The Story of US

A note from Joinery owner Jon Blumenauer

In late January 2017, I was returning from a meeting with leaders of other Portland-area B Corps. It was a volatile time for our community and, I believe historians will someday agree, our country. Donald Trump had just been sworn in after one of the most divisive elections in our history, and emotions were raw.

I don’t remember much about what we discussed in that meeting. But I do remember wishing what we had talked about instead: at a time of great uncertainty and fear, how can like-minded businesses get together to support one another and stand up for our core values, which appeared to be under attack? Particularly galling to me was the demonization of immigrants that Trump made a centerpiece of his campaign.

I mentioned this to Amy Prosenjak, the President of A to Z Wineworks, who was also at the meeting. She invited me to come out to the winery to meet with her and Sam Tannahill, one of A to Z’s founders, to talk about it further. While there are many worthy areas of policy to champion, the immigration issue was important to us because it cuts straight to the core of who we are as people, which is always reflected by how we treat others.

Never mind that virtually all Americans are immigrants. Never mind that the rhetoric, aside from being mean-spirited, was simply incorrect; never mind that the “policy” being championed was impractical and counterproductive. These are academic arguments. And that is not to say that academic arguments are not important – after all, immigration policy is complex, and well-intentioned people can come to support different approaches.

But this is about something much more real, much more tangible. It is simply this: How do we treat one another?

We resolved a couple of things in our discussion on that beautiful day overlooking the vineyards. One was to actively search out ways to partner with local businesses that share the same values to strengthen one another. Great intentions are meaningless without the ability to follow through on them. And in the case of small local companies, that means our businesses must remain strong to provide the jobs, stability, financial resources and bandwidth to focus on other things.

The other was to tell the story of how immigrants, particularly recent ones, contribute mightily to our communities.

Fast forward to June 2018 and the release of US, a compilation of immigrant stories from Portland-area B Corps. US profiles fourteen immigrants from countries across five continents.

US book

The original goal was to highlight commonalities with those profiled in the book. We hoped to provide insight into their unique experiences while also showing the true human element of their stories. Throughout the interview process, our assumptions were constantly challenged, and we were inspired to share the discussions we were having in hopes that the book could be used as an engagement tool to possibly help shift the way people think about the immigrant community.

We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of members of B Local PDX and an amazing group from the Portland creative community who brought this project to fruition entirely on volunteer time. These include Neil Kelly, A to Z Wineworks, Nossa Familia, MMercer Consulting, Bamboo Sushi, and The Joinery's own Kelsey Moody; photographers Kim Oanh Nguyen, Meghan Paddock Farrell, and Nino Ortiz; Lacy Cagle of the NW Earth Institute; Visible, Tré Seals of Vocal Type, Kristin Howe Wilson, and Scout Book’s Equity Alliance, which donated printing for the first round of books.

The collaboration of all who gave their time and resources made the book's creation even more meaningful and we are grateful to have worked with such an amazing team of people. Most of all, we want to thank the participants in this book and those who interviewed them. Their willingness to share their personal stories with us is what made this book a reality.

US book preview

The response to the project has been so strong that we have ordered more books to be offered for sale online and in our stores for $12. All profits will be donated to the Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association (OHCIA), which provides language training and valuable job skills to immigrant and refugee communities, while increasing access to health care for non-English speakers.

The Joinery is hosting a party to celebrate the book on September 18 at our Yamhill Showroom. Details will follow, and we hope you will join us. In the meantime, I hope you will consider buying a copy of the book to support the effort towards a kinder, more welcoming nation. After all, "they" are US.

US Book Breakout session

The Joinery’s Kelsey Moody presenting US at the B Corp BLD Conference in June 2018

Photos by Megan James

US Book breakout session at BDL

BLD Conference participants engaging in discussion.