RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism

Filling the spaces between races with compassion, conversation, and education



Due to scheduling challenges, this event will be rescheduled. Check back or subscribe to the RACE TALKS email list for updates.

For RACE TALKS Community Supported Tickets: Click on the blue “Add promo code” in the box below, enter the PROMO CODE you received from RACE TALKS and click Add. Select 1 ticket and continue. NOTE: you must be registered to receive a Community Supported Ticket or your ticket will be voided. Learn more/register for a RACE TALKS Community Supported Ticket.


Announcing the Third Night of the LIVING ICONS Series

WHEN: RESCHEDULED New Date To Be Announced
WHERE: McMenamins Kennedy School Gym 5736 NE 33rd Ave



Widely recognized as one of the most exciting singers remaining from the original soul era, and an active musical institution for over 60 years


Making his mark as a Motown drummer, he remains one of the most active, influential, and respected artists in the area jazz scene since the 1970s, and continuous to perform weekly five decades later



This marks our second celebration honoring LIVING ICONS: Portlanders who have made significant contributions to racial justice through their contributions to the arts, culture, and music. These Icons have embodied excellence over decades, and have left an indelible mark on our community and culture.

This is a four-part series and fundraiser for RACE TALKS held on March 14th, May 9th, September 12th, and December 12th.  Each evening of the four-part series will honor two LIVING ICONS who, through their work and community contributions and activism, have a shared history and relationship. We will listen to our Icons’ inspiring stories while we enjoy a sumptuous dinner, intimate conversation, and musical performances. Our series theme is “OPULENT JOY: Filling Our Cracks with Gold.”

We have planned this series as intimate dinner parties between close friends; seating is limited. The attire is dress to impress. These quarterly dinners will serve as our premier 2023 fundraising events for RACE TALKS: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism. We want you to reach into your open heart and giving soul. Ticket pricing includes the cost of dinner, honorariums for our ICONS, and a donation to RACE TALKS; art and auction items also available.

Ticket pricing includes the cost of dinner, honorariums for our ICONS, and a donation to RACE TALKS community programming and hiring local professionals to support our efforts; proceeds from art and auction items also support RACE TALKS. Proceeds from table sponsorship support annual administration and operation expenses.

Our program will be recorded and broadcast at a later date on RACE TALKS Youtube channel, and will become part of the recorded history of Portland. You will be in the live studio audience as we record these celebrations and our Icons’ stories.

Questions: info@racetalkspdx.com; 971-361-9191


Please Bring the following:

  • Doors open at 6:00 PM; dinner begins at 6:25 PM
  • Bring ID for alcohol purchases; masks optional but encouraged
  • Community Supported tickets are available on a first come basis. You must sign up in order to receive the promo code.  Please contact RACE TALKS if you require assistance at 971-361-9191.
  • This is a dress to impress event; think NYC or L.A. Fashion Week.  Not Portland fashion 🙂
  • Dinner is buffet style; dinner and cocktail menu is listed below.
  • We plan for a sold out event. We will release your ticket if you are not checked in by 6:20 pm. Please call us at 971-361-9191 if you are running late and enroute and we will hold your seat. Purchases are non-refundable.
  • Ticket includes show, dinner, and two complementary beverages in the McMenamins Kennedy School Gym ONLY.
  • No host bar is available.

LIVING ICONS Event Menu – McMenamins Roadhouse BBQ Buffet prepared by Chef Juliyanne McLemore


  • Red Eye BBQ Beef Brisket- chili-coffee rubbed with McMenamins coffee-BBQ sauce (G) 
  • Grilled Wild Salmon with Hogshead-mustard BBQ sauce (G)
  • Jamaican Curried Veggie Stew: black beans, veggies, mango chutney, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño (V) 


  • Dad’s Moonshine Red Beans with ground beef (G)
  • Basil Cilantro Rice (G, X, V)
  • Garlic Green Beans (G, X, V)
  • Potato Salad – red potatoes, sweet relish, egg, onion (G, V)
  • Kale Slaw with Hogshead honey mustard dressing (G, V)
  • Corn bread muffin and honey butter
  • My Daddy’s BBQ hot sauce

Black & Tan Brownies and NW Berry Bars served with whipped cream (V)

Special Cocktail Menu featuring The Blacque Butterfly & more!

General admission tickets and tables are now available for purchase.

For RACE TALKS Community Supported Tickets: Click on the blue “Add promo code” in the box below, enter the PROMO CODE you received from RACE TALKS and click Add. Select 1 ticket and continue. NOTE: you must be registered to receive a Community Supported Ticket or your ticket will be voided. Learn more/register for a RACE TALKS Community Supported Ticket.




