MCL Blogs

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Bethann Hardison


Bethann Hardison Photo: VibeVixen

Where to start, where to start? Bethann Hardison embodies the idea of making things better than how you found them. She shot to fashion/modeling fame during the 60s and 70s. The beautiful and elegant Hardison has worked in every facet of the fashion industry  as a model, booking agent, fashion show producer, in public relations, as a contributing editor for several fashion magazines (she was even Editor-at-Large for Vogue Italia in 2010) and owner of the Bethann Management Agency. She opened her agency with one goal in mind: to change the racial climate of the fashion industry. And, she did! Hardison is a driving force behind the success of some of today’s top models. She states, “Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color.” Taking it a bit further, Hardison started the Black Girls Coalition, BGC to advocate and support African-American models. As co-founder of BGC, Hardsion authored a series of letters calling fashion houses, councils, federations and more to the carpet. If you’re curious, read Bethann's Letters. One more thing, Hardison is the mother of Dwayne Wayne. Remember? Whitney’s boyfriend from the popular T.V. show "A Different World"?  

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Skin Deep, Inside the World of Black Fashion Models by Summers, Barbara


Laquan Smith

Laquan Smith Photo: VibeVixen


What happens when you’re turned down by two of the top design schools in the country and you have no contacts or experience? Ask Laquan Smith. His grandmother gave him a sewing machine and taught him how to sew at the age of 13. This and ambition were all he needed to turn his dream and ideas into fashion history!

Anne Lowe, Willi Smith and so many, many others may have lit the match, but Laquan Smith is taking the torch and running. He is the new face of contemporary fashion. You may not know Laquan, but no doubt you’ve seen his work. His designs are devoured by today’s pop culture icons: Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Raven Symone, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks and more. He even designs for the Joffrey Ballet! Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley took Smith under his wings and taught him to fly in the often fickle world of fashion. Smith uses unconventional materials like PVC and scuba material to create breathtaking works of art, we mean ... clothes. Laquan isn’t the only fresh face in fashion; check out David Tlale.

Further Exploration:  and

Available at Multnomah County Library: A.L.T. A Memoir by Talley, Andre’ Leon

Training Is Her True CallingVolunteer Andrea Dobson

by Sarah Binns

In a world of constant technology changes and a maze of digital devices, we've all been baffled: Why did my photos disappear? Do I need the latest software update? But really, where are my photos?! For the past ten years Multnomah County Library volunteer Andrea Dobson has heard these kinds of questions on a daily basis in her role as a technology trainer; luckily, she always has the answers.

Based at downtown's Central Library (“My favorite place in the universe,” she says), Andrea teaches technology classes ranging from iPad lessons to resumé workshops, all for free. She also volunteers on Sundays at a new walk-in tech support booth in the Central Library lobby. “There's nothing that people have come in with that we haven't been able to help,” she says. That said, “A lot of [questions] that people have, I'm not familiar with either, but I Google it and we figure it out.” Constantly learning on the job is a perk of Andrea's position.

Teaching others has long been a part of her life. Prior to her volunteer job at the library, Andrea worked as a TriMet bus mechanic for 20 years before moving to its training department, “which was my true calling,” she says. Tri-Met computerized quickly, which led Andrea to learn desktop publishing and other computer skills. Always a book lover, she pursued library volunteering once she retired; ten years ago, she began by staffing computer labs. Andrea sees technology as a critical, though often overlooked, library service: “I think what the library is doing in the technology area is so important. It’s really impossible these days to get a job or really participate in our society in a lot of meaningful ways if you don’t have access to the Internet.”

Andrea also volunteers to support military families through the Red Cross and travels the world over: she's been on 15 adventures, including trips to Turkey, Spain and Iceland. Wherever she goes, though, she knows she'll return to her Central Library spot: “It's one of those places where you feel like nothing bad could ever happen.”  

