Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas
Political affiliation: Democrat
Favorite politicians: Barack Obama and Bill Clinton
Hobbies: Playing piano and playing basketball
Favorite book: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
What was it like coming to a new school in a new city?
I knew moving here that it was going to be much better than what I was leaving behind. When I got on the plane, and it took off, I said, “What’s next?”
In what way did you think it would be better in Portland?
I thought there would be more opportunities to be around a more culturally diverse city. I know a lot of people of color in Portland have said it’s very Caucasian here. But from where I’m coming from, it’s more culturally diverse. For example, I went into a Cold Stone Creamery, and there was a white lady with a burqa on. You don’t see that back home.
What was it like in Kansas?
I lived in a pretty rough neighborhood, and the schools were known for being very bad … when I was in sixth grade, my mother took me out of school and homeschooled me.
How was that?
It was rough the first three years until eighth grade because everybody that I knew in the neighborhood was going to regular school. It helped me in the end because I was able to develop my own personality and not have to conform to what everybody else was doing. I could be myself.
What did you spend your time doing back home?
One year, my mom bought season tickets to the Kansas City Chiefs, and we went to games for a while. More recently, I was involved in two campaigns. I was involved in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and then there was an African-American minister who was running for district attorney.
What was it like participating in these campaigns?
I mostly just canvassed and handed out flyers. I belong to this church denomination called the Church of God, so I would go to those churches and say, ‘Hey have you heard about this guy Mark Dupree, he’s running for district attorney.’ And then with the Hillary campaign it was a lot less impactful because I was just going around knocking on doors.
How did you get interested in politics?
My grandmother used to tell me a lot about her father who was involved with the Brown v. Board of Education case. That sort of inspired me to want to be involved in legal matters and politics. And then my mom’s dad was an attorney and a commissioner and a city councilman in Kansas. He got a letter in 1965 from President Johnson congratulating him for being a black legislator. He was very influential in fighting for African Americans and the rights of minorities. When I was 5, I went to Topeka where they tried to enroll Linda Brown, and so they had this big event for the 50th anniversary and President Bush came. Right after that, President Reagan died, and I watched a lot of his funeral, so I kind of got into politics then.
So do you want to go back to Kansas?
I’m thinking about it. Even though I talk bad about Kansas to a lot of my classmates, there’s still a lot of people there that want me to succeed, and I really appreciate that.
Do you see yourself getting into politics in the future?
Well, I want to start off as an attorney, and then I want to seek a local office somewhere. I feel like what’s being done here needs to be done where I’m from because there are schools that are not integrated. The worst school in our district is over 85 percent minority. That’s my roots in Kansas City.
Do you plan on getting involved in politics here in Portland?
Yeah, I just haven’t called the Hillary people yet, but I plan on definitely being involved in this campaign. I can’t let someone like Donald Trump become president without me being involved in trying to stop him in some way. I think that’s my duty as a citizen. ◆