August race promotes Soul District revival
By Lee Perlman
The late Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for a better America. For the last 18 months the North-Northeast Business Association has had one too: to hold a road race in honor of Dr. King and provide economic stimulus to the historically African-American and minority neighborhoods of north and northeast Portland. The dream is about to be realized.
On Sunday morning, Aug. 5, the business group will hold the inaugural MLK Dream Run. The annual event will actually be three runs of 5, 10 and 15 kilometers, plus a 5K walk. The 15K event will be a competitive race sanctioned by U.S.A. Track and Field, and will honor the late Geoff Hollister, a standout University of Oregon runner and one of the early executives at Nike.
A fundraiser for NNEBA’s Fellowship Entrepreneurial Academy, which provides training for business careers for youths age 17 to 25, the entry fees, will run $25 for the 5K race, $30 for the 10K and $35 for the 15K. Each entrant will receive a commemorative t-shirt, back pack and water bottle. There will also be live music and a health fair.
A 7 a.m. early start time is a logistical compromise. NNEBA wanted to hold the run on a Saturday to avoid conflicts with church services in the area, but city officials were opposed to closing streets on Saturday. Last year, the group called off a planned marathon due to this and other issues.
The Dream Run also represents a unique way to visit some great inner-city neighborhoods. The routes will go through parts of theBoise, Eliot, Grant Park, Humboldt, Irvington, King, Sabin, Vernon and Woodlawn neighborhoods, parts of Portland’s traditional Soul District. It will touch on parks, including Irving and Woodlawn, and vital commercial districts such as Northeast Alberta Street and North Mississippi and Williams avenues.
“The MLK Dream Run is the culmination of our longtime dream to showcase the many positive changes and improvements in north and northeast Portland,” said Joice Taylor, NNEBA chair.
Among the crop of new businesses to the region is Henry V Productions, which is now headquartered on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. and managing the Dream Run.
“We are committed to the vibrant north Portland community and are pleased to contribute our event management expertise to the MLK Dream run on a pro bono basis,” Henry V’s Jim Hansen said.
North and northeast Portland have evolved dramatically in recent years, and the time is now to highlight the positive impacts of community improvement efforts,” Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church Pastor Matt Hennessee said. “The inaugural MLK Dream Run will be a wonderful showcase for the community.”
The Dream Run will hopefully drive “foot traffic to hundreds of businesses in our area and encourage local residents to explore beyond our own neighborhoods,” said Chris Lopez, board president of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, one of several community organizations that have endorsed the event.
To make it all happen, organizers will need lots of volunteers. To offer your services, register, or for more information, visit NNEBAPortland.org.