PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — “Defund the police,” a demand heard on-repeat at protests in Portland and across the US throughout the summer of 2020 – but will reallocating funds from Portland police to invest in communities of color pass the city council vote? 

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has put this question to the test, as she presented the Portland Black Youth Leadership Fund to the council in a preliminary hearing on Wednesday. 

As outlined in the impact statement, if passed, the ordinance would use, “funds divested from PPB to create learning, healing, and actionable opportunities for Black Youth.”

In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, which called for racial justice reform and police accountability, Hardesty championed the development of a fund that would help decrease the racial wealth and inequality gaps, while investing in Black youth leadership in Portland.

“I couldn’t be prouder to bring this investment in Portland’s Black youth forward during this Black History Month,” Hardesty said. “The racial inequalities of today did not happen overnight and have been exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She continued, “To create a more equal and just Portland, we need to invest in the communities that have historically been disinvested in. These investments will provide hope and opportunities for our Black community that has always been left behind in Portland. That enriches our entire city.”  

In addition to the approved $950,000 provided by the City of Portland, the proposed ordinance would authorize one grant with the Black United Fund of Oregon and another with the Oregon Community Foundation which would allow further donations and advance programming in the future. 

The fund would be overseen by the Black United Fund, although community granting opportunities are slated to be developed by youth program participants.

“We at the Black United Fund of Oregon are grateful for Commissioner Hardesty’s tenacity and dedication to this work and are ready to continue our community fund stewardship,” said Black United Fund of Oregon President Dr. LM Alaiyo Foster. “We are more than excited to see Black youth leadership development work come to fruition.”

Foster added, “This specific focus on traditionally marginalized youth and their ability to thrive is deeply aligned with our principles. This is an exciting time as we are on the precipice of historical changes.”  

Although the grants with both organizations are slated to expire within one year, the impact statement suggests the grants are likely to be reauthorized in the years to follow, after approval.

“Oregon Community Foundation is proud to leverage our philanthropic capacity in partnership with the Black United Fund of Oregon to support youth-led grantmaking,” stated Director of Community Engagement at Oregon Community Foundation, Niyati Desai. “Together, we’re working to create leadership opportunities for Black youth in the City of Portland with the broader goal of advancing equity.” 

Prior to the Council hearing Wednesday, Hardesty met with the program designer Dr. S. Renee Mitchell, to tour the former Albina Arts Center location – where the program is set to take place.

“I am honored to be able to pour my heart, my passion and my years of management experience into helping Black youth, which research acknowledges as THE most prodigiously traumatized adolescent group, benefit from an evidence-based path toward healing, entrepreneurship and self-awareness of their own genius and creativity,” Dr. S. Renee Mitchell said in a statement.

She continued, “To be able to do this important and necessary empowerment work in a NE Portland location, the former Albina Arts Center, which was once the space that activated generations of creative Black genius, is particularly rewarding.” 

The Portland Black Youth Leadership Fund will go to a City Council vote for approval next week.