Cameron Whitten, the former director of the Q Center, came up short in his bid for a seat on the Metro Council in the May primary, finishing third behind former state Rep. Mary Nolan (D-Portland) and transportation activist Chris Smith.
But Whitten has rebounded with an extraordinary fundraising effort to aid Black people in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd, which emerged during a global pandemic that has disproportionately hit people of color.
Whitten and Salomé Chimuku established the Black Resilience Fund on June 1 because, Whitten says, they wanted to make a gesture after seeing the national outpouring of anger and grief following the May 25 death of Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Whitten says he thought the fund would be lucky to bring in $5,000.
He and Chimuku were astounded by the generosity of donors to their GoFundMe campaign, however, and soon hiked their goal to $1 million by Juneteenth. They hoped to be able to distribute $300 apiece to 3,300 people.
They have now raised more than $753,000 to help members of the community meet emergency needs, including buying food and paying bills. The fund has distributed well over $100,000 already, after screening recipients through brief video interviews.
Whitten says he and Chimiku are donating their services. Grants from the fund are available to Black residents of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties in Oregon and Clark County, Wash.
"Our systems are so broken," Whitten says. "How do we even begin fixing them? To me, the answer is clear. We start by taking care of our neighbors."
Whitten plans to fold the Black Resilience Fund into Brown Hope, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit he established in 2018 and will turn his efforts to full time when funds have been distributed.
"There are a lot of funders who are interested in racial justice now," he says.