About Portland African American Leadership Forum

The Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) is one of the national African American Leadership Forums created out of Minnesota’s African American Leadership Forum established in 2007. PAALF was  established in 2009 by a Steering Committee of 20 local African American leaders with significant professional experience in advocacy, social services, government affairs, fundraising, economic development, public education and health care. PAALF’s mission is to solve issues that challenge the Portland African American community in a unified and collaborative way. PAALF’s primary goal is to enforce an action agenda that improves the health and wellbeing of local African Americans. Its’ work addresses the unique and interrelated issues of poverty and disparities that challenge us as a community.

In short: PAALF is a convener of African American leaders around a public policy agenda that impacts the community in the areas of housing & economic development, education, health, and civic engagement/leadership.


PAALF Values

The following values are based on the 7 Principles of Ma’at, the Kemetic laws of righteousness, as researched by renowned Black Studies scholar, Dr. Maulana Karenga.[1] Kemet (Kmt) was the name given to ancient Egypt by its people; it means “The Black Land”—a description of the fertile soil and the color of the skin of those who lived there. Ma’at are the values that guided ancient Kemetic governance and laws, a system that is thousands of years old. This maintained Kemet as a peaceful, productive and orderly civilization. Ma’at means the “way of righteousness” and as a leadership practice for PAALF embodies the principles which we set for ourselves and the promise that awaits us upon fulfilling them.

Truth: Truth is honesty, sincerity, and authenticity in our words. When we speak truth we are bonded to its wisdom and morality. Truth of who we are as Black people, our ancestry, our traditions, has been stolen from us, yet the truth of our bond persists. We will both reclaim and speak our truths as a people, and uphold our integrity by seeking the truth in ourselves and one another.

Justice: Justice occurs when one’s humanity has been restored, enabling equal pursuit of opportunity to fulfill one’s potential. To be just is to see the humanity in others, to honor it and to fight for it as if it were your own.

Propriety: To act with propriety is to act with humility and accountability towards those we serve and honor. First, we must honor and serve our ancestors and elders who have sacrificed and paved the way for us. We must honor and serve our children and unborn generations, and our responsibility to create for them a future that is better than our present. We must honor and serve our community, particularly those whose voices are least heard and hurting most. We must honor and serve the organization as a means by which to accomplish the changes we need.

Harmony: Harmony is achieved when the diversity of our community effectively works together towards common goals. We practice inclusion; everyone is valued for their unique contributions. Our strength is in our ability to come together across our differences.

Balance: The practice of balance is not binary, it is multi-disciplinary. It is the effective management of the range of diverse characteristics, interests, and issues that we face. It is the ability to be nimble and adaptive. It is the ability to simultaneously see the forest from the trees and the trees from the forest, the short-term obstacle and the long-term goal.

Reciprocity: To do unto others as you would have them do unto you requires empathy and compassion. This is the glue that bonds our connections as a community. To be reciprocal is also to model the highest standards thereby influencing others to achieve the same.

Order: Consistency, transparency, clarity of expectations, and operations rooted in the highest moral standards create the structure by which order can be attained. Order is preserved through personal and group accountability. Good order is the outcome of effective organizing and power building. 

Working Definitions 

What is the Portland Black Community?
The Portland Black Community is diverse geographically, socioeconomically, and culturally. We are connected by our ancestral African heritage, our common struggle against racism and our pursuit of self-determination.

What is a leader?
A leader is a steward of the people, one who understands well how to use their skills and talents to move forward positive outcomes for the community. It is someone who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done, be willing to make sacrifices and is accountable to the people they serve.

What are transformative Black Leaders?
Transformative Black Leaders understand the change that is required not just within broader society to address the needs of Black people, but the dismantling of internalized oppression within ourselves. Led by a vision of a prosperous healthy community, transformative leaders can navigate the process of change, understanding its phases and tending to the needs of both the hearts and minds of the community. Transformative Black Leaders are able to bridge gaps and work across differences. In owning their personal failings, they maintain humility, and commit to a lifelong learning journey. They lift as they climb, and own their responsibility as a steward of prior and future generations. Transformative Black Leaders are compassionate healers, strategic organizers, and grounded visionaries.

What is self-determination?
From the Nguzo Saba, we have come to know Self-determination as Kujichagulia, the meaning is to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. The principle is rooted in reclamation and preservation of an afro-centric concept of self and community, by listening and being guided by our inner voice:

“That inner voice is a history of experiences, a multitude of determined ancestors who cherished freedom, and a culture that has developed out of the efforts to obtain and maintain freedom…The inner voice is self-love and an appreciation for a beauty and being that goes back to the very origin of human time.

The inner voice can be heard when we speak to our children about who they are…We must listen to the voices which are consistent with the strengths of our past and yet offer an awareness of the present and the future. We must respect the voice of leadership which elevates us in dignity and strongly question those that would have us degrade ourselves in any form or fashion.

As we learn to listen to our individual inner voice, we can better hear the community’s inner voice. The voice from within is the voice of freedom, and in listening to ourselves, we learn to take responsibility for ourselves.”

From Na’im Akbar: The Community of Self. 1998. Pgs. 20-21.