A stellar performer with demonstrated skill across genres, whether pop, torch, R&B, jazz, or gospel, Ms Nanette displays a nomenclature and music style that is head and shoulders above the norm. “I came up in the church and grew up in a home where music was always heard,” she says. She can even recall her mother telling stories about how she literally sang herself to sleep at night. “I did,” she says. “Since I was seven years old, singing has been my thing.” Her family lineage might also have something to do with it. “My grandfather’s cousin on my mother’s side was Bessie Smith,” she explains. Evolving from such ripe DNA isn’t the only reason for her talent. But a connection like that certainly lifts one’s self-esteem and confidence. Before settling on jazz, though, Ms. Nanette considered other vocal styles; after all, she had the chops and wind for anything. “I wanted to be an opera singer,” she says. “And while in my twenties, I was introduced to an opera coach.”

Ms. Nanette’s vocal powers grew as did her stature in the industry, fueled by a restless determination to be her best, to venture and challenge herself. And she found those challenges in a variety of styles and venues, from late-night spots in Portland like the Upstairs Lounge in the 1960s,

Shirley Nanette has appeared as guest soloist in concert throughout the United States and Canada, on both commercial and public television. She has performed at many of Oregon’s musical events including: the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz, Cascade Music Festival, Sunriver Music Festival, and each year at Oregon Art Museum’s “Museum After Hours” Gospel Meets Jazz concert. Shirley was honored by the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade with her own float, two consecutive years, from which she sang through the entire length of the parade.

She has been the opening act for Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons, Billy Eckstine, Diane Schuur, Lou Rawls and Eddie Harris and substituted for Tony Bennett with the Spokane Symphony when he became ill. Shirley performed with the Woody Hite Big Band and the George Reinmiller Big Band, usually in outdoor summer concerts.

Her love for children is supported by the numerous awards and invitations to community functions and events she’s been invited to in order to share her gift and mentor young aspiring artists. She recently garnered an award from Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church for her volunteer work and mentor ship. “Singing in a church choir is a wonderful opportunity offered to young people as a way to learn the craft,” she says. She also taught classes in arts and communications, voice and performance skills at the Arts Magnet Academy. Her community work reaches back to the 1970s, when she was a supervisor for the first wave of children involved in the federally mandated bus program when schools became racially integrated. “I’ve lived through some very interesting times,” she says, as she recalls society becoming more tolerant and race relations improving.

Shirley Made her debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1981, conducted by Norman Leyden. She appears as one of the “Pops” concert favorites. She has also appeared as guest soloist with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Seattle, Spokane, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Tucson, San Diego, Honolulu, Long Beach, and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

In 1983, competing against several thousand contestants throughout the United States, she won the First “Star Search” aka “Fantasy” national talent competition on NBC Television. Shirley was recognized as “Best Female Vocalist in Portland” from 1981 to 1991. She appeared in the stage play “The Colored Museum” written by George C. Wolfe, in a parody of Josephine Baker. In 2000, she appeared in Truman Capote’s “The Grass Harp” performed at the Lakewood Theatre in Lake Oswego, for which she received an Artistic Merit award from the theater company.

Shirley was chosen twice as the only jazz vocalist to be represented by the Oregon Arts Commission. In May of the following year, she began the task of making her first recording entitled “See You Later”. It was released in 1992. The album includes compositions of Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Irving Berlin, Michel LeGrand and George and Ira Gershwin. The lyrics from the title tune to her studio recording, “Starting Here, Starting Now,” she believes, sum up her spirit and humanity. “I’ve lived through some very interesting times,” “When we walk, we walk together, year by year. When we talk, we say the most with silence, when we are near, starting here.”

Shirley has been inducted in the Oregon Music Hall of Fame for her dedication to jazz and her long career.

Her work includes a CD and DVD set called “Starting Here, Starting Now”. It was recorded at Jimmy Maks jazz club in early 2008 and is a landmark opportunity to see and hear Shirley and the musicians in her band.

Shirley has performed with the Portland’s NW Childrens Theatre 2009 singing and acting.

She also produced a Christmas recording called “The First Noel” in 2013.

In 2019, at 71, Shirley returned to the stage to perform her 1973 album, Never Coming Back, in its entirety. It was presented by Albina Music Trust at the Holocene.

So, when will Ms. Nanette stop? Does the music ever end? “I’m going as long as my ability allows. I will know when to stop. Not there yet.” She can still hit those high and low notes. “I’ve learned how to maneuver,” she says with a smile.

Shirley’s incredible energy emerges when she is on stage doing what she does from the heart, performing for the audiences that love her and have watched her grow into the beautiful, talented, and gracious lady she is today.

—Written by Shawn Kirkeby with excerpts from an article in 2013 Jazzscene by Yugen Rashad.

Learn more about Shirley Nanette on her website and on FaceBook.


A Blues and gospel singer and songwriter, LaRhonda is recognized as one the region’s best rhythm and blues vocalists. She has been dubbed “The First Lady of Portland Blues”— a title of leadership that she lives up to as she shares songs that carry forth directly from her soul and spiritual life-force.