A Few Facts About Andrea

Home library: Lives halfway between Hollywood and Central, but spends most of her time at Central: “Downtown feels like my neighborhood.”
Currently reading: “I'm always reading three or four things, including a nonfiction book. Right now I'm reading America's Bitter Pill, about how the Affordable Care Act got created.”
Favorite book from childhood: “I read a lot of books later, after high school—Dickens was like that, I read everything by him when I was 30 and I was mad for not paying attention when I was in school.”
A book that made you laugh or cry: “I really loved Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins—his books made me laugh a lot.”
Favorite browsing section of the library: Travel section, history and biography
E-reader or paper? Paper, but an iPad for traveling: “It's nice to get on an airplane without 50 pounds of books on my back.”
Favorite place to read: In bed at night

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.


Willi Smith

Willi Smith Photo: Chron


He was hailed as one of the most successful men in the fashion industry. It was the late 1970s to the mid-1980s — if you weren’t wearing Williwear, why get dressed, DAHLING? Willi Smith took the fashion world by storm. He believed designing should be fun and unconventional. He’s known for the signature highwaist wrap pants. He was edgy and youthful. He even designed Mary Jane’s dress in the popular comic book Spiderman! Smith designed for men and women. He created innovative clothing that people could afford. Smith was born in Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia College of Art. He later received two scholarships to attend Parsons. He dropped out at 19 to do his own thing! His fashion house was worth 25million, in the 80s! ”I don’t design clothes for the Queen," he once said, "but for the people who wave at her as she goes by.”

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Fabric of Dreams, Designing My Own Success by Hankins, Anthony Mark



2015年宵一年一度的年宵会, 將于农历大年初三, 二月二十一日, 星期六, 在俄勒岗会议 中心举行。(详情可参阅波特兰新闻)

穆鲁玛县图书馆将有现场摊位,提供有关文化, 饮食, 健康等等的资源及书籍,並有华语职员为大家介绍及解答有关图书馆各类活动的资料。欢迎各位到图书馆的摊位与我们見面!

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!


Kermit Oliver

Kermit Oliver

This is the type of story books are made of. A quiet Texas postal worker designs for a well known fashion house and until recent years, this was unknown. Now, Kermit Oliver is retired. At one time he was a postal worker minding his business, providing for his family and painting on the side; a form of relaxation, a way to take the load off after a hard day of work. He’s a recluse, almost agoraphobic, actually. As a shy child raised on a ranch near Rufugio, TX and the son of a vaquero, he took comfort in art as a means to communicate without words. His artwork is colorful and calls on nature, children and his experience growing up on a ranch for inspiration. Oliver has a natural need for privacy and aversion to attention. He’s the only American artist to have his paintings printed on the famous and costly Hermes scarves. A former student and teacher of art, Oliver’s work can be found in galleries, museums and on the wall of high art collectors. While Oliver’s work commands five figures, his so called success didn’t come without heartbreak. If you think Oliver’s art is amazing, discover Kehinde Wiley.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Wake Up Our Souls. A Celebration of African American Artists by Bolden, Tonya and The History of African American Women Artists by Farington, Lisa E

Donyale Luna


Donyal Luna Photo: NYmag

On March 1st, 1966, this image appeared on the cover of British Vogue. Can you guess why her hand covers her face (particularly her nose and lips)? Before Beverly Johnson (yes, Beverly Johnson), Ya-Ya Dacosta, Naomi Campbell, Damaris Lewis, Iman and Tyra Banks; there was Donyale Luna. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Luna rose to fashion fame at a young age. In 1965, she was sketched on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, dubbed the reincarnated Nefertiti and worked with the top photographers and designers of the time. Luna even had mannequins made in her likeness! She transformed the fashion world and buffed accepted images of beauty. Donyale struggled with her racial identity. Eventually, her life came to a tragic end at a young age. If you think Donyale transformed fashion and images of beauty, wait until you discover, Diandra Forrest

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Commander in Chic by Taylor, Mikki

Introduction: This week we focus on fashion! From big earrings and mixed prints to fabrics and style, the influence of African American culture on fashion is undeniable. Join us this week as we highlight the contributions of 7 African Americans and their impact on fashion.

