Last year, “26 Black descendants of families” who resided in the historically Black neighborhood of Albina, filed “[a] federal civil rights lawsuit…against the city of Portland and Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center,” The Oregonian reports. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the suit, but last Friday, a judge ruled that the plaintiffs can proceed.
As the complaint reads, “[t]his case is about the intentional destruction of a thriving Black neighborhood in Central Albina under the pretense of facilitating a hospital expansion that never happened.”
“This horribly racist chapter from Portland’s past has not closed, causing plaintiffs continuing harm,” the suit continues. It also alleges a conspiracy, stating that “[r]ecently discovered information, long concealed by defendants, shows that urban renewal and blight were pretexts for defendants’ real motive: a racist desire to remove Black people from the economically valuable neighborhood of Central Albina.”
During the 1960s and 1970s, approximately 80 percent of Black Portlanders resided in Albina. In a press release announcing the lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs Connie Mack said, “That home was our foundation, and the sense of community in that neighborhood is what made us thrive.”
“I was taken out of my safe and loving community,” Mack lamented. “I was moved into a neighborhood that saw me as a nuisance and to a school where I was one of three Black children.”
Another plaintiff LaKeesha Dumas echoed these sentiments, stating, “My great grandma owned a boarding home that helped the Black community. I’m devastated that her work didn’t get passed down…There was a racist conspiracy to violate our civil rights. It’s my turn to get in the fight and advocate for our family.”
In addition to financial compensation, the group wants “tangible justice beyond symbolic apologies,” for their significant losses.
In their motion to dismiss, attorneys for the city and hospital attempted to argue that the plaintiffs who were suing “did not suffer direct harm and that the statute of limitations had run out.”
However, “U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon disagreed, saying the loss of community, including family homes and intergeneratio[nal] wealth, is indeed direct damage,” KGW8 reports.
“The destruction of Central Albina and the failure to expand the hospital as promised, leaving vacant and abandoned land, has certainly injured the public generally,” wrote Judge Simon.
The judge also noted how this displacement caused Portland to be robbed from housing a “thriving Black community” on top of depriving the community from “expanded health care.”