‘Vanport Mosaic Festival’ goes virtual on anniversary of flood

Oregon

Musical performances, oral histories, poetry readings and more fill this year's festival

Vanport Flood, afternoon of Sunday, May 30, 1948. January 17, 2020 (Oregon Historical Society).

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The fifth annual Vanport Mosaic Festival, a month long exploration of local histories and community resilience, is going virtual this year in the wake of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Vanport Mosaic Festival will go virtual in its fifth year in the wake of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic (photo courtest Vanport Mosaic).

Marking the 72nd anniversary of the flood that wiped out the multicultural World War II-era housing project that was located in modern day North Portland, the festival puts a focus on what organizers call “memory activism.”

A press release of the festival states this year’s event includes “screenings, presentations, conversations and art performances that amplify personal experience of individuals and communities impacted by the long-endured inequalities across American economic, social and civic systems.”

The festival, which began as a four-day multi-disciplinary event in 2015, is traditionally held in North and Northeast Portland venues “rich with invisible and intangible history.”

However, this year they’ve moved all of their events online, available to stream on their website, via the Vanport Mosaic Facebook Page, or live-streamed on their YouTube channel (all events will also be archived for later viewing). All of the events are free, but the non-profit accepts tax-deductible donations on the donations page of their website.

Upcoming events:

Musician Myles de Bastion will perform a live event Friday, May 29 at 5 PM for the Vanport Mosaic Festival (photo courtesy Vanport Mosaic).

Friday, May 29, 2020 at 5:00 PM — VIRTUAL EXPLORATIONS OF VISUAL SOUND: A Performance by Myles de Bastion

Myles de Bastion is an artistic director, musician and creative altruist who develops technology and art installations that enables sound to be experienced as light and vibration. Myles, who is a disability rights advocate, centers his work upon themes of inclusion, diversity, equity and access for Deaf and disabled people.

Archival photo of a house being submerged in the 1948 flood of the City of Vanport (Oregon Historical Society).

Saturday, May 30, 11:30 AM – 03:30 PM — VANPORT DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

Saturday is the official 72nd anniversary of the flood of Vanport, which was at the time Oregon’s second-largest city and the nation’s largest public housing project. The remembrance will include online presentations, screenings of oral histories of the Vanport Mosaic living archive, music, poetry and interactive conversations.

The event will include a Vanport flood survivor, Mrs. Mariah Taylor, sharing her memories, a musical tribute by jazz performer and gospel singer Marilyn T. Keller, and a talk and Q&A by historian James Harrison.

The entire program schedule can be found at this link.

Third-generation Japanese American Hideno Helene Nakamoto, 7, left, and second-generation Yoko Itashiki, 7, center, recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the Raphael Weill School in San Francisco. The Nakamoto family was released from Topaz on Sept. 9, 1945 (photo courtesy Paul Kitagaki Jr.).

Sunday, May 31, 2:00 PM — GAMBATTE! LEGACY OF AN ENDURING SPIRIT – JAPANESE AMERICAN INCARCERATION, THEN AND NOW: A live multi-media presentation by photojournalist Paul Kitagaki

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Paul Kitagaki Jr.will share his ongoing project to document and illuminate a dark episode in America’s history: the relocation and internment of more than 120,000 ethnic Japanese in 10 incarceration “camps” as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in 1942.

Kitagaki in Manzanar filming for KCET on Tuesday August 6 2019 in San Jose, CA. (photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr.).

Inspired by a photo taken by famed documentary photographer Dorothea Lange of his grandparents and father preparing to board a bus in Oakland, Calif., enroute to a World War II internment camp, Kitagi has spent the last 15 years locating the families who lived in those camps, documenting their stories of survival and inner strength to overcome injustice, racism, and wartime hysteria.

He will be joined by Andrew DeVigal, Director of University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s Agora Journalism Center, for a conversation about the legacy of this history.

Sunday May 31, 5:00 PM — We Are America: Voices From Our North American Land

Poetry and readings by Chisao Hata, Lakayana Drury, Donovan Smith and more.

About Vanport

Though it only lasted from 1942-1948, the City of Vanport was home to over 40,000 at its peak. It drew both national praise and criticisms during its existence, being labeled a “nasty ghetto” by some and a “miracle city” by others.

It was home to over 6,000 African Americans over its existence as well as returning World War II veterans, returning Japanese internees and represented the first instance of overt racial integration in Oregon. It was also home to Vanport College, which later became Portland State University.

On Memorial Day in 1948, a flood wiped out the entire City of Vanport within hours, displacing more than 18,000 people.

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