Aug 22, 2022 |

Client Spotlight: Brown Hope - Building Community Through Healing in Portland

The impact of racial trauma is psychological, physiological, social, economic, and spiritual. Acts of injustice create wounds that are passed down across generations. Black, Indigenous, and people of color experience material, emotional, psychological, and spiritual trauma from racism experienced today. Brown Hope in Portland, Oregon, is building a movement of interdependence, working with neighbors from all different backgrounds to inspire the racial justice and healing our communities need and deserve. “We need to remove the systems that perpetuate racism, but we also need healing,” says cameron whitten, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Healing Officer. “Brown Hope is a vehicle for that type of healing.”

Founded in 2018, Brown Hope is a healing justice nonprofit that focuses on planting seeds of racial justice and healing from the traumatic impacts of racism. Brown Hope structures its work in five programmatic areas:

  • Black Resilience Fund: direct cash support that has generated $2.6 million so far for Black Portlanders. This fund provides support to people when they need it, free from bureaucracy and the delays and harm caused by more complex methods of support.

  • Power Hour: weekly in-person meetings that create intentional space for BIPOC folks to build community and heal from the impacts of racism.

  • Solidarity Squad: Black-led mutual aid movement pooling time, talents, and resources with neighbors to build a grassroots, relationship-based network that listens and responds directly to needs in the community.

  • Blackstreet Bakery: regenerative economics to restore economic opportunities for Black Portlanders in North & Northeast Portland. This program creates living wage jobs through plant-based baking.

  • Equity & Beyond: a dynamic cohort model that builds collective power for racial justice and healing.

Three people stand in Black Resilience Fund t-shirts, wearing masks.

Healing racial trauma

Brown Hope focuses on the intersections of economic, social, and spiritual healing through their programs. These programs are designed so that the community is seen and embraced fully as themselves. “Our healing justice framework comes directly from my lived experience,” explains cameron. “Our programs are trying to get rid of the ways that communities may feel excluded, and instead embrace them as their authentic selves.”

Brown Hope is human-centric in all aspects of its work: branding, workplace policies, application processes, and program design. “We understand our community is diverse,” says cameron. “Everyone is in a different place in their life and everyone has their own vision for their future. We want our programming to be open, to meet people where they are.”

Brown Hope believes that healing is possible for all of us, and their programs open up resources and remove barriers to participation. “Healing is encoded in the wisdom of our bones,” says cameron. “The message we want our community to hear is that ‘you are enough. You have the power to heal.’”

“All of us, regardless of our racial backgrounds, have racial trauma to heal from,” says cameron. “Seeing others as property, as a threat, or as ‘less than’ is because of damage to their heart. To emerge into a future we all want, we must all heal.”

Supporting community through direct cash assistance

Brown Hope leverages direct cash assistance as a way to serve community. “Direct cash assistance, instead of a more bureaucratic system, shows trust and helps build social capital,” explains cameron. “The impact of direct cash assistance was made clear during the pandemic. Delays from bureaucratic systems that were designed to be inefficient and prolong suffering hurt our community. We see and embrace human dignity and believe responsive resources are key to building trust.” You can support the Black Resilience Fund with a contribution.

People pose in front on a storefront that says Resilience in block letters.

Values-based banking

“Before founding Brown Hope, I was the Executive Director at the Q Center in Portland,” says cameron. “We started banking with Beneficial State Bank specifically because of the bank’s commitment to social justice. The bank’s mission and values are aligned with Brown Hope, and Craig Hill is the best banker I’ve ever worked with. Beneficial State Bank has been a great partner.”

Learn more about Brown Hope’s work and how you can get involved.