The rumblings for RACE TALKS started in 2005 when Portland Public Schools introduced the book Courageous Conversations About Race, which helped produce amazingly open conversations about race, class, and white privilege. When RACE TALKS’ Founder and Executive Director, Donna Maxey heard “by the year 2040 there will be more people of color (POC) in the USA than whites,” she knew all communities, and especially those in Oregon, urgently needed a format to discuss and engage in conversation about issues of systemic oppression, inequity, privilege, and violence in order to bridge growing divisions. With the help of McMenamins Historian, Tim Hills, and Uniting to Understand Racism founder, Maceo Pettis, RACE TALKS hosted its first community forum in February 2011.
Donna Maxey is a Black Portland-native, whose parents fled Jim Crow laws in East Texas in the early 1940’s. The Maxey family remained in Oregon and their name is synonymous with social community activism in Portland, especially in the Black community. Donna’s parents didn’t realize that no Jim Crow in Oregon was due to Oregon being a white’s only state that had exclusionary laws against Blacks that was memorialized into the state’s constitution and not removed until 2002; 28% of Oregon voters voted against the removal. As of 2021, Black Oregon residents comprise 2% of the state’s population. Portland, Oregon remains one of the whitest cities in one of the whitest states, with the highest rising white supremacist presence in the country.
For over a decade, RACE TALKS has been a resounding success engaging over 20,000 participants in over 1300 facilitated conversations and providing a platform to over 400 Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) panelists to highlight their work and make an ask to attendees to get involved.
Filling the spaces between races with compassion, conversation, and education.
RACE TALKS envisions a world beyond superficial connections where race, ethnicity, gender, and religion are no longer barriers to connecting with others, but a means to enhance cross-cultural connections through deep and shared experiences.