My name is Sanuye Ford and over the summer, I decided to intern with Brown Hope. Brown Hope is a very small, Portland-based non-profit that aims to combat racism by creating spaces for black, brown, and indigenous people in our city to come together, heal, and build community. Brown Hope does this with Reparations Power Hour, an event in which every other month the community can show up, get paid, and connect with each other at a rotating host of sites throughout Portland. They also combat the economic inequality that the community often faces with Blackstreet bakery, a vegan pop-up bakery that pays the black, brown, and indigenous people who bake and sell the treats a living wage. You can find out more about Brown Hope here.
While I imagined serving the community more directly, I came to find myself doing more behind a desk than with the community Brown Hope served. This was because while Brown Hope has regular programs, what it really needed when I got there was someone to do business outreach so that we could plan out where Reparations Power Hour would be happening in advance, we needed someone to do donor appreciation to let the people who gave to us know that we did see and appreciate them and what they did for us. Not only that but Brown Hope wasn’t in a place where Blackstreet Bakery could happen often enough for our bakers to use it as a full-time position, which meant that the population we served were people with full-time jobs who had time to connect on weekends, but not as often as I initially imagined.
While it was definitely hard at first to accept that my internship wouldn’t pan out the way I originally thought it would, and it took a while to appreciate why my internship is what it is, I know now that just because I don’t get to serve my community in the way I originally thought I would doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything.
At my first Reparations Power Hour, I could see the effect my work had. I got to meet black, brown, and indigenous people from all walks of life. There were comic book writers, there were community organizers, there were people who had only been in Portland for a few months. I got to meet people who had been coming to Reparations Power Hour since the beginning and people for whom this event was the first they had been at in Portland. Seeing all the people who showed up, seeing how much healing happened in just one night by having space for people to connect and share their experiences and trauma, it really made the work I had been doing feel so much more worthwhile.
After all, if what I was doing lead to more events and connections like the ones I saw that night, I was making the kind of impact I hoped to have, and that’s the most important thing.