This Week's Curator: Andrea Valderrama, Vice Chair of the David Douglas School Board and City Hall Advisor
Andrea Valderrama is a first generation Latinx raised in east Oakland by her mother, a political refugee of Perú and has been living in Oregon for the past 18 years. Her passion for civic engagement, community activism, and policy work are rooted in her experience cleaning houses while in school and being raised in poverty by a single mother. Andrea has been a Senior Policy Advisor in City Hall for the past 6 years, working previously for a Commissioner and now for the Mayor. Andrea was the first person of color to ever serve on the David Douglas School Board in outer east Portland and is currently serving as Vice Chair. She earned her BA from the University of Oregon and graduated as a first-generation student from PSU’s CUPA, having earned her Executive Master of Public Administration degree.
What keeps Andrea busy: I am a single mom of an energetic, funny, and smart three-year-old, and when I’m not in the office (and sometimes when I am) I’m chasing her down trying to get her to eat or take a nap. In my day job, I serve as a Senior Policy Advisor to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, which keeps me busy doing economic development and housing policy, in addition to budget and bureau administration. Policy making, overseeing the Superintendent, bargaining, and approving the budget keep me busy in David Douglas School District as Vice Chair of our School Board. Lastly, my multigenerational household, filled with eight family members, dog Balboa and chickens ensure I basically never sleep.
Tell us about your neighborhood. What are the ups and downs of it?
I live in the Hazelwood neighborhood and in the Gateway area of outer east Portland. Here in Gateway, we have strong community leaders committed to centering themselves in many economic and community development opportunities that are possible for our neighborhood. This community-led activism is critical to ensuring development occurs without displacement, and that the benefits of new infrastructure are felt by current residents. It makes me very proud to be in my neighborhood to learn from so many activists who have been doing this work for so long.
The downs are the reasons for the activism: lack of transportation infrastructure (lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks), lack of culturally specific community spaces or access to workforce trainings or business development opportunities. Reports of hate crimes have increased in Portland over the past year, as well as reports of race-based discrimination and harassment in our schools. We’re also seeing our student population decrease while the student populations east of us continue to increase, indicating that our neighborhood is increasingly becoming less affordable for families with children.
What are your favorite East Portland things to do and places to go?
Recreational & Educational Services: Midland Library, Gateway Discovery Park, Luuwit View Park, Glendoveer Golf Course.
Food: Taco truck at corner of Stark & 122nd, Taipei Noodle Haus, Siam Grill, El Indio Mexican Restaurant, Ocean City Dim Sum.
What do you think people don’t know about East Portland that they should know?
David Douglas School District has over 50% students of color, and over 70 languages spoken at home. Outer east Portland is also home to a quarter of the Portland population, and we continue to grow at faster rates than other areas of the City.
What do you think would be most helpful for people in East Portland?
· Policies centered in racial justice
· Access to economic prosperity
· Affordable, safe, and accessible housing
· A safe transportation network
· Quality k-12, college, and CTE education and training opportunities
How do you think your Portland matches up with the Portland you’ve seen in media?
I see a lot of stories of the rise in White Supremacist terrorist organizations coming to Portland, and while that is true, I also know that David Douglas School District continues to become more and more racially diverse, families continue to move into our district, and our diversity continues to unite and strengthen us. This isn’t always what is portrayed in the media.
I’ll also say, as a City Hall insider, what I usually read about City Hall policies and decisions is accurate, although I wish the stories of the process and the hard work of the advocates, staffers of color, and community members were highlighted more. City Hall doesn’t function without these folks, and it’s a part of my Portland I wish more people were able to see and a part I’m hoping to highlight.
What keeps you up at night worrying?
Working in economic development and housing policy, statistics keep me up at night (if it’s not my daughter kicking me in the face). There are only 3 neighborhoods in all of Portland affordable to single mothers, and there are no neighborhoods affordable to the average Black household. While I’m fortunate to be a homeowner, the continued rise in our property taxes make me worry that my attempt at building generational wealth for my daughter is useless. Latinas still make 70 cents to white men, and Latino students have some of the lowest graduation rates in Oregon.
On a more personal note, I worry about being a good mom. I worry whether I’m providing the best nutrition, education and healthcare possible for my daughter while at the same time exposing her to the right social emotional, STEAM, literacy, language and communication learning opportunities. I worry about being able to afford the right blend of extracurricular and educational opportunities to facilitate these opportunities, and then I worry that I worry too much about her and not enough about my own mental and physical health.
What gives you hope?
My daughter is biracial (Peruvian and Chinese) and fluently trilingual (English, Spanish, and Cantonese). I mention this part of her identity often because I also know that she is not unique in her cohort of classmates, who a majority of which are also multilingual and multiracial. I have hope for this next generation and their incredible skillsets in cultural competency, in language and communication, and in their ability to see their similarities more than their differences. I’m excited for how they will bring these skillsets into our public, private, and nonprofit sectors, into leadership positions, and address these problems I stay up at night worrying about with a new lens of intersection, inclusivity, and racial justice.
Why did you agree to participate in this project?
Those who are close to me laughed when they heard I’d be participating, mainly because I am actually not a tech savvy millennial (I know, shocking), nor do I know much about Twitter. I guess that’s part of the reason I agreed to participate: I always love a challenge and trying new things. I also was impressed to see so many east Portlanders committed to sharing their stories of their experiences in East Portland and wanted to contribute to the narrative we are creating about our own communities, our own families, and our own neighborhoods. I’m honored to participate.
You can find Andrea on the weekdays in City Hall during normal business hours (8am-5pm). When it’s not raining, on the weekends you’ll see her running after her daughter at their new neighborhood park, Gateway Discovery. You can also catch her at Midland Library on the weekends helping her daughter pick out a new set of weekly library books.
Online, you can find her at the following places below:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Valderrama4Pdx/