Enjoy reading about the wonderful community that has developed around this annual event.

August 22, 2017

Charles McGee: Building Strong Communities from the Ground Up
Category: News

It’s May and Charles McGee has been invited to speak at TEDxMtHood’s 2017 event.  Charles is ecstatic and accepts the invitation with enthusiasm, then sets a date to meet with his speaker concierge and go over the details.

Most people have meetings in their offices, at a coffee shop, over lunch – not Charles.  Charles has his meetings on the vibrant sidewalks of Northeast Portland – literally.  He prefers the walk-and-talk.  

HS McGee

We stroll through the neighborhood he grew up in and still lives in.  We start at Black Parent Initiative where he humbly tells the story of starting the nonprofit with Johnell Bell.  We walk a bit further – Charles points to the street he grew up on.  He tells me the story of moving to Portland as a child – about his experiences in war-torn Liberia.  He talks about his family, his mother and father, and his sisters and the bond they all share.

We walk a bit further, and Charles’ phone rings for what seems like the hundredth time since starting the walk.  It’s one of his friends. After hanging up, he tells me all about his friends and their childlike playfulness – about how they prank-call him during meetings and text him throughout the day.  We walk on past the barber shops, and Charles waves to everyone inside.  They all smile and greet him with excitement.  He tells me stories of the guys inside and how they’ve grown up together.

Cars drive by playing old-school hip hop and Charles reminisces of the days when music flooded the streets for all to hear, providing a soundtrack to daily life in the neighborhood. He talks about the power of music and it’s connection to “the movement.”

The stories continue.  Each street corner, each house, each friendly face on the sidewalk has a story, and Charles knows them all.  There’s an incredible sense of place and connection to the people that live here.  Hanging out with Charles McGee in Northeast Portland makes one thing clear: community is of the utmost importance.

Communities are powerful.  They have the power to shape us, to change us, and to transform us.  They can allow us to think differently about the challenges we face.  They have distinct potential and it’s Charles’ mission to tap into this potential and bring about the sort of social change that is needed in the world.  “I believe wholeheartedly that we are better when each one, teaches one and reaches back,” says Charles.

Charles will take the TEDxMtHood stage on October 7th to “reframe and hopefully inspire people to think differently about race, the times we live in and our community’s potential.”

Austin Louis

Austin Louis is a first-year TEDxMtHood team member and speaker concierge. He is a student at Wayfinding Academy who is pursuing an answer to the question, "What makes me come alive?" Austin has a passion for shared experiences and is learning how to design events and spaces that combine fun and play with understanding and acceptance. He also has a passion for being scrappy and is fascinated by the many ways we can do more with less.