Play Room October 2017

Take Five: Charles McGee

As president and CEO of the Black Parent Initiative (BPI), Charles McGee, a Northeast father of two, has made it his mission to build community and offer education and support for parents of color. His organization currently serves about 1,000 parents and children a year. (Learn more at We spoke with him about the resources BPI offers parents and why talking about race matters.


Q: So you founded BPI in 2006 at age 19, before you even had kids. What drove you to do that?

A: So I had just run for the Portland School Board and it was the same time that there was a ton of research being released around the most impactful ways to close the achievement gap. And it really became clear through the research, and common sense, that family/parental engagement was one of the greatest predictors of high school completion. But when you look at kids who come from poor families and families of color, we saw that their parents were always the last ones to be engaged.

Q: What resources does BPI offer families?

A: We do home visiting, we have doula services, we work with families during the first 1,000 days of life, we have Parent University classes, we have people helping folks with jobs.

Q: What are your measures of success?


A: We focus on five broad outcomes: Positive African cultural identity, empowerment and community connection; family health and wellness, especially in regards to birth outcomes and nutrition; family stability, including stable housing, employment and training; positive parenting to enhance parent-child attachment and overall child development, especially in early childhood.

Q: Portland certainly lacks diversity. Why is African American community building especially important here?

A: We know that race is a human-made construct, and we know that there are actually few things that separate us, but the history of this country dictates that there are things that come with being black and parents have to prepare their children for that reality … and also that they come from greatness. The history of black people does not end or begin with slavery. The reality is that black folk in this country have seen darker and worse times. If you are a black person who has been in this country for three or four generations, your family made it through the Maafa, (the passage between the Africas and the “new world”). And if you made it through that, you can make it through anything — and that is the story we have to tell our children.

Q: Is there anything you would tell white parents about how they could be true allies to families of color?

A: We’ve got to get white people uncomfortable being white. We live in perhaps one of the most liberal and progressive communities in the country and yet when you look at health outcomes and education outcomes and economic outcomes [for children of color], things are still pretty bad. My hope is that white parents have really dynamic conversations with their children about the role of whiteness and privilege. Secondly, have a conversation about our responsibility to ensure that the least among us have something. And that you ensure that your race does not become the barrier. And lastly, the part about getting white people uncomfortable with being white is getting white people to own some of their deeper lineage themselves … to own the legacy and the institutions and the dark hours of this country. And we have to recognize while there is hope and optimism and there is great potential, that we’ve gotta work. It took us years to get here and it will take us years to get
— Denise Castañon

Good Deeds: Soccer Is Universal

Youth soccer is a certified big deal in Portland these days, and that often comes with a hefty price tag, including team fees, gear, equipment and getting to games all over the region. And that’s a barrier for kids whose families are new to Portland, who are refugees or immigrants looking for a way to connect with their new community. Soccer is common ground, though, a beautiful game that’s played and understood worldwide, no language necessary. Enter 4 Worlds United, a local nonprofit that’s seeking to break down barriers to youth soccer for this group of kids. You can volunteer to drive kids to their soccer practices and games (and meet some new friends along the way), or sign up for regular pickup games in local parks during the summertime. Your own kids are welcome, just make sure to sign up, via Hands On Portland, as a volunteer team. Prepare to get smoked — a lot of the kids bring some serious skills — and help them learn English as you play. More info at — Julia Silverman

TOP 5 …Places to Play Games

➊ Game Knight Lounge on North Williams smartly combines beer and a vast library of board games — and has a munchkin menu for the littlest gamers. (Read a full review in our November issue!) ➋ Cozy Red Castle Games on Southeast Foster hosts Pokémon open houses every Sunday, starting at noon. ➌ The Game Lodge has events every night for board game fans in Tigard and Beaverton. ➍ Visit Off the Charts Games in Gresham for open game nights on Wednesdays and Fridays. ➎ Guardian Games in inner Southeast Portland is for the hard core role-playing gamers in your family. — J.S.

We Recommend

Get your little scientists busy creating large salt crystals, mimicking caldera formations with a soufflé, or whipping up magnetic slime from the projects in the new book Geology Lab for Kids, from author and rock lover Garret Romaine of Beaverton, a board member of the Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro. — D.C.

Getaway: Sporty Seattle

People in Seattle sure do love their teams. On a recent trip to the Emerald City, we saw more “12th man” jerseys than we could shake a stick at. If NBA basketball is your game, you’re better off staying in town. (Go Blazers!) But a balmy evening at SafeCo Field to see the Mariners (their season wraps this month, but April 2018 will be here before you know it) or a jaunt to CenturyLink Field to see the Seahawks can be a memorable family outing.

Some advice:

• Consider taking an Amtrak up to Seattle, and public transportation when you get there. You’ll be happy to have avoided the notorious traffic backups on I-5 and around the city. There’s a convenient stadium stop on the city’s high-speed rail line.