Anne Lowe

Photo of Anne Lowe and the wedding dress she designed for Jacqueline Kennedy. Source Women's World


She designed the most photographed wedding dress in history, Yet, you probably never heard of her. Anne Lowe is the creative genius behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. In fact, she designed dresses for the Duponts, Rockefellers, Roosevelts and many more of New York’s high society. But due to race relations at the time, Lowe did not always receive credit . In fact, it was not uncommon for a white designer to receive credit for her work. In 1946, it was Lowe who designed Olivia de Havilland’s dress for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. However, Sonia Rosenberg received recognition, not Lowe. Despite being New York society’s best kept secret, Lowe did receive due acknowledgement in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Town and Country. Lowe led the way for contemporary designers Tracy Reese, Samantha Black of Project Runway, Azede Jean-Pierre, Laura Smalls and a host of others. If you think Anne Lowe’s story is incredible, discover Elizabeth Keckly.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Threads of Time: The Fabric of History, Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers 1850-2002 by Reed-Miller, Rosemary


Sarah E. Goode


Sarah E. Goode Photo:thewright

These days, tiny homes are all the rave. But, actually, this trend is a little old. In 1884, Sarah E. Goode (a Chicago furniture store owner) invented a folding cabinet bed to fit in what is known  today as tiny homes. Goode wanted to make it possible for people living in small homes to have furniture that fit in restricted space. When folded, the cabinet bed looks like a desk. Goode is known as the first African American woman to receive a patent, on July 14, 1885. Today, there’s a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education (STEM) school in Chicago named after Sarah E. Goode.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Women Designers in the U.S.A 1900-2000. Diversity and Difference by Multiple Contributors

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson Photo: uspto\.gov

There is no way to list all the accomplishments of Lonnie Johnson, here. In short, he has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. He was a systems engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He worked on the Strategic Air Command helping to develop the Stealth Bomber program. He’s owner of Johnson Research and Development. In all, he has more than 100 patents. But, his most popular invention is the SUPER SOAKER!That’s right; Lonnie Johnson invented the summer time mega watergun enjoyed by millions all over the world!

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library:  What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem

Percy L. Julian


Percy L. Julian Photo:Nytimes

He’s one of the most influential chemists this country has ever known. He’s a self made millionaire and humanitarian.  Yet, many people have never heard of him. Percy Lavon Julian is THE MAN when it comes to the chemical synthesis of plant-based drugs. He was the first to synthesis Physostigmine. He synthesized the human hormones progesterone and testosterone from plant sterols. His work led to the creation of cortisone, even birth control pills! These are just a few of his contributions to the world of medicine. What he does with a yam is incredible! But don’t take our word for it, find out for yourself.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library:  Forgotten Genius (DVD)

Patricia Bath

Patrica Bath Photo:Blackliberalboomer

She’s amazing. She attends Howard University School of Medicine, New York and Columbia universities. She believes everyone has a “Right to Sight.” She invents the Laserphaco Probe and procedure to improve cataract surgery results. She’s the first African American woman doctor to patent a medical invention. She’s the first African American woman surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. She’s the first woman on faculty at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. Again, she’s amazing!

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Firsts, 4,000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events by Jessie Carney Smith

Gerald A. Lawson

Gerald A Lawson Photo: museumofplay

If you play Playstation or Xbox or any other gaming console and enjoy video games, you have Gerald A. Lawson to thank. A self-taught engineer who never graduates from college, Lawson is the founding father of the modern-day video game. He creates the first home gaming system with interchangeable game cartridges.  Lawson met Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak pre-Apple. In fact, regarding Jobs and Wozniak, Lawson is quoted as saying, “I was not impressed with them—either one of them, actually.” This is one amazing story. Discover more.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: African American Firsts in Science & Technology by Webster, Raymond B.


Calling all artists in grades 6-12 and their parents, caregivers & educators! 

2014 Teen Summer Reading Art Contest WinnerTeen Summer Reading Art Contest Winner 2013Teen Summer Reading Art Contest Winner 2012

If you've played the Summer Reading game or been a volunteer for the program, you know that a LOT of people participate. So if your art is chosen to illustrate the teen gameboard, a LOT of people will see it! (Above are the winning entries from 2014, 2013, and 2012.) And if you submit the winning artwork, you'll also win a $100 gift certificate to Collage: mixed media art supplies and creative classes!

