Plaza honors civil rights, cultural heritage
By Mindy Cooper/The Portland Observer
A completed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Heritage Markers Project plaza was unveiled at a celebration Monday at Northeast Hancock Street where Grand Avenue merges into Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
First conceived nearly two decades ago, the site honors the multicultural populations and history of inner north and northeast Portland.
“We are completing a project that has been years and years in the making,” said Anne Mangan, who works for the Portland Development Commission, the lead agency for the $650,000 construction process. “The point of the space is to make a more official gateway into northeast neighborhoods and to honor the neighborhood and cultural heritage.”
Portland Development Commissioner Charles Wilhoite served as the master of ceremonies. “This is everyone’s project, but particularly a project that belongs to the community,” he said.
Project manager Irene Bowers was also excited to celebrate the unveiling.
“The heart and soul of this whole project is the four heritage markers, which have 12 interpretive panels,” she said. “We had over 100 different stories, and of that, certain themes came out.”
The four themes include: Community; Immigration; Civil Rights; and Commerce and Culture.
Mayor Sam Adams, who concluded the speakers of the ceremony, said although the gateway serves as a reminder of how far Portland has come, he said the new project should also stand as a reminder of how much father there is to go for equity.
This is a fitting tribute, he said. “And it serves as an active reminder of the work left undone. There is still too much separateness.”
Other community attendees at the event included neighborhood activist Pauline Bradford, State Rep. Lew Frederick, and northeast community leader Paul Knauls.
“We are the only city in the county with a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,” said Knauls, a member of the project committee.
“I am very excited to see this important history be available in a public space for anyone to come by and learn what this community has been about for many years,” said project historian Janice Dilg, who has lived in northeast Portland since the 70s. “It is great to see it have evolved into reality.”
Community resident Brenda Polk agreed. “It is just a wonderful tribute to Dr. King,” she said.