• Buy your souvenirs, team gear, etc. outside the park. Occidental Avenue S. between SafeCo and CenturyLink is a pedestrian-only zone, filled with gear shops.

• Feast on Asian fare at the nearby Uwajimaya Supermarket before making your way on foot to the game to avoid sky-high prices and long lines for stadium food.

• Don’t miss the kids’ zones in both stadiums. Register your kids in advance for the Mariners’ Kids Club and they’ll get a free backpack, wiffle ball, photo ID on gameday and a high likelihood of encountering the Mariners Moose. Mini-football fans can try kicking a three-pointer and running the 40-yard dash at the Touchdown Zone inside CenturyLink before kickoff. — J.S.

Gear Guide: Rain Stoppers

Don’t let the rain and mud prevent your kids from playing outside! These rain suits and pants let kids keep exploring while staying dry. Pro tip: Pack rain pants for your kids when you hit pumpkin patches, which are notoriously muddy right around Halloween.

Columbia Sportswear Youth Cypress Brook II Pants These lightweight, waterproof pants with an elastic waist are easy to pull on and off, perfect for our ever-changing fall weather. Sizes XXS to XL. $36. 911 SW Broadway.

Tuffo Muddy Buddy This is a must-have for PDX toddlers! Two zippers make for easy diaper changes, roomy sizing allows you to layer underneath (and use for more than one year), and durable, waterproof fabric means you can hand it down to a younger sibling. $36.95. Sizes 12 months to 5T. In yellow, pink, blue, red and camouflage. (Pro tip: Check for discounted prices.)

REI Co-op Kids’ Rainwall Rain Pants Waterproof, breathable and windproof, these pants will stand up to serious gusts on the trail or puddles in the neighborhood. Sizes XS to XL. $49.50. 12160 SE 82nd Ave. and 1405 NW Johnson St. — D.C.

Kids to Know: The News Crew

Should you happen to live on a one-block stretch of SE Oak Street in Portland, you already know all about The Oak Street Reporter — heck, you are probably a charter subscriber, or perhaps even a patron. For the rest of us, though — well, you’re in for a treat. Two local seventh graders are the editors, and the chief reporter is in second grade for this online-only, weekly report about the doings in their hood. No news is too big or too small, from speed bumps being put in on nearby 28th Avenue to a report on a successful garage sale and its sold-out lemonade stand. The hottest scoop to date? Vandalism on their street, says the staff — car windows were smashed, but nothing was stolen. The three kids behind the Oak Street Reporter — Anmol Patel, Sita Niemann and Cian McKeown — have big plans, from their recently launched podcast to building their Instagram presence. Their advice to other budding journos: “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and take yourself seriously. But make sure you have fun.” Share this one with your kids, and just maybe they’ll be inspired to start their own neighborhood chronicle. Find them at — J.S.

Playlist: Swing in Your Step

Jazzy Ash’s fourth album for kids, Swing Set, struts out with all the vibrancy of a New Orleans second line. The album features a set of classic tunes and playground rhymes that have been around for decades, or even centuries. As a child, Jazzy Ash spent her summers with family in New Orleans and her love of the city and its rich musical traditions are apparent in tracks Eh La Bas and When the Saints Go Marching In. (Side note: My 2-year-old son sings along to Eh La Bas with a perfect French accent.) It may be scientifically impossible to not start shimmying along to Jazzy Ash’s versions of Li’l Liza Jane, Sister Kate or Miss Mary Mack. Listening to Swing Set may make you start looking at plane tickets to New Orleans. — D.C.

Ask Dr. Corey

Q: My 7-year-old is still regularly wetting his pants (and the bed). Should we see a specialist?

A: Wetting accidents are fairly common in children, and twice as common in boys as girls, but also can present significant social and emotional challenges for kids and families. These challenges can get more difficult as the child ages.

The most common type of wetting accident is isolated bedwetting and affects anywhere between 7 and 16 percent of children between 5 and 8 years old. Interestingly, there seems to be a genetic component, meaning that bedwetting can run in families.

The presence of daytime symptoms does not necessarily indicate a problem and can affect up to 20 percent of children who also have bedwetting accidents. However, daytime urinary accidents are typically a reason to have a more in-depth discussion with your child’s health care provider.

Most of the time, particularly for isolated night-time wetting, the best cure is time. There are a variety of moisture-sensing alarms available and other strategies to speed the process along, but in my experience these aren’t usually very successful. There is a medication option you can discuss with your child’s physician that may be appropriate, depending on the circumstances. This medication is called DDAVP and doesn’t fix the wetting accidents, it just helps control symptoms. But it can make social interactions like overnight camps and sleepovers easier to navigate.

With daytime symptoms, particularly frequent symptoms, it’s a good idea to rule out factors that may be making the problem worse, like constipation. A consultation with your child’s health care provider should yield some strategies to help with the accidents and bring some relief to your child and the family. Thanks for a great question!

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