tv United Shades of America CNN June 10, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT
this is nicer than my hotel room. portland, portland, oregon. a city i hate to love! [ laughter ] portland is an amazing city. you could have a nascar race at a tuna noodle convention at a khaki pants festival. and portland used to have a thriving black community. why has that changed? and who has replaced those people? and the answer is hipsters. when you walk the streets, you feel like you are in a mumford and son contest.
no place is as hip as portland. coincidence that america's whitest major city is america's hippest major city and not home to black people? my name is w. kamau bell. as a comedian, i have made a live living visiting places i don't understand. i'm on a mission to reach out to the beliefs that add color to this country. this is the united shades of america. ♪ this is portland, oregon, a city so hip and cool that it has its own tv show about how hip and cool it is. and that tv show is also hip and cool. it has a reputation of being open and acceptable to anything. as long as that is happening near somebody with a beard.
they even have an expression. keep portland weird. and trust me, this dog in a sweater is not the weirdest thing you will see during this episode. portland is known for its hipsters, a group of individuals who love to talk about how different they are from everyone else while dressing exactly the same as each other. obviously, portland didn't invent the idea of hip. but if hipsters across the america are myspace, portland is facebook. just like we all left myspace, everybody is flocking to portland. you will find lots of great looking guys on bikes. like this weird-looking dude. the people moving in and the people being pushed out. first on my list, a place to get your bike fixed, get a beer and get beer on your beard.
>> i haven't been in portland long, i feel this may be one of the more portland things i'll see. do you make all beer bikes? >> we make cargo bikes for families who want to transfer their kids or people who have a goat farm who want to get their goats from a to b. >> bikes to transport kids and goats. what do you love about portland? >> the people are cool and a nice place to live. >> is there anyplace better that you've lived than here? >> i don't think so, maybe north korea. >> hmm. hmm. i feel like maybe you should google north korea before you make that move. in portland, you blend in. but in north korea, you're going to stick out. is there any down side to portland? is there a down side to all this? >> ooh, man, that's tough. like they say, upper northwest is best. is that what they say? >> i've never heard that before. hipsters are known to gravitate to the eccentric, so i thought i'd be able to find some at this
place, where animals go to die after they're dead. what kind of person shops here? >> all kinds of people. we've got skulls and bones. things preserved. freeze dried bats. does this feel like a portland type of business? >> yeah, most definitely. this is very portland. >> so i look at you, like there's an asymmetrical haircut, which is beautiful. it's well done, a color that is worked in you through some products, piercings, two lip rings. >> one was not enough. >> would you describe yourself as a hipster? >> ooh, ooh, no. >> is there anybody here in portland that is a hipster? >> no. i'm not saying that. >> she sure wasn't excited about the word hipster. how am i going to talk to one if i can't even find one. time to hit up a fancy coffee shop.
fancy coffee shops are to hipsters. there's got to be a hipster here. this coffee serves two functions. one, it's delicious, and two, it will be another annoying food pic for my instagram page. and i bump into alex who writes a blog about, you guessed it, coffee. >> that seems very portland. >> it's embarrassingly portland, yeah. >> when you say embarrassingly portland, what does that mean? >> the fact that i'm sitting in a fancy coffee shop with a beard and a hat and the whole thing. >> so the beard. >> yes. >> that's a thing. >> it's a thing. >> that's a thing portland's known for. the bearded. this is about as much beard as i can grow. does that mean i would not fit in? >> no.
no. it's not like the nice rugged thing going on, and you got rid of the plaid and stuff. >> there's a thing about portland about the hipster. is that a dirty word? >> it's like a silly word. >> would you use that word to describe yourself? >> isn't that the point? everybody knows what you mean when you say it. it's like, i think it's kind of like a convenient slur for millennials and people who work in coffee shops. it's a useless word. >> so am i saying too much by saying hipster is the n-bomb of portland? oops, i think i just broke a hipster. the thing about hipsters is no one here will admit to being one. wait a minute. is that another person of color? i got to talk to her. >> the biggest thing i've noticed lately and that we've talked about a lot is there are not visible communities of colors.
