Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current | View Entire Issue (March 2, 2016)
March 2, 2016
Time Runs Out
c ontinued froM f ront
in city neighborhoods.
He also represents the elderly
who find it difficult to keep up
with house maintenance, and the
costs and fines he faces could put
him at risk of becoming homeless.
Harris says the city has not giv-
en him any accounting of what it
will charge for the removal of his
personal property, and a cost es-
timate was not readily available
from the city when the Portland
Observer sought more informa-
tion. Harris says there were threats
of assessments of $500 a day and
he claims the personal loss for the
seizure of his possessions alone
could run in excess of $150,000.
On the potential for more big
fines and liens, he said, “I don’t
plan on paying a penny.”
In 1986, Harris purchased the
home at 4015 N.E. 10th Ave., a
house located in the King Neigh-
borhood in the heart of a historic
African American community.
Back then most of the dozen
or so houses on both sides of his
street were occupied by black res-
idents, he says. Today, Harris be-
lieves he’s the only African-Amer-
ican left on the block.
City nuisance records dating to
2007 describe trash and junk, bro-
ken fences, stored vehicles, and
other items surrounding his home.
Harris says the complaints are
harassment. He sees them as part
of a pattern to get disadvantaged
residents to move out and make
way for an incoming population.
Like many longtime residents, he’s
had scores of solicitations to buy
his property as builders, realtors
and more well-to-do forces work
to open up new development in a
desirable inner-city neighborhood.
If Harris were to move, the
property would be ripe for demo-
lition, which is exploding in north
and northeast Portland, as devel-
opers look to create expensive
new homes for a new population
that has trended to be a higher
income, urban professional and
Harris admits his property
needs work and updating. Many
people would see his collection of
materials, including parked cars
and motorcycles, as an eyesore.
But Harris says he had a lot of
good stuff, including a barbecue
pit in the back yard and a freezer
on his back porch with meats and
ice cream inside. He is a neighbor
you would also like personally. He
likes to engage in friendly conver-
sation, reminisce about the past,
and get people engaged in the po-
On Sunday, he was taking his
regular seat on public access TV,
lobbying for the creation of the
Oregon Black Museum to save lo-
cal histories and preserve import-
ant artifacts from black families.
Harris comes from a family
who valued the work ethic, he
said. His brother is Roy Jay, one
of Portland’s biggest political ac-
tivists, a longtime promoter for
the black community who serves
as the executive of the African
American Chamber of Commerce.
As far as what’s next, Harris
says he looking for help in his
battle against the city and the fight
against displacement for other
members of the black community
facing similar pressures.
Harris asks people to give him
“We must stick together, that’s
what I want to hear,” he said.
To reach Harris, you can call
photo by M ark W ashington /t he p ortland o bserver
When Joseph “King J” Harris received a court order to remove all the possessions from the outdoor
areas of his home because of a nuisance complaint, he thought it fit into a pattern of historic racism
against African Americans. Harris pointed to three initials that looked like KKK to the right of the
judge’s printed name and was upset. The Portland Observer brought the document to the attention
of the court and found the letters may actually be KRR, the initials of a court clerk who works for the