Cameron Whitten–a 30-year-old activist known for his involvement in environmentalism, the fight for social justice, and advocating for affordable housing–is this month’s mogul spotlight for his influence and contributions to his community.
A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Whitten grew up just outside of Washington D.C. however his life in Virginia was not a safe nor a content one. In his own words, “As a child, my home life was filled with emotional and physical abuse. The pain I experienced at a young age felt like a crushing weight on my aspirations and self-confidence.” This eventually led to Whitten’s move to Portland, Oregon in 2009 where at age 18, he experienced homelessness and found himself searching for an opportunity to define his own future.
Despite this disadvantaged position, Whitten fell in love with Portland and was even eventually able to enroll at Portland Community College, “Even as a queer, homeless, Black kid— I found a level of safety and acceptance here that I never had in my childhood.”
INTRODUCTION TO THE POLITICAL WORLD
His engagement in his community began at age 20 when he became involved with the Occupy Portland movement–a mass protest against economic equality. His involvement with the coalition was shown from the beginning and he even camped for 38 days of the occupation, proving his passion for the movements he has and continues to participate in.
Whitten’s activism for both social and economic equality and equity knows no bounds which can be demonstrated from his record of activism. He is most widely recognized for his reputation of being arrested four times during the course of his engagement in differing protests and his initiative to go on a hunger strike on the steps of City Hall to protest the housing crisis in Portland. He even ran for mayor of Portland in 2012 among a field of 23 applicants, running on a platform of environmental justice and inclusion. He was, unfortunately, not elected but Whitten does attribute his campaign to have “planted the seeds for me to grow up in Portland’s civic culture.”
Although his activism is clearly diverse, his multiple moments of advocacy in the LGBTQ+ community are often overlooked. In 2018 he became Interim Executive Director of Q Center allowing him to later lead the organization, in 2019, to an emergency town hall after multiple reports of perpetrated attacks against LGBTQ+ individuals in Portland were made. Whitten was also able to launch a finance campaign that raised $100,00 to renovate Q Center that same year.
Through his work with Q Center, and history in Oregon, Whitten has proven to himself to be a clear advocate for the people of Portland.
In 2020, Whitten stated he would be running for the position in District 5 on the Metro Council and resigned from Q Center to put his time and energy into his campaign. During his campaign, his platform mirrored his vision of a resilient future for all by focusing on creating a green future and providing a plan to address the housing crisis.
If Whitten had been elected onto the council, he would have been the first openly LGBTQ+ Black man elected official in Oregon but he did not win the majority vote. Currently, four out of six people on the council identify as women, and five out of six members on the council are white.
Before his candidacy in 2020 for Metro Council, Whitten founded a racial justice organization known as Brown Hope in 2018. According to his previous campaign page, “Cameron founded the racial justice nonprofit Brown Hope, whose mission is to lead community-grounded initiatives to make justice a lived experience for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in Oregon. The first event he organized, the Reparations Power Hour, put Portland in the international spotlight and sparked a region-wide conversation on reparations.” The organization continues to provide financial relief and reparations to ethnic and racial minorities as well as help Black, Brown, and Indigenous people build community in Portland.
Currently, Whitten continues to remain as both founder and CEO of Brown Hope, regularly attends presentations as a motivational speaker, and serves on the Board of Directors for Reach Community Development and Pioneer Courthouse Square, Inc.
Despite his early years of abuse and other troubles, his ambition, morals, and time in Portland have allowed him to rise from the ashes of his former life. His initiative to take up leadership roles and facilitate both organizations and protests in the name of social justice only continue to demonstrate his clear grounds as a model for community activism and involvement.