Download the entry form in PDF and submit your artwork by March 29th. The theme is superheroes. Good luck!


Summer Reading is made possible, in part, by The Library Foundation.

Molly Williams

Molly Williams Photo: the44diaries

Molly Williams is the first recorded woman firefighter. Her story goes a little something like this. The year is 1815. A slave for a New York merchant, Molly works as a cook in the Oceanus Engine Company in New York City. At the Oceanus firehouse, she is known as volunteer 11. Molly works with as much dedication and strength as any of the men firefighters. Her dedication and strength are put to the test during a horrible blizzard. Want to know more? Get the book at Multnomah County Library! And if you like this story, read about Dinae Mines.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Molly, by Golly: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Fire Fighter by Ochiltree, Diane 

Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan Photo: Atlantafreespeech

He had a knack for fixing things. He improved the function of sewing machines and owned a sewing machine store, a tailoring shop and a country club. He invented and patented the three-position traffic light (still in use today) and the safety hood, later known as the gas mask. He and his brother used the safety hood to save the lives of city workers from a poison-filled tunnel. The U.S. Army saved the lives of many soldiers using Morgan’s safety hood. It doesn’t end there. He started a newspaper called the Cleveland Call to address racial injustice. Oh, his formal education didn’t extend beyond elementary school. That’s right, Morgan didn’t attend school beyond 6th grade!

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Scientists, Healers and Inventors by Hudson, Wade




When I had a college radio show, I often played spoken word pieces by William Burroughs.  His odd cadence and bizarre subject matter made the strangeness of 3 a.m. that much more strange.  I’d broadcast the pieces into the dark quiet of the night, ghostly fog in the evergreens and the occasional glowing possum eyes outside the studio window.  After the heady description of a heroin high or alien sex, I’d follow up with something loud, dissonant and experimental.  That’s what student loans are made of.

A black and white picture of William Burroughs.  In the backgroud is a hat on a hook and an exit sign.William Burroughs instigated the Beat Generation and embodied the movement’s proclivity for drugs.  His book Junky basically made drug use glamorous.  When he lived in New York, his house (The Bunker) was like a supermarket for narcotics.  Burroughs was incredibly prolific and kept writing and speaking until his death in 1997.  His work influenced Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain and more.  Punk and heavy metal owe him a debt.  He was open about sex and his own homosexuality in an age of repression.

For his 100th birthday, the BBC made a documentary about his work, life, and legacy.  For his 101st, This American Life rebroadcasted it.  It’s an unsentimental and fascinating hour of radio.  Take a listen.


Portland, Oregon

February 7th, 2015

Historical Black Debutante

Photo: Oregon Historical Society


This theme wouldn't be complete without focusing on Portland's Black Community. Despite living under the harsh burden of discrimination, racism, exclusionary laws etc. Portland's Black community continued to grow and thrive. In 1883, The Northern Pacific Railways brings jobs and more African Americans to the region leading the way for a burgeoning Black, middle class. At this time, most of Portland's Black community reside in NW Portland. The community has four churches, The Rutherford Haberdashery and many Black owned Businesses. Some years later, the community has grown to include three Black newspapers, a hotel, postal clerk, shoe clerk, attorneys, stenographers, a dentist and a doctor! it's an amazing history! Check it out here, here, and here!

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: African Americans of Portland by Oregon Black Pioneers and The Ebony Princesses of the Portland Rose Festival 1967-1982 by Morris, Lenora C.

Septima Poinsette Clark


Septima Poinsette Clark

Photo Credit: www.brothermalcolm.cnet


Septima Poinsette Clark was an advocate and educator of civics education long before it became popular.  As a teacher and member of the NAACP, she pushed issues of education and equal rights. When the State of South Carolina placed a ban on NAACP membership, Septima refused to obey and lost her job and pension as a result. She, along with her cousin, started the first citizenship school to educate Black citizens in reading and writing, election procedures and government. Her name may not be so familiar, but those in the fight for Civil Rights knew exactly who she was! In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged her when receiving his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize award.


Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County: Lighting the Way by Schiff, Karenna Gore


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