Photo: Avel and Faye at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center
Many unsung heroes have significantly contributed to the Portland African American community. We are honored to feature Faye Gordly Burch, a champion for minority businesses and political empowerment for people of color.
Early in her career Faye learned that the African American voice was a much-needed instrument of change. Although she did not serve as an elected official, her activism has had a far-reaching impact in the political advancement of Portland’s African Americans. Her political career was influenced by her parents, Fay Gordly and Beatrice Coleman Gordly, as well as by college activism at