Is this a joke? Colonial eatery moves onto N. Williams Ave.

Update (3/19/16): There is an action being organized to address the theme and name of Saffron Colonial on March 19, 2016. Here is the open letter and the Facebook event.  And a wonderful piece written on S. Colonial’s juxtaposition with actual colonialism. (Zahir Janmohamed)


According to PDX Eater, a restaurant called Saffron Colonial is opening on N. Williams Avenue. “It serves the globally inspired dishes from the height of the British Empire,” writes Mattie John Bamman.


Photo courtesy of PDX Eater

If I didn’t know better, I’d think PDX Eater was trolling us. An early April Fools? But no. This is serious.

A restaurant that celebrates colonialism exists. And it exists on N. Williams Avenue. You are blowing my mind here, Portland.

Let’s do a brief history review that N. Williams Avenue, and all its cheerleaders, have clearly forgotten.

This street was once known as the Black Downtown of Portland. For many decades this street was filled with Black-owned businesses, including grocery stories and social clubs. The street thrived.

In the late 20th century, Portland let the neighborhood rot. Disinvestment with the existing  street was met with freeway construction that destroyed the neighborhood. The city even scooped up acres of land for a hospital that was never developed. The Black community was “forced out.”

Image 13_Black history display board.JPG

Forced out: A poster from a 2012 public meeting about the N. Williams Avenue bicycle lane


Fast forward to the 2010s and BOOM! Condos! Fancy restaurants! Condos!  More condos! Eco condos! That Black social club? Gone. Ethiopian restaurant? Gone too. Save for two Black churches and one t-shirt production studio, pretty much any reminder that the Black community called this street their home is gone.

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Graffiti on closed business, surrounded by new development construction, 2014

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Construction on North Williams Avenue, 2014


Here’s the bike angle you have been waiting for:

During this recent era of redevelopment, bicycle advocates wanted to reconstruct the bicycle lane on N. Williams. This ask erupted into a very important debate between advocates and longtime community members about how bicycle lanes can be a part of gentrification. The debate got a lot of media attention and it put the spotlight on the hyper-gentrification happening on the street. It wasn’t just about a bicycle lane. It was about the Black population being forced out once again. If you are super curious, Ch 3 of my dissertation (and my upcoming book) talks about this conflict in detail.

The advocates got their bicycle lane. The concerned community members got some sort of promise that N. Williams Avenue will have historical landmarks to remind current residents what this street used to represent for the Black community.

I am not sure what landmarks could make up for putting a “British empire” restaurant on the street. A restaurant that symbolizes how white people conquered Black and Brown people. On a street that “conquered” Black people by pushing them out. If that is not a giant middle finger to the Black community, I am not sure what is.  


COMING JULY 2016: Bike Lanes are White Lanes

my cover.png

I have a book coming out with the University of Nebraska Press. It has been a longtime coming. Three years to be precise (from dissertation defense to rehabbing it for publication). Editing a book is tedious, boring, and a risk to your self-confidence. You second guess your claims, your ideas, your writing–everything!

But this past week I have been crafting the book’s index (h/t to Dr. Elana Levine for guidance) and it has reenergized my belief in the book. It is an index that I am proud of because it represents the book that I always wished existed.

When the book comes out in July, I will have an accompanying website with images that didn’t make it into the book (note to new authors: any pictures you want published in a book, use an actual camera and not your phone).

For now, wouldn’t you love to see some of index entries? Great!

African American

bicycle advocates  (subcategories include: focused on equity, mainstream, working with city government)

bicyclists (black, Latino, racing, Somali, upwardly mobile)

creative class


invisible cyclists





Re-blog: What’s keeping people from riding? A new report highlights some reasons

Over at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blog, I wrote up a summary of a local (Minneapolis) report on focus groups with underrepresented communities in the bike world.

These experiences are rarely heard in organized bicycling (read: mainstream bicycle advocacy) so I highly encourage you to read my summary and the full report.

Some key findings that emerged were sexual harassment, subtle racism, and lack of bike education are keeping people from riding. I was not surprised by the findings but am happy these experiences are recorded.

Perhaps this will help bicycle advocacy shift its thinking beyond the majority experience at the planning tables.

Cycles for Change Community Conversations report

In the summer of 2015, I worked with Cycles for Change, a community bike shop in St. Paul, to engage community members in conversations about perceptions of and barriers to bicycling.

The result of these conversations includes a report released by Cycles for Change (Oct. 2015).

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Report cover. Design by Stephanie Schultz

During the community conversations, we spoke with East African, African American, Karen, Eastern European, and Asian American community members. A wide range of ages were represented from youth to middle-aged adults. In this project, C4C actively engaged young people to make sure their experiences were included.

More information on the report can be found on C4C’s website. 

Thank you to the Bush Foundation and its Community Innovations grant that funded this project. 

Please pass this report on to those who would benefit from reading this.

As the primary author of the report, I welcome comments and feedback. I worked for many months with C4C on designing this community engagement project and am happy to speak to that as well.

Biking while black, brown, woman, trans, femme, immigrant, poor, different, other…

Image credit:

Image credit:

What does it mean for a mobility tool to be symbolized as freedom, EMPOWERMENT, and a positive form of visibility 

to simultaneously also be a means by which people can easily harass, profile, and taunt those choosing this form of mobility?

What is freedom if the police mark you as suspicious?

Image credit: ABC News

Image credit: ABC News

What is EMPOWERMENT if men catcall you?

Image credit: HollaBack

Image credit: HollaBack

What is visibility if all you are trying to do is stay invisible?

We must remember that while some of us find great freedom, empowerment and visibility in the BICYCLE, there are others of us who see the bicycle as yet another way to be profiled, harassed, and targeted.

Image credit: Miami New Times

Image credit: Miami New Times

Don’t get it? Check out this Healthy Connections report on how your fellow bicyclists feel while riding.