Randal Wyatt, a student advocate for a Portland nonprofit and hip-hop artist, was long outspoken on social justice issues when it came to his work and social media. Not far after the killing of George Floyd, Randal was flooded with messages from white people asking how they could help support Portland’s Black community.
With a past of racism, Portland has a predominantly white population with only 5.8 percent of African Americans. Wyatt, who was born and raised in the black communities of Portland, felt the communities needed dedicated investment. “ ‘I said it was time to put your money where your mouth is,” he recalls. “Exclusionary laws have contributed to Black and Brown communities being in the hole. We need reparations, we need to be given a piece of the pie’ ” (❡2). Soon after, the idea quickly took off and turned into Taking Ownership PDX, a vehicle that collected donations for Portland’s Black community. It is a collective group of contractors, realtors, neighbors, and businesses making free upgrades and repairs to Black-owned homes. The goal for this movement is to become a nonprofit and to increase the number of Black homeowners and businesses in Portland.
Wyatt’s motive was to first develop a framework to start his project immediately. He started to take donations himself and eventually through a fiscal sponsor. He collected the names of people who might want to volunteer to help with the renovation projects and approached the first homeowner, asking if they would be interested in free home improvement. Work began in late June on the very first home and Wyatt discovered a second home in need of repairs. After working on his first project, his movement got publicity around Portland and money started coming in. “By August, Wyatt was focused full time on Taking Ownership PDX, with the support of a board composed of 13 people in real estate, contracting, architecture and social work” (❡7).
Wyatt and Lauren Goché, a realtor for Think-Real Estate, set a goal to raise $100,000 in one month and surpassed it recently. “The community contributed in various ways: small businesses, realtors and musicians have offered donation matches; an individual sold masks and donated the proceeds; a board member baked cookies and also donated proceeds” (❡9).
You can keep up on Wyatt’s chronicles through his Instagram account. Taking Ownership now has 47 families listed that need assistance with 13 active projects. “Wyatt plans to establish Taking Ownership as a nonprofit that not only carries out repairs for Black homeowners, but offers downpayment assistance” (❡14). If Taking Ownership can attain state funding, they will be able to help produce more Black home and business owners by providing down payments.
The collective is fast-growing and Wyatt wants as much support as he can get for Taking Ownership PDX.
This blog post was written by Krista Pham, our intern.
The article that inspired this piece can be found, here.