Making Black history now

The library’s Black Cultural Library Advocates (BCLA) are staff members focused on strengthening the connection between the Black community and Multnomah County Library. 

Multnomah County Library established the BCLA team with the intention to support, connect and listen to Black Americans and Black immigrants in the community. 

Isabel with free books at an outreach

Isabel Villarreal Stewart, BCLA library assistant, shares her thoughts on how the BCLA team is making history at the library. 

“All the Black librarians who have come before me paved the way for me to be here to support and uplift the Black community in the way that we do at the library,” says Isabel. “Every interaction is historical, because not too long ago it was unheard of to center Black communities in a library space. Making Black history is a powerful statement to me, especially as a Black queer library staff member, because I am able to connect with people and create a space that is warm, inviting, and reliable.”

The BCLA team is committed to creating a space for Black community members at the library to be seen and heard. BCLA team members highlight Black culture through in-person services, displays, programs and events. A cornerstone for celebrations throughout the years has been North Portland Library. 

North Portland Library has long been the library home to the Black community in Portland. The library has led community engagement efforts throughout the design and construction of North Portland Library to inform what the new library will look like and what will happen inside of it.

A Black child painting

The renovated and expanded library will include a Black cultural center for connection and celebration of Blackness. 

“This is the first Black cultural center at the library,” shares Israel Fin, Multnomah County Library’s Black Community Services and Engagement Coordinator.

Local artist Sadé DuBoise will be contributing artwork to North Portland Library and the new Black cultural center. DuBoise will create a backdrop for the west side of the Black cultural center. DuBoise will create an original painting that is grounded in her North Portland upbringing and influenced by community engagement events. This original painting will inform the glass work featured in the cultural center. 

With the new spaces and contributions of local artists, the library can continue to build community. Black Cultural Library Advocates invite you to visit an open library location, attend a Black History month event, and help celebrate and honor Black history now.