I’m new to Montvilla, and I’ve had just a couple opportunities to just walk around and explore.

It’s pretty exciting to settle in, meet my neighbors, and find the stores and restaurants that work for me. I’ve lived in Portland on-and-off for a total of about six years, mostly in Inner Southeast.  IMG_1135

I grew up in the suburbs of Memphis, and my identity of place was the city— even though my life growing up in East Memphis was worlds away from what was happening in Midtown, Orange Mound, or Downtown.

A lot of our identity is shaped by the media— newspapers, television radio— and most of them are focused on the larger scale, the city scale. Cities matter of course, because that’s how we’re governed, but it’s nearly impossible for citywide media to keep a finger on the pulse of the smaller communities, the neighborhoods.

Like Portland, Memphis is a very neighborhood-based town. While finishing journalism school, I chose a neighborhood called Vollintine-Evergreen, once called the most racially integrated in the country. This designation mattered to me, as did the fact that V-E was affordable and a community where I thought I could make an impact.

After I graduated, I worked as a freelancer, mostly at Memphis’ alternative weekly. I enjoyed writing about the citywide issues, but I started to realize citywide media didn’t reflect many of the neighborhood-based issues that impact people’s lives.

A turning point in my thinking came after a shooting near my house. Unfortunately, this  kind of violence wasn’t uncommon. But this shooting was different: it happened on a basketball court. Between the Grizzlies and University of Memphis Tigers, Memphis is b-ball crazy— and every news news station showed up to breathlessly cover this story.

For me, this incident begged the question: are the weekly incidents of assaults, burglaries, and car accidents less important because they are so frequent, or are they more important because of their frequency and the enormous impact on people’s lives. That speed bump or crosswalk in front of a school, or new apartment development doesn’t mean too much to the media consumers of the entire city, but it’s extremely important to the neighbors who travel those streets ever day.

I volunteered a lot at my neighborhood group, and when I was offered a job there, I jumped at the chance. Instead of simply watching things happen as a journalist, I was going to make an impact as an organizer / advocate. The job ended up being a fabulous disaster, but it gave me the chance to learn about neighborhood issues and develop a website to cover them.

I ran Village Memphis for three or four years, and loved the opportunity to write about neighborhoods and sustainability (then called environmentalism). I was also able to help organize neighbors and shape local news coverage through media criticism. SInce then, I’ve been in and out of journalism and had several other interesting jobs, but nothing gave me the same sense of satisfaction as publishing my webzine.

Montavilla feels like the perfect neighborhood to re-start what now would be Village Portland. The issues of East Portland have long been ignored by city government, and there’s such a beautiful collection of people, restaurants, churches, stores, ect. that I want to learn about— and share that knowledge with my new neighbors.

Supporting local businesses is such an important ethic to Portlanders, and I’d like to provide an opportunity to learn more about our neighbors, and the values with which they run their businesses. I’m finishing the development of a website with the functionality to build those connections, and until that comes online I’ll be writing on this basic WordPress site.

I am independent, but I want to collaborate. I have a vision, but I am here to serve. I have a plan, but I am open to suggestions. If you’ve lived here a while, or are new like me, I’d love to hear your story… and maybe even get your feedback on what you think I should know about Montavilla.

Thank you for reading, I’m looking forward to this storytelling adventure…