Tuesday, November 4, 2014

two new good legs on a breeze -bent limb

I'm following around a group of Somali teens for the next month or so as they work to get their basketball team off the ground. They held an invitational for their parents last weekend.

East African All Stars Himo Osman 5

East African All Stars Himo Osman 3

East African All Stars 2

East African All Stars 4

Friday, September 12, 2014

Today, more than any other day


Because stories begat stories ...

I've been working on a news piece about the local ice skating rink. Dallas developers are remodeling the model and sizing down the rink in the process. It's a fun story -- every one I have met has a Tonya Harding story -- but I found an even better one while watching the ice one day. This is Alex, age 13. I'll be following him over the next three months or so.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

There's intense gravity. I'm just your satellite.

Tongans _ Semise moves to PSU 4

I've spent the past two years following two Tongan best friends in their last year of high school. "The Pact" ran in Sunday's Oregonian. Semise Kofe and Sione Taumoe'anga thought faith, football and friendship could lead them out of poverty. But what would they sacrifice along the way?

The first thing Semise Kofe and Sione Taumoe'anga did together was fight.

It was a Sunday afternoon in 2007, just after services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Rose City 1st Ward. The 11-year-old boys knew of each other. Both their families had come to Portland from Tonga, a tiny Polynesian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. They lived in the same neighborhood of ranch houses at the city's edge. They both had something to prove.

Later, neither could remember why they fought that day. Boys growing up on the blocks just off North Columbia Boulevard, an especially poor, rough part of eternally downtrodden North Portland, didn't need a reason. They earned power and respect just for swinging.

Taumoe'anga, lanky with the first shade of a mustache, punched Kofe in the mouth. Kofe, neckless and wide, grabbed Taumoe'anga and slammed him against a car.

Other boys from the neighborhood were joining the Crips. Kofe and Taumoe'anga had already lost a few friends to juvenile detention centers. As onlookers pulled the boys apart that morning, Kofe and Taumoe'anga shared the same scary thought: We could be next.

"We gotta do something different, bro," Kofe remembers saying.

A friendship was formed. A deal was made.

Taumoe'anga's uncle ran a makeshift gym in a detached garage near Pier Park. Maybe, Taumoe'anga suggested, he could train them for something more productive. For football.

They showed up for the first session wearing school uniforms and no shoes. Both their fathers worked in concrete, an industry that slowed to a near-halt during Portland's wet winters. They had dress shoes for school, but no sneakers.

Kofe suggested they steal a pair. Taumoe'anga had a better idea: "What about the wires?"

People often threw perfectly fine sneakers -- the laces knotted together -- over telephone pole wires. Several pairs hung in the sky near their homes. They knocked a few sets down before finding a pair of baby blue size 9 knockoffs, then took turns wearing them. Kofe ran laps around the park while Taumoe'anga stood barefoot on the sidewalk. Then Taumoe'anga ran while Kofe waited and watched.

"We're gonna get this done," Taumoe'anga said between laps. "Get better. Prove everybody wrong."

They slapped hands and prayed: "Heavenly father, help us get out of here."

It was a contract made by boys, no more binding than a spit-shake. Later, they took to calling it their pact.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

'All we wanna do is take the chains off'

Cities across the country held a National Moment of Silence for Mike Brown and Ferguson, Mo. on Thursday night. Portland had two. The one I attended -- outside a Portland Police Precinct -- grew louder as the night wore on. Here are some photos I made for The Oregonian.

Portland protest for Ferguson

Portland protests for Ferguson 15

Portland protests for Ferguson 30

Portland protests for Ferguson 3

and an excerpt of the story:

Portland protesters stayed mostly on the sidewalks near the Portland Police Bureau North Precinct as the first wave of rush hour traffic traveled up and down MLK. But as the crowd grew, so did the tension.

An offshoot, led by Ionatana Iese of North Portland, formed a barricade in the crosswalk. Business owners from the Vanport Plaza rushed into the street, begging Iese to move out of the sidewalk.

"Open the street up," he yelled. "You're asking for violence. We ain't asking for them to shoot us."

Shareef pointed to the precinct.

"If they come, it's going to get violent, trust me," Shareef said. "It's not us against us. It's us against them."

"People have been singing and marching for years," Iese said. "Right now, we are undirected chaos. This is old. This is archaic. We need to do something that will affect the money. Sitting in traffic is something different."

"You can't fight all the time," Shareef said. "Sometimes you have to be smarter than your oppressors."

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Black Boy Speech

My coworker Beth Nakamura and I made a series of videos recently featuring mothers whose sons are Black, Latino or biracial. The mothers talked about their family's experiences with police and explained "The Black Boy Speech," a talk they've given their sons about how to interact with police. We made six individual videos, which you can watch on The Oregonian's website. But here's the main video, which includes several of the mothers.

The Black Boy Speech: Mothers of color give advice to their sons about interacting with police from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Street names on Whidbey Island

Deception Pass

Fox Spit Road
Brainers Road
Doc Savage Drive
Xanadu Drive
Grimm Drive
Shipping View
Useless Bay Avenue
Silent Cedars Lane
Scenic Heights Lane
Monkey Hill Road
Deception Circle Road

photo from Deception Pass, the skinny waterway at the island's northern edge