This section was produced in collaboration with Flossin Media, a black-owned media, marketing and event company that specializes in inspirational, motivational and educational messaging.
The Soul District: The heart of the African American community
The historic heart of Portland’s African American community is the “Soul District” of inner North and Northeast Portland, deemed the “Soul of Portland” in the 1990s as much because of its courage to sustain as for its cultural vibrancy. In this creative center, Portland’s African American community has fostered business development, artistic expression, multicultural preservation and community advocacy. This is where you will find civic institutions such as the Urban League of Portland, Self Enhancement Inc., the Black United Fund, the Portland African American Leadership Forum, the Coalition of Black Men Portland and the Prince Hall Masons, as well as barbershops, salons, African American food cart pods, African groceries, music, arts and culture. We invite you to get your soul on!
Explore Oregon’s African American history on one of several tours through Portland. Learn more about the city from the perspective of its Chinese, Japanese, African American, Jewish and LGBT communities on a Know Your City Cultural Tour.
Take a stroll through Portland, guided by tales of freed African American slaves, on a Portland Pioneers of Portland Walking Tour.
Attend a lecture by Oregon Black Pioneers, a non-profit group that gives interactive presentations on the state’s rich African American heritage at schools, libraries and historical sites throughout Oregon.
Take a tour of our “Walls of Pride,” a collection of murals and public art in North and Northeast Portland created by local painters and sculptors. A book and map are available from Know Your City.
View multicultural art exhibits, dance and performance at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center.
Find unique style at fashion designer Kenneth Doswell’s Betty Jean Couture.
Update your do at Geneva’s Shear Perfection or visit Pearl Hall at Dean’s Beauty Salon. Check out Champions or Reggie’s, both in the heart of the historic African American neighborhood, or visit former NBA star Terrell Brandon’s Barber Shop.
Check out the Black Resource Collection at the North Portland Library.
Sports & adventure clubs
Want to become a runner but aren’t sure how? Meet up with Black Girls Run, a local running group that connects women and girls of all levels of experience looking to be more active and lead healthier lifestyles.
Leisure Hour Golf, a multicultural organization with a focus on involving the African American community, hosts events for golfers of all backgrounds and skill levels at Portland’s many excellent golf courses.
Fishing, hunting, skiing, hiking — no trip to Portland is complete unless you experience some of the outdoor adventure the city has to offer. Connect with these great African American-run organizations for guided opportunities to bask in the beautiful outdoors. Hike a peak with the African American Outdoor Association, snag a salmon with Soul River or bag a buck with the African American Hunting Association.
Then hit the slopes with the Ebony Rose Ski Club, learn how to track and hunt wild prey of the Pacific Northwest with the African American Hunting Association or cycle the city with Major Taylor Cycling Club of Portland, named for the first African American World Champion cyclist, Marshall Taylor. For those who prefer more horsepower, the Full Tilt Rider Motorcycle Club takes motorcycle enthusiasts out on the open road.
Food and drink
Located atop a hill in northeast Portland’s Hollywood district, Clyde’s Prime Rib Restaurant & Bar features an elegant dining room –think red velvet booths and a roaring fireplace – and live jazz, R&B and blues in the bar. Date night dining is perfect at Olive or Twist, a martini lounge in Portland’s trendy Pearl District.
Black-owned and independently tethered to the Embassy Suites in downtown Portland, Portland Prime is an upscale steakhouse and cocktail lounge, well-known for hosting a plethora of African-American business-class clientele and supporting black social and business groups. Meat-lovers should visit Dubs St. Johns, where ribs, giant burger and soul food sides away. Mississippi barbecue can be found at Reo’s Ribs, and don’t miss the jerk chicken and oxtail at Caribbean KookPot.
Established in the 1990s by Ethiopian immigrant Alem Gebrehiwot, Queen of Sheba is one of the oldest African restaurants in the city. Check out their amazing platters of food that delight vegan and non-vegan diners alike, including homemade ginger juice, thyme tea or spicy chai. For more African cooking, visit Horn of Africa‘s lunch buffet (one of actor Danny Glover’s old stomping grounds!). Amalfi’s Restaurant and Mercato, headed by its 3rd generation owner, serves up Italian trattoria cuisine including pizza, cocktails, beers and wine.
Experience the taste of the Soul District by visiting food cart pods featuring a variety of authentic ethnic food. For the soul food aficionados, check out Ella’s Kitchen food cart — make sure try the catfish with banana pudding. Order hand-pressed hamburger patties by the pound at Stoopid Burger. While you’re there, walk historic Mississippi or Williams avenues, rich with quaint retail shops filled with unique fashion and wares. Find the famously huge and spicy Southern-style wings and salty Jojo’s at Alberta Street Market.
Coffee-lovers should stop by AJ Java, a North Portland coffee shop that provides workforce training to inner-city youth and is located across the street from the beautiful Peninsula Park. Then head to Columbia International Cup, which serves up organic, locally roasted espresso along with pastries, panini sandwiches and more.
Meet the first known black winemaker in Oregon at Abbey Creek Vineyards, where Bertony Faustin brings “the soil to the glass” at his North Plains winery.
Since 1921, Billy Webb’s Elks Lodge has served the African American community as a YWCA, a USO club and a safe haven for those fleeing the Vanport floods in the 1940s.
Jimmy Mak’s, called “one of the world’s top 100 places to hear jazz” by Down Beat magazine, features noted national and local performers, including legendary jazz drummer Mel Brown, who is in residence three nights a week. Relax listening to more local jazz musicians at Solae’s Lounge in North Portland.
Hip-hop, reggae and African dance hall: Portland’s young-adult dance scene is a kaleidoscope of trendy modern venues such as Trio Club, Barrel Room and Panic Lounge and small “juke-joints” scattered throughout the city. Check out Tube Bar or Black Book in Old Town Chinatown for great hip-hop or the Local Lounge (on the first Saturday of each month) or Sengatera (every Friday) for the hottest in African Dancehall, reggae, zouk and hip-hop tunes spun by DJs from Africa.
- KBOO 90.7 – An eclectic mix of hip-hop, politics, Afrobeat and more
- JAM’N 107.5 – Party hits and throwback jams
- KMHD 89.1 – Jazz
- KOPB 91.5 – Oregon Public Broadcasting
- LIVE 95.5 – Hip-hop and top 40