Mitchell S. Jackson — Notes from the Other America
In the 1980's, Northeast Portland was a black neighborhood hustling to survive. Today, it's full of pilates studios and handlebar moustaches. As a writer, professor, and former inmate, Mitchell S. Jackson has lived in and learned from both worlds. In SURVIVAL MATH, he puts the pieces together.
An open letter to Markus, the first black American to live—and immediately die—on Oregon soil.
"Nobody gets a pass. And everybody gets a pass. If you take a broad look at anyone's circumstances, it's hard to convict them of just being a terrible person."
"Portland's a utopia now…but I wonder if they know what it cost?"
Mitchell and Jason in-studio, taken by Mitchell’s son, Jayden
We’re all living inside concentric circles of private and public, inner and outer. From the time we’re small we start to understand that these circles aren’t always friendly to one another. There’s friction at their borders. The stuffed bunny that keeps your heart whole gets you tormented at school. The people you love most don’t look or sound like the cool people on TV. And neither do you. This is true to some extent for all of us, but if you’re growing up black in the other America—the one where everyday life is full of the kinds of experiences that keep cable news commentators shaking their heads 24/7—the friction is something else entirely. Can you own your own life—the places and the people you love—while striving to be part of a world that created the conditions it judges them for? Can you live in both places at once?
These are some of the questions at the heart of the project that is SURVIVAL MATH: NOTES ON AN ALL-AMERICAN FAMILY. In these lyrical and meticulous essays, Mitchell S. Jackson tries to wrap his mind around his own coming of age in Portland, looking with relentless honesty—and above all, love—at the frictions at the heart of his America, his family, and himself.