“My cultural tradition is Black gospel music in the quartet and choral vocal stylings of its origins from slavery to current day. This traditional music is typically practiced orally/verbally at church or in homes. In the past, it was practiced on the cotton fields. Lyrics and melodies are sung to other singers and then repeated back until the entire song is learned and embedded into memory.

This tradition is part of my culture through my ethnicity and family traditions. I am a descendent of enslaved Africans. This traditional music is meaningful to me because it is an African American contribution to the country’s arts. It’s meaningful for me to be a part of a community. Singing runs through my lineage. From slavery, to my mom, to me and then to my daughters. Singing brings me joy and connection to life. I am proud to teach it to others to continue its legacy.

I learned and practiced traditional black gospel from a very young age. A large part of Black culture is going to church on Sundays, this is an integral part of life stemming from slavery. I was born in Oklahoma and grew up singing with my family and friends in black churches. We sang acapella harmonies at the Church of Christ and after joining a baptist church we sang with musical instruments; piano, organ and drums.

I learned the tradition from my mother. I taught myself to sing by listening to her, singing along in church and by singing with the radio. I learned to direct the choir from our pianist at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church. She taught me the basics of leading a choir in performance: set the song tempo, cue the singers when to sing, clap, and sway, sing the words and melody with the choir, cue soloists, and cue song endings.

Singing is important to the Black community for several reasons: The origins of oral teaching and learning of gospel music stems from the roots of slavery. Oral/verbal communication allowed African slaves to communicate with messages to one another in order to plan escape from the brutality and torture of being enslaved and stripped of their traditions.

Singing added cohesiveness and served as strength to those who courageously marched and protested for equal rights during the civil rights era and also serves as a look into current social/economic affairs of African Americans. Singing together allowed expressions of praise and worship to God, expressions of joy and of sorrow and the great hope of deliverance from current situations.

Black gospel choirs and vocal groups performances were usually reserved for church services and concerts (we used to call them “musicals”) but now can be heard at festivals, weddings, funerals, in album recordings, and many other ceremonies.” (Source: https://mnch.uoregon.edu/larhonda-steele)

She currently fronts the LaRhonda Steele Band, is music director of the nonprofit Portland Interfaith Gospel Choir, music director of Portland Center for Spiritual Living.

Notable awards include:

  • 2021 Recipient of Oregon Folklife Networks Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program award
  • 2020 Inductee into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame (ceremony delayed COVID 19);
  • 2018 Cascade Blues Association Hall of Fame.
  • 2016-2018 Cascade Blues Association Best Female Vocalist Muddy Award

LaRhonda’s voice can be enjoyed on recordings of national and international artists: Gino Vannelli, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones, Mary Flower, and Norman Sylvester to name a few.

LaRhondas Discography: Artistic Differences; My Soul’s Song; Rock Me Baby; Yes Please and Song’s of Freedom

Learn more about LaRhonda Steele on her website and on Instagram.


The Mayor of Northeast Portland & Owner of The Cotton Club and Geneva’s

The Original Northwest “Boogie Cat” and 2011 Oregon Music Hall of Fame Inductee


Darlene Solomon-Rogers aka Blacque Butterfly is a native Oregonian, born and raised in NE Portland. She is a spoken word artist, singer, songwriter, entertainer and activist. Her love for the arts has allowed her to explore several layers of her calling, be it spoken word, motivational speaking, singing, theater, event planning or promoting. 

Blacque Butterfly has shared stages with national recording artists from Raheem Devaughn to Dead Prez to Peter Yarrow. Her mission is to make good music and elevate her audience to a higher level of consciousness. She is the author of “Black girl can I comb your hair” and selected poetry. She has two spoken word CDs to her credit, Collide-A-Scope and SoulWarrior; both are available on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal, and other digital platforms. Blacque Butterfly promotes and showcases local and national talent through her events Blacque Butterfly Presents and her podcast On The Fly with Blacque Butterfly. She is the featured RACE TALKS Living Icons Series host and consultant. 

Learn more about Blacque Butterfly on social media.


This is a fundraiser event for RACE TALKS! We provide monthly in-person and virtual community programming that focuses on building community through educational events and facilitated dialogue. Help keep our programming free and reduced. 

There are three ways to support us: 


Your donations support RACE TALKS programming including our LIVING ICONS Series, RACE TALKS monthly forums, and conversation series. Become a monthly patron or contribute to our community supported ticket program. 


Our sponsors fund special programming like the LIVING ICON Series and RACE TALKS Black Drag PDX. Help keep the lights on and our RACE TALKS programming accessible to all.


Complete this volunteer form. This is a great way for Queer white folx to participate and support the event.



McMenamins History 
Our goal is to keep the past in the present, to celebrate and connect us all with the people and events that have helped define each McMenamins property. To that end, we research, interview and compile materials to identify and commemorate our properties and their surroundings.

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Promo Images

Event Poster

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