12 Must-See BIPOC Portland Family Artists

Children of all races deserve to see themselves and each other represented in the media they enjoy. All kids benefit from diverse creative role models. Fortunately for Portland parents, our town is home to many outstanding family artists of color. Some speak explicitly about race in their art, while others weave in messages of inclusion. All create joyful experiences for families of any background. Here are a few to follow:

Image courtesy Nikki Brown Clown

Nikki Brown Clown, aka Nikki Brown, is Portland’s preeminent Black clown and literacy advocate. While living in Chico the past few years, she maintained a consistent local presence. Luckily for us, she moved back to Portland last fall. Nikki will close out Juneteenth Oregon’s parade on June 18, then lead Good in the Hood’s parade and kid zone on June 25.

Image courtesy Aaron Nigel Smith

Aaron Nigel Smith is an acclaimed reggae artist, music teacher, and nonprofit leader. Smith received a Grammy nomination last December for All One Tribe, an album featuring 26 Black artists from around the country. Watch the Grammy’s on Sunday, April 3, to cheer for Smith and the 1 Tribe Collective, and look for Smith & Yarn, his  reggae-country collab with Red Yarn, coming Friday, April 29.

Image courtesy Karen Kitchen

Karen Kitchen is an educator and singer from the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. Since retiring from Portland Public Schools’ Indian Education Program, she’s been performing Native songs and stories under her own name and with her duo, the Prairie Blossoms. She has offered online Native Story Hours throughout the pandemic at Multnomah County Library, with the next virtual event on Wednesday, April 20. 

Image courtesy Hi Joe Kye!

Hi Joe Kye! is the kindie side of violinist/looper/vocalist Joe Kye. Kye contributes music to The Woori Show, a Korean-American educational series with a second season coming in May. Meanwhile, Kye is creating the soundtrack for public artist Mike Bennett’s Dinolandia exhibit, opening on Tuesday, May 31. Kye has an album’s worth of kids songs recorded, so stay tuned!

Image courtesy Robbi Kumalo

Robbi Kumalo is a renowned singer and teaching artist who recently relocated to Portland. Living with multiple sclerosis, she has expanded her practice to include sound healing, wellness advocacy and gentler performances. She’s also on the Grammy -nominated album, All One Tribe, so root for her on Sunday, April 3! As the weather improves, she’ll offer pop-up experiences in parks. 

Image courtesy Angel Ocasio

Angel Ocasio is a physical comedian, ukulele player and esteemed graduate of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. He’s been “Clown Prince” of the Rose Festival since 2011, and tours the world with his hilarious shows. He’ll be at the Oregon Ag Fest on Saturday, April 23, Wilsonville Library on Thursday, June 23, and regional libraries throughout the summer. 

Image courtesy Chillin’ the Poet

Chillin’ the Poet, aka Montrell Goss, is a Portland-born writer who responded to his childhood reading struggles by dedicating his life to literacy. He published a kids’ book about his mascot character, Chillin’ the Courageous Coyote. Goss recently joined Young Audiences and is available for creative writing residencies. He also books appearances with his coyote sidekick. 

If you’re organizing an event, other great artists to contact include Habiba’s Village (Habiba Addo), who specializes in West African dance, music and storytelling; Alex Addy, who carries on his family’s Ghanaian drumming legacy; and Luciana Proaño, a Peruvian dancer and teaching artist. And catch beloved kids performers Oscar Murden of Micah & Me and Dingo Dizmal of Olive & Dingo rocking out around town. 

Let us know about other BIPOC family artists you recommend with a tag on Facebook or Instagram!

Andy Furgeson
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