“We’re able to build out much more intricate programming with resources, so that’s profound for us.”
— Natalie Figueroa
In the summer of 2015, a community of creative of color came together to launch Y.G.B. (Young Gifted and Black/Brown) as an intentional community space by and for people of color.
Y.G.B. quickly grew to a team of six, the sweat-drenched dance parties with live performances and DJs swept Portland by surprise and, soon enough, more and more people showed up each month to various club venues eager to gather at the intersections of entertainment, art, accessibility, and social justice.
Natalie Figueroa, a Chicago-born Boricua, flexed her organizational chops to help collaborate and make the parties happen since day one, but in the years since originally launching, YGB has naturally shifted its focus away from nightlife and more towards uplift youth.
Because everybody has been working really hard to build community, a lot of the folks who were part of the original [group including Lamar LeRoy, Akela Jaffi, Vaughn Kimmons, and Renée Lopez] are glowing up,” she says proudly. And although Figueroa moved back to Chicago in August of 2017, she continues to spend time in Portland for two-week-stretches quarterly. While many of the collective’s members have moved on to focus on their blossoming creative endeavors, Y.G.B. has thrived with the addition of support from RaShaunda Brooks and Kristen Camacho who bring strengths in organization, curation, and fundraising.
Now they’re working on initiatives like Art Saved My Life, Y.G.A. (Young Gifted Artists), and many more opportunities for cross-country collaborations in music and film. “We’re able to build out much more intricate programming with resources, so that’s profound for us,” Figueroa says. “That’s where my heart lies in community work.”
Storyteller: Emilly Prado | Photos: Intisar Abioto