>> let it hang out. code word, i'm one of those, too. we can let it all hang out. so say it. >> i feel like portland is a place full of really liberal, accepting people, but it's very much like a bubble. like people who are all similar, you know? >> okay. >> and people who are all -- they're all white and doing their own thing. everybody's doing their own thing and who are who? >> who is right? who is the city for? what is going on? and seriously, where are all the damn black people? well, it's time to talk to an expert in black portlanders. >> excuse me. i'm a photographer. >> yeah. >> and i was wondering if i could take your portrait, if you might be interested. >> sure, why not. >> this is photographer intersar.
sounds like you've got one of those african names. >> it's arabic, my last name is nigerian. >> i've got one of those african names as well. you have this blog, black portlanders. what's that about? >> well, it's documenting people of african descent in the community. >> apparently, there are so few black people in portland you can make an art form of it. >> coming from memphis, which is where i'm from originally, is like the flip side. >> that's like the mother land. >> it's just a way to connect with people. even beyond the photograph itself, just saying hello. >> wait a minute, i see black person. >> yeah, i. >> i don't want to stop you. >> excuse me, i was wondering if i could take your portrait.
>> how are you? >> i'm good. >> this isn't a subpoena or you're not being rolled up on by tmz, pretend like none of this is happening. this is just three black people talking. what is the black experience in portland that are you having? >> what is the black experience in portland that i am having? as you have noticed there are not a lot of black people here. >> what? >> i guess it's not necessarily about the black experience. it's just about my experience. kind of making it my own. >> can i take your picture just right here? >> sure. >> just stand right there. >> sure. >> it looks like you just came from the vogue shoot. >> i mean, she was already ready, to be honest. i think with photography or art or inspiration, it's a way to jump over what people are saying is going on and make something else happen. >> with that speech, i'm going to have to do this. it just looks like you. nice'n easy: color as real as you are.
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so i like portland. portland's got food trucks, and they have some of the best food trucks ever. yes, i would like kim chi with a taco. the problem is when you see the food trucks and amazing food, but you don't see the people who make the food in the city. portland needs a food truck where you can order up a conversation with a black dude. yes, i would like to talk to a black person. it's been about three weeks. oh, sure, how about a latino. yeah, throw that in there too. when you see the food, but you don't see the people, that's called gentrification. there we go. some black people, mm-hm gentrification affects every major city. the people who live there are getting invited to leave.
white people are excited about gentrification. hey, i have lived in this neighborhood for two years! i remember when that coffee shop was a different coffee shop! gentrification is squeezing people of color out of portland, and the idea of squeezing people out is part of the american tradition. america wrote racism into our constitution stating among other nasty things, that people who were not free -- slave -- were three fifths a person.
and we're going to raise you with extra racist racism. the oregon constitution stated that no free negro or mull auto not already here could move here or by real estate. damn. now that part was repealed in 1927. and for some reason, black people still said, fine, we'll move there. although things in modern-day portland are not as they were in the past, there are people affected by the hipster population and gentrification. i met up with a pastor. >> when you see the community overrun, and it changes so fast that you just about get whiplash from it. it does impact you. there hasn't been a conversation. there's just been more of an invasion. >> when you say overrun, how do you mean? >> highest value in our community is relationship. and we used to sit on one another's porches and talk, watch one another's kids. all of a sudden you have big developers coming in with big
money and changing us. so the whole community is uprooted and displaced without any conversation. >> so they don't sit down with the community and say this is what we're thinking about doing, this is what we're about to do, how do you feel about this? >> right. and this is a community that i said is family homes as well. we're having soul food, collard greens, and i go to the same neighborhood where i see folks with a collard green scone. >> a collard green scone. >> it's a change. where people look at me like i'm in the wrong place. >> well, but is it hard to hang in? >> being displaced feeling like you're invisible. you don't matter, you don't count, it's a struggle. but there are still some hanging in. and the people, the pioneers really, they don't talk.
