Black influencers reflect on difficult visits to Oregon and other parts of the Northwest

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Anthony and Marlie Love are the creators of “Traveling While Black in Seattle”. They recently visited Portland.

courtesy of Anthony and Marlie Love

When Anthony and Marlie Love moved to Seattle in 2019, they knew they wanted to explore their new home. The Loves left the Midwest and were unsure how they would be treated as black people as they explored unfamiliar neighborhoods in Seattle and other places in the Pacific Northwest.

“We didn’t really know which places we would feel most comfortable in,” Marlie Love said.

After a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, the couple decided to create “Traveling Black in Seattle“, a YouTube channel that rates different destinations based on several criteria, including the welcome that black people can feel when they go there.

The Loves recently documented their trip to Portland. While the city got generally high marks, the Loves didn’t give Portland the highest comfort rating.

When a person of color visits a new place and doesn’t see a lot of diversity, Marlie Love said it can create a feeling of “unease”, which she says stayed with them during their short visit to the most big city in Oregon.

Their live with the city of Forks, Washington, however, fares much worse.

Forks was the setting for the young adult romance novel “Twilight” and its sequels. But in recent years, the city and county have also been the scene of racial controversy. In 2020, locals took a bus occupied by a family of campers of various races as antifa. Residents questioned the family in a grocery store parking lot and while trying to leave their camping area, the family was blocked by downed trees.

And when the Loves recently visited, they too didn’t feel safe in town.

“It sounds weird to say, but I’m grateful for the experience,” Anthony Love said. “Because it kind of tested Marlie and me, for lack of better words, ‘social experiment’.”

“Everyone stopped, looked at us, stared at us,” he said. “And not curious looks, but dangerous looks.”

The couple felt so uncomfortable that they slept with a chair blocking their bedroom door and left early in the morning. After posting about the experience, followers agreed that the city may leave some feeling unwelcome.

“I also agree that Forks is not worth the trip,” YouTube user Mealani Kotomaimoce said in the comments to the post. “Everyone who worked in the stores didn’t seem happy to see my Asian friend and I walking around their stores. I can certainly understand how uncomfortable you felt in this town.

While car travel is more common today, it was in the 1930s that car access became more widely available to many Americans.

With the growing popularity of road trips, Victor Hugo Green, a black postman, created the The Negro Motorist’s Green Book, a travel guide that has helped black travelers safely navigate all parts of the United States. Marlie Love’s grandmother had a copy. In fact, the idea for the Loves’ current YouTube channel was inspired by the Green Book.

And in central Oregon, the state history of racism is always palpable, as one influencer learned. Nelson Holland is an outdoor enthusiast and social media influencer. His Tik Tok account, “Big, Black and Gettin’ It” documents his adventures exploring nature and showcases the inclusive side of hiking.

Holland visited Bend to work with Jenny Bruso, the founder of “Unlikely Hikersduring a photo shoot with Eddie Bauer.

After picking up groceries on his way to dinner, Holland said someone called him a racial slur while crossing the street. He posted the experience in line.

“That’s when I discovered a lot of problematic things that happened in the region,” he said. “At that time, my followers and my friends let me know that ‘yes, you are in a problem area and you need to stay safe and let people know where you are. “”

Holland learned of various incidents that occurred in Bend. Last year, Barry Washington Jr., who was black and unarmed, died after being shot by Ian MacKenzie Cranston, who is white. The incident happened after Washington complimented Cranston’s fiancée at a nightclub.

Related: Barry Washington Jr. shooter will be jailed until trial

More recently, black students have been called racial epithets and some students quit full-time in-person instruction because of it.

After Holland’s experience, he discussed the incident with Bruso and the other hikers.

“They transformed my headspace so I could just enjoy the day hiking with them,” he said.

Holland had mixed feelings about returning to Oregon after the incident. But due to the support he received, he said he would return but not without guarantees.

“I definitely wouldn’t drive,” he said. “I wanted to do a road trip there, but I don’t think I would. And I would only go with a local who knows the area well.

Nelson Holland and Anthony and Marlie Love spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller about their experiences:

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