We had the good fortune of connecting with Faith J. Wilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Faith J., we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I love to envision risk taking as the catalyst to my present existence. My Father often tells me that I “love to live life on the edge” for the simplest matters like bike riding 8 miles up Pacific Coast Highway solo but, in actuality he’s absolutely right. I battled a chronic illness for the majority of my 20’s, leaving me at times hopeless and unsure if my life would ever seem or feel normal. After several surgeries and treatments, I was healed and no longer bound by my health. From that moment, I promised myself to make up for all the years that were lost and to live life with no regrets. One year later, I packed my 2-door Chevy Camaro and, with the help of my brother and his best friend, I moved to Portland, Oregon, from Los Angeles. My intentions? Be the best “TT” to my nephews, niece and LIVE! With $175 to my name, I started working at LA Fitness one day after I moved, making the same amount of money I made at the job I left in Los Angeles, which was barely enough to maintain my current bills. Being a Kinesiology major, my heart was set on working within the Health and Sports Medicine realm. Before moving, I was applying for 20 jobs per day, mostly at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and various other health and fitness organizations. After 6 weeks, I got the job at OHSU! I knew my time at OHSU would be pivotal in my career and growth but, I had no idea how instrumental the lessons would be to the foundation of what was to come. Los Angeles is a pool of diversity. I went to diverse schools, lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood and had friends and acquaintances of all nationalities and backgrounds. Culturally speaking, I knew what I was getting into when moving to Portland but I was not at all ready for working in predominantly white spaces. I kept telling myself that I didn’t move to Portland for the people, I moved for family and that was my motivation. Everything else was secondary. A year after working at OHSU, I had a conversation with a coworker that completely changed my outlook on the dynamics of the Pacific Northwest. As someone who has traveled to different cities, it was hard to fathom the fact that some people have never left their home town or even state. That being the case, how could one experience any culture outside of their own? Knowing the racist past and present of Portland, that immediately sparked an idea to further the conversation. That idea birthed a concept I chose to pursue where perfect strangers come together to discuss cultural differences. WOKE PDX was born in the Spring of 2018. Myself and team of 7 curate immersive experiences that not only force individuals to have face to face conversations (something that’s so rare now) but it also pushes people to think outside of their own bubble. It allows myths and misconceptions to be dispelled, it develops cultural thinking, it allows individuals to break bread together, it builds community through compassion. WOKE is so many things. It is a constant reminder of the huge risk I took to start a non-profit, which was nowhere in my future five years ago. WOKE pushes me to continue taking risks and opportunities as they come. The continuous goal of WOKE is not to solve the world’s problems but, for participants to make progress by taking what they’ve learned back to their communities, jobs, families and everyday lives. Take risks. Go for it. Jump. Because greatness is waiting.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
WOKE PDX is groundbreaking because it pushes the cultural envelope. It challenges history and works towards navigating the present injustices that Black, Brown and all minorities face daily. WOKE forces you to keep evolving, no matter how uncomfortable the circumstances may be. WOKE doesn’t allow you to turn a blind eye, it makes you confront the issue head on. It forces you to speak up about racism, privilege, colorism, classism, police brutality, capitalism, inequities in healthcare and all other issues that plague our communities. I am where I am today due to trial and error. Due to making good and bad decisions. I glean from my failures because they have turned into success stories. Professionally, I have always led with opportunities that I know will force me to grow or increase my skills/knowledge. No matter how far I am stretched, I know the stretching is needed for the next level or challenge I will face. I’ve learned that change starts from within. I’ve learned to never take no for an answer. I’ve learned to be a voice and to stand tall in my beliefs. I choose to live in a “walk by Faith” mentality. All I need is Faith the size of a mustard seed and nothing will be impossible.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Portland is my current residence but LA will always be home! Let’s start with brunch at The Coffee Company in Westchester. The food, the people…the whole scene is a vibe. After brunch, it would be fun to pop into The Broad museum for modern art visuals and sights. The Broad’s life like pieces creates a colorful dimension of fantasy and reality. It’s never too early for a drink so the next spot, Twin Dragon on Pico is my favorite. I’m a November baby so it was my surprise to learn about their “Scorpion” drink, I’m normally a whiskey/bourbon kind of girl but this tall glass is filled with gin, brandy and rum. AMAZING! My family means the world to me so a stop at Tia Sylvia’s is always a must. We’re Panamanian so any day of the week equals a party, some type of fried fish, oxtail, rice and peas or fried dough. The music and conversation are about the same in volume so it’s always fun yelling at each other for an hour or two. Gotta love family. For a late dinner, Little Easy is a must. It’s a hidden New Orleans themed dive bar/restaurant tucked away on 5th street between Spring and Broadway. The food, the drinks and live music makes you feel like you’re sitting right on Bourbon street. Theres so much more to do in LA. For a week long trip, hiking one of the many scenic trails is a must, plus bike riding or walking along the sand in Long Beach, visiting the Grove, driving up and down Crenshaw, driving by Dorsey High to see how much has changed since my high school years, toasting to life on the rooftop (70 floors up) of the Intercontinental Hotel, hanging out in Carson with my family and best friends, going to the Fox Hills Mall, just because. The list goes on. Day trips to Santa Barbara and Palm Springs are a must. I love LA. I can’t forget about some of my local favorite eateries like Tumby’s, Fresh and Meaty, Howlin Rays, Simply Wholesome, MY PARENTS HOUSE!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people to recognize, my WOKE PDX team, Marcus, Morgan, Kan, Ashley W, Ashley C, Cici, Olyvia, my parents Donald and Elvia, my brother Donald and wife Alysha (nephews and niece Kaiden, Bailee and Kailer), my partner Justina, my best friends, Tramaine, Tonika and Cameren. My mentors Paula Litt and Maulana Karenga. ALL of my PNW networks and lastly my good friend Thuy. Thuy and I sat at her dining room table and planned out my plans for WOKE. Thuy encouraged me to jump when I doubted my Why. I have never doubted my Why since that moment. Now, it’s When?

Website: www.wokepdx.org

Instagram: @uneedfaith_ @wokepdx

Image Credits
Jason Hill Thuy Nethongkome Philly Rocket

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