they don't even speak to you. >> and when you say pioneers, would you describe what an average portland pioneer is? what they look like? >> young, white, entrepreneur, up and coming. looking for a happening, artsy scene. [ laughter ] >> looking for a happening artsy scene. >> it's a strange place to be sometimes. >> there's a phrase here, "keep portland weird." >> yeah. >> how do you feel about that? they nailed it. >> no fear of being weird. >> this is a city that has a naked bike ride. >> come on. >> the pastor wasn't exaggerating about how fast things are changing. check out this housing bureau map from 25 years ago. through an awesome bit of color coding, it shows how many darker skinned people lived there back then and how few of us live there in 2010. wow. it's like the demographic equivalent of michael jackson's face, rest in peace. portland has reputation as the coolest city in america.
but shouldn't it be cool for everybody? next, the pastor wants me to hear from members of his church dealing directly with the affects of gentrification. >> black people who tried to buy businesses were turned down. next thing you know there's a buffet and boutique. the same people i know who tried to get loans to get those businesses were denied. but now they're all-white owned. >> and to appease everyone, we'll put a picture of what the black coffee shop used to look like. >> you have cold calls where people knock on your door and ask you are you willing to sell your house? >> yeah. i live right in the heart of where a lot of this rebuilding is going on. we had a bar, a little grocery
store, a meat market, dry cleaners. it was just very bustling, and it was everything that you needed was right there. so, if i'm sounding like i'm a little angry at times, i am. >> you sound focussed. [ laughter ] you could sound a lot angrier and i'd understand. >> well, thank you. >> you know, sounds like you've had a neighborhood and now you have a house -- >> and we don't anymore. >> -- in the middle of a construction site. >> it has redefined who we are as a people. and that troubles me. my work is to keep telling the stories of our elders. sorry. i saw them saving their quarters and scrubbing floors and doing all they could to buy their homes, and it feels like a disgrace. i remember the echoing of laughter and beautiful big women talking on porches. and now that's all gone.
so in the meantime, i feel like all we have is our stories. that's all we have is our stories. >> i'm not from portland, but i feel the same way about our community and our stories, as i feel like so goes portland, so goes the rest of the country. thank you for coming. you know, there's something going on in this room that you've noticed that i don't see a lot. it's a white guy who hasn't said anything. [ laughter ] i feel like i need to highlight that. we've been talking for a while here. he hasn't said a word. >> the story of america is the story of gentrification. you know that. the europeans landed. oh, this land is so great that we discovered. we discovered this land. could you guys just move a little bit? we discovered this land. this land is so great that we discovered. keep it moving. this land is so amazing that we discovered. keep it moving. this is a great land. a little bit more. this is a great land, this is going to be perfect for gluten-free cupcake shops. ♪
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the editor in chief. in the name of journalism. i'm all scared and tense and feel like my place in the universe is lost. i need to cuddle. >> cuddle up to me. >> what are the rules? >> there's no touching in swimsuit areas. >> all right. >> no kissing or touching of the lips. >> okay, all right. fair enough. >> touch must be given in a platonic way. >> ooh, that's a big one. >> that is a big one. i know. and if either of us becomes uncomfortable. all it takes is two taps. >> so we pick a room? >> let's do it. >> it's only offered for the first like, ten minutes. >> all right then. >> so you're going to move straight back. >> okay. >> and come and rest on me.
>> all right. >> a little further back. >> even more. >> okay, all right, all right. >> there we go. just relax. feeling a little bit nervous. >> can you tell? it's a, i'm relaxed, it feels very nice, but it's also like, this is a new thing for lots of people. this is nice. >> can i play with your hair? >> sure. >> why don't you tell me about yourself? >> my name is kamau. i'm an aquarius. how long is an average session? >> probably an hour would be most average. >> hmm. that's amazing. >> yeah. it goes by so quick. >> when did you last see your wife? >> let's see, like four days ago. >> oh. you must miss her. >> yeah.
wow, this is like the full-on 96. >> so yeah, i went to the cuddle shop. the weirdest thing wasn't the cuddling but the fact that a stranger touched my hair. and all the black people know that's number 15 on the list of black don'ts. i called my mom, and apologized. testified to the black people, i'm sorry, a white person touched my hair. i'm sorry, cnn made me do it! now i'm headed to a neighborhood formerly known as one of the few historic black areas in portland. after world war ii, african-americans moved here for affordable housing and were forced to stay because of segregation. but in the early 2000s they started to disappear from the neighborhood. to find out more, i'm going to see eurell thomas, one of the last black people living in this rapidly-changing part of town.
