Where We Live: Portland’s NAACP chapter

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland has the oldest NAACP chapter west of the Mississippi, but its president is finding himself in the eye of the storm amid protests this summer as he calls for people to separate the movement from the violence.

Peaceful protests, some lead by the NAACP, have E.D Mondainé’s support, and he’s calling this time “one of the most important times in history.”

However, in a recent Washington Post editorial, he blasted the “spectacle” of vandalism and destruction, mostly carried out by young white people.

“The destruction, it disturbs me and it’s disgusting,” Mondainé told KOIN 6 News, adding the acts don’t “help our cause. It has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter. The youth are privileged participants, dancing on stages that were built on the backs of Black oppression.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in New York in 1909 to fight violence against African Americans. In 1914, Portland’s NAACP chapter was formed by Beatrice Morrow Cannady, editor of the African American newspaper “The Advocate,” along with Dr. J.N. Merriman, its first president.

The chapter has fought for equal education, against exclusion laws that kept Blacks out of certain neighborhoods, advocated for entry into trade unions and battled gentrification. However, the local chapter faded in importance and impact over the years, until activist Jo Ann Hardesty began fixing its finances and national affiliation in her brief stint as president, before she won a seat on Portland City Council.

Mondaine took over in March 2018.

“Our city commissioner did the best she could to bring it into compliance, I was left to do the completion of that job,” Mondainé said.

A rocky beginning called his financial decisions and management style into question, but Mondainé said the chapter’s bank account and membership are growing now.

A restaurant owner, musician and pastor, Mondainé gets no pay as Portland NAACP president, but he knows — especially now — he’s in a unique position.

“I consider it a gift from God to be a voice in real change,” he said. “It’s time to re-center our efforts on what really matters – Black lives.”

Last Friday, the NAACP led a “March on Portland” marking the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

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