WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
At the beginning of the uprising sparked by the death of George Floyd, an influx of people reached out to Randall Wyatt, asking for advice on how to be a better ally.
Taking Ownership PDX is his answer.
"One of the biggest ways for us to get any kind of equitable change is through reparations," says Wyatt, a contractor, MC and member of the band Speaker Minds. "That's kind of what Taking Ownership PDX is. It's an avenue of reparation in the form of helping Black homeowners and business owners repair and revive their houses."
Barely a month ago, Wyatt founded Taking Ownership, which repairs and renovates Black-owned homes in Portland. It hasn't even become a registered nonprofit yet and, in the meantime, reports donations by fielding them through local music nonprofit Friends of Noise.
But already the organization has received thousands of dollars and amassed nearly 200 volunteers—essentially an excess for an organization that's still getting its waiver and permit process off the ground.
So far, the nonprofit's projects range from rebuilding a porch for a recently unemployed grandmother to overhauling the interior of a house in Lents and providing the family with a new fridge. Its biggest project so far is a house in the Albina neighborhood that's been owned by the Summerfield family for 50 years but has only been worked on twice since 1919.
The organization began its first general fundraising drive last week, but in a sense, Taking Ownership resembles a grassroots resource allocation network more than a traditional nonprofit. That's partly the result of growing a lot faster than Wyatt expected, but it's also by design. Decisions are made based on individual needs rather than a bureaucratic process, and Wyatt often puts calls out to the community for extra resources that homeowners need during the renovation, from transitional housing to dental care.
Wyatt has been surprised by the outpouring of support and resources such requests have received.
"I think people have had an opportunity to realize the injustices in this society," he says. "I think people are waking up and understanding the importance of a community mind set, as supposed to the individualistic mindset that capitalism breeds."
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