♪ >> hey, how are you? >> how are you doing, sir. kamau bell. >> i'm eurell. >> some beautiful guitar you're playing. >> i just finished putting strings on this thing. >> have you always played music professionally? >> i haven't always, no. i still don't consider myself a professional. >> you're being real modest. who are some of the big musician you've played with? >> i opened up for stevie. stevie wonder, mick jagger. >> you might be a little bit of a professional musician if you worked with stevie wonder and mick jagger. >> i guess so. >> thank you for letting me pull that out of you, sir. you've created a lot of music in this room throughout the years. >> that's true. >> you're one of four black-owned houses left in this neighborhood. >> that's true. >> and how many did there used to be? >> two-thirds.
>> and now it's down to four houses. >> down to four houses. they had no choice, because none of us qualified for loans, even if we owned our property. >> wow. >> it was kind of crazy. >> and why do you think you didn't qualify for loans? >> they had a plan already that didn't include us. >> oh, so they decided that you didn't qualify for loans before you even asked for a loan. >> right. >> okay. >> eurell's talking about a practice called redlining. what is redlining? check out this official map of portland from 1938. it's so pretty and colorful. see these red areas? those are the areas that banks refused to give mortgages and loans to. and guess who lived there? black people! that's right. black people were red lined out of getting business loans and mortgages for decades. >> and now this whole neighborhood was bought by developers and homeowners. >> and we can't even come look at the houses anymore.
we can't afford it. >> how do you feel knowing there are forces in this neighborhood and city that want you to get out of this house that you own. >> i feel like they don't know any different. they actually going to need us. you're having a pie, and you ain't got no sugar to put it in. >> i like that analogy. so black people are the sugar for the pie. >> yeah. >> eurell's taking me through a stroll of the neighborhood. a walking tour of what used to be. >> there were homes here all up and down. >> so this is now a business district, but it was a residential district. >> it was residential. like a little country town, you know? something very special. >> i'm guessing when you were a kid, you didn't come to samurai blue and get sushi? >> sushi was the last thing in the world. no sushi. >> not a lot of sushi joints in the old neighborhood. so you're trying to tell me when you were a kid, they weren't selling kombucha on tap. >> you didn't have no kombucha
in the neighborhood. there was a wing shop. you get three chicken wings, and a couple slices of toast. >> okay. all right. >> it was $1.50. >> $1.50? >> yeah. >> how could you push that out of the neighborhood? >> i'm telling you, man, it was crazy. >> but that building. >> it's all brand new. >> everything is all brand-new. >> and a lot of is all brand-new within the last five years? >> yes. and the buildings that are still remaining, none of the same people. >> so the buildings that have been here, it's all new tenants. >> all new tenants. i don't think there's one person who had a business here back in the day that is still in business now. >> that's a damn shame. >> yeah. >> that's a damn shame. >> you wouldn't even know you were in the same neighborhood. it is that different. ♪
"dinner!" "may i be excused?" get the new xfinity tv app and for the first time ever stream live tv, watch on demand, and download your dvr shows anywhere. continuing my journey through the two sides of portland, i'm heading to the avx workshop, where i'm going to try my hand at not cutting off my hand.
♪ i'm going to talk to owner kelly roy and matt preston to see what this is all about. >> this is your place? >> i'm the joint. >> what is the joint? >> it's a play ground for people who like to make things. instead of a gym, we have people who come to make things. >> people come here to make stuff. i happen to be a guy to buys things that are pre-made. this is not exactly my area of expertise. >> sure, sure. >> but i want to submit to the process and make something. what should i make? >> myself, i make lamps. >> i'm a lamp guy. let's lamp it up. >> okay. >> i don't even know what this machine does.
