Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current, January 21, 2015, Image 1

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    Minority Retort
Series debut for
comedians of
color show
QR code for
Portland Observer
Online
See Local News, page 3
Down Payment
Lifeline
Neighborhood
LIFT creates 259
new homeowners
See Metro, page 13
Volume XLIV
‘City of Roses’
Number 5
www.portlandobserver.com
Wednesday • January 21, 2015
Established in 1970
Committed to Cultural Diversity
PHOTO BY M ICHAEL L EIGHTON /T HE P ORTLAND O BSERVER
An accomplished author of black poetry and other books, Reed College Professor Samiya Bashir, is changing the narrative on what it means to be part of the black
experience in Portland.
Shining a light on Portland
community of black artists
O LIVIA O LIVIA
T HE P ORTLAND O BSERVER
Samiya Bashir is in the midst of writing her latest book and
preparing for her next reading series. As a creative writing
professor at Reed College in southeast Portland, her passion,
she says, is “people and communities: how we treat each
other and how we treat ourselves; how we interact, and how
we make the world together.”
The daughter of Somali father and an African American
mother, Bashier grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich. She started
teaching poetry at Reed in 2012.
Now a literary icon in Portland, she is a great example for
disrupting the narratives about what students at Reed and
people in Portland look like.
“People like to say that there are no black people in
Portland, or that there are no black artists in Portland; but we
are here,” Bashier says.
BY
Changing
the
Narrative
Bashier made waves during Portland’s recent Poetry
Press Week with her writings and the performances accom-
panying it.
“When I did Poetry Press Week at Disjecta, I deliberately
included two young black women—April Kaplowitz and
India Hamilton—who are Reed students, along with another
local black artist, Keyon Gaskin, and local letterpress artist
Tracy Schlapp, in order to interrupt these narratives about
who and what Reed students are, who and what Portland
artists are—what we look like, sound like, this idea that we
are not here and doing necessary work.”
Bashir herself has had family in Portland for a long time,
and she even recalls one of her early memories as a writer
being that of a family member who inspired her right here in
Portland.
“My cousin, William Hilliard, was the first black editor of
a major newspaper in the country. That newspaper was The
Oregonian. When I was a little girl who knew I wanted to be
a writer, that cousin of mine—way out in Portland, Oregon—
was one of the few people who encouraged me and my
writing.”
Bashir just finished a book of poems called Laws of the
Blackbody, individual poems from of which are available in
print magazines online literary journals.
Her most recent book, Gospel (2009), was a finalist for the
Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the 2009 Lambda Liter-
ary Award. Her earlier book, Where the Apple Falls (2005),
was a Poetry Foundation bestseller and finalist for the 2005
Lambda Literary Award.
continued
on page 14