an impassioned appeal during the Salute to Greatness Awards at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. (PMG Photo/Jonathan House)

“Each generation takes care of the next,” said former state Sen. Margaret Carter, the first African-American woman elected to the Oregon legislature. “All of us can be engaged now.”

On Sunday, Gov. Kate Brown, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler were set to speak with Linfield College President Miles K. Davis during the second half of the First Baptist Church celebration.

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson noted that her agency’s proposed regional transportation funding measure will likely include projects recommended by the Albina Vision, where Adams sits on the board.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, however, hasn’t yet concluded whether its I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project will build freeway caps sturdy enough to support buildings, which would probably push the final price tag over $1 billion.

Adams said that’s missing the point: “It’s easier to talk about caps on freeways than acknowledge what we’ve done to each other.”

Dr. Brian Gibbs gives a hug to Elder Catherine Brown after receiving the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award at the annual Salute to Greatness Lunch. (PMG Photo/Jonathan House)

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