>> this is a drill press here. >> it presses and drills. >> it presses and drills, exactly. slowly, as you go through -- >> i feel like i need to back up right now. >> ooh. >> yeah. >> oh. woo. >> try not to hurt yourself, all right? >> yeah, i'm going to try real hard. >> whoa. is this machine called the finger loser? is that what this is called? ♪ >> oh, lefty loosey, my friend. >> oh, what? oh, look at that! i sort of kind of helped to make a lamp. >> you've lived here for 20 years. >> yeah. >> how have you seen the city change? >> it's just a lot more in development, especially with the amount of growth that's happening now. it's just concern that portland's going to kind of lose its soul and lose what makes it so charming and livable right now. >> and you've been here for seven months? >> yeah. i'm part of the problem. [ laughter ]
>> well, i'm glad you said so, sir. i didn't want to say anything. >> yes, people love to move into portland and build stuff. sometimes it's lamps, and other times it's giant high rises in formerly black neighborhoods. i'm going to talk with beverly from the church meeting yesterday. she's living at gentrification ground zero. first of all, this is a beautiful setup you've got here. >> thank you. >> sitting on the porch on a sunny day? >> how about that? >> this is nice. the view is not exactly what i would pick. >> neither would i. i mean, it's a whole lot different than what it was. they're planning on building an eight to nine-storey building across the street from us. >> this is going to be an apartment building? >> then what little view we have left out here, there won't be. >> the sky's going to be blocked. >> we won't get any sun. >> it will always be cloudy. >> yeah. >> how do you feel about the developers?
how do you feel that they're treating you. >> they never said anything to me. they have never come over and talked to me. it's like they don't care. they just move in and do what they want to do when they want to do it, how they want to do it. irregardless to whoever else is involved or it might affect. they don't really care. if the guy cared, he wouldn't be talking about putting an eight or nine-storey building up here. >> if they want to put an eight or nine-storey building, they have the property, they get the zoning right. >> exactly. >> is there a way that would be better for you? i were one of those developers, what would you tell me? >> it's not too late to talk to some of the people in the neighborhood. and also, when you go to the next neighborhood that you're going to be building in, let the people know. >> so everything that's happening in this neighborhood with all the changes that are taking place, how long do you plan to stay?
>> as long as i can. you know, they have ways of forcing you out. but i have no intentions of moving anytime soon. >> thank you, beverly. thank you very much. >> you're welcome. ♪ >> obviously, beverly and folks like her are more than aware of the effects of gentrification. but do the gentrifiers know the effect they're having? i'm going to check in with my friend alex from the coffee shop. and maybe i can get hipster tips. >> it's a little more rugged. ready to sit in the coffee shop or play in the rain. >> this is what i would get. >> i'm not ready for this. >> that's fine. >> okay. let's be honest. this shopping trip was so i could trick alex into a conversation about uncomfortable societal issues. here it goes. >> since i last saw to you, i talked with natives of portland. >> uh-huh.
>> one was crying saying they felt like this portland is replacing their portland. and you're a cool dude. i'm not blaming you. i'm just saying, what do we do? >> i really wish i knew. i feel sort of responsible, because i write about fancy coffee shops every day. it's the front line. >> i am glad to hear you say that. you're the front line of gentrification. >> bars move in, and music venues and more and more white people. >> and artisanal. in the title. >> here's what you can do for me. when you see an older black person in the streets of portland, just say hello. >> you'll try and do that. >> now that we've solved that problem, let's go get one of those crafty beers we were talking about. ♪ i'm heading to tidbits, a those new glasses?
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portland locals and ask them how they feel about the lack of die certificates dr diversity. >> this is called your dog needs a bow tie. >> of course, of course, i should have guessed that. i feel stupid for not having guessed that. >> that's all right. i make bow ties for dogs, and it's out of recycled materials. so these are salvaged fab ribs. on the inside, you can feel it. it's a milk jug. i chop up milk jugs. that's what gives them their body and stiffness. >> so a dog with a regular bow tie is not going to do that well. if i wore a bow tie i'd need one like this, too, because i'm hard on clothes. you could sell these to humans, too. >> you could. >> i bought five, and we all know i don't have a dog. but that's not what i came here. >> lovely jacket. from the matrix keanu reeves collection. >> so back to the point, have they noticed portland changing?
>> every group is telling the same story. they can't afford to live where they used to live. so they go to the new neighborhood and the people there are feeling tread on, and they can't afford, and i'm watching this wave happen all the way from the areas of the city that are traditionally associated with white people and money and all the way out to the areas of the city that are way, way out in the suburbs that people say well, wait a minute. this used to be the country. >> mm-hm. >> what's happening, city people are coming in.
>> and eventually, there's 70-year-old black people in the ocean trying to tread water, like welcome to my new neighborhood. >> right. >> there's no doubt portland is a city in transition. and i want to meet someone at the van guard of this transformation. notice anything familiar? yep, that's beverly's house right there. ben's been kind enough to invite me on a tour of one of his new buildings under construction. feels like i've just walked into the belly of the beast. >> hello. >> hi. >> kamau. >> ben keiser. >> thank you for letting us crash your construction site. >> welcome. welcome to portland as well. >> he seems like a friendly guy. but after a bit of small talk, it was time to get down to business. you basically represent the man. >> sure. >> and you are the guy who changes the neighborhood. it doesn't feel like everyone values long-term black ownership. >> i agree when you say i'm the man. but people talk about development and just see an extreme amount of wealth making all of these decisions when
really, in fact, it's just people like any of us who have chosen as a profession improving parts of a city. >> when you say improve, everybody has a different definition. >> 100%, but portland is in my opinion turning from a town to a city right now. it's exciting to watch. and it has growing pains. >> how have those growing pains affected those who have lived here all their lives. i talked to an older black
woman. and someone calls her and offers to buy her home, even though she makes it clear she wants to keep her home. somebody's making that phone call. >> we always say it's a somebody. it's an economic force. there's no one orchestrating this outcome, that woman, get her out. it has nothing to do with that woman. >> sure, there are some economic things out of our control, but don't be modest, ben. all thief these developments are yours, including the one blocking up the damn sun to beverly's house. >> they're offering money. and at some point she or her
kids will say i am nuts not to take this offer. >> money can help you out of a tight situation, but some people just love their house, you know? >> absolutely. >> and she feel the like she's being bombarded and sort of really, how do you communicate with the neighborhood about we're here, this is what's happening? >> i'm not used to people not trusting me. so coming in to a neighborhood, it takes a long time to get to that point where that woman will even speak with me, you know, and honestly. >> yeah. >> otherwise she'd open the door, what do you want? i just want to talk to you, and she'd shut the door on me. why would they even talk to me. >> it's hard from their point of view, we've been screwed six ways from sunday. some big thing has to happen that is outside of the box to start that conversation. fish fry. that generally helps to get black people out, some big community-building thing that feels like it's for the people who lived here.
>> you know if i suggested a fish fry, i'd be fried. >> when all these businesses move into the neighborhoods that are historically communities of color and they move in without regard to the old neighborhood and they push out the old places, that's nonsense. i don't know if i'm allowed to say bullshit. that's tomfoolery, you know what i'm saying? some of these communities don't need $12 juice bars or high-end vegan barbecue. they need places they can buy groceries? you know, man? they don't need all this other stuff, and nobody can drink that much damn kombucha anyway, you know what i'm saying! portland is a hip and cool place, but by my definition of hip and cool, for a place to be hip and cool, it's got to have people of color there, and if a place truly wants to be hip and cool, it's got to be friendly to everyone, for example the black-eyed peas. why were they so popular in they had one of everybody. i'm represented! yay! you want a cd? not really!
i'm hoping people will come together more, not just myself, the whole city, because there are so many wonderful people here, and there are so many real opportunities when people work together. it's what you bring, you know. what you give in life is what you give back is what they say. ♪ ♪ stay strong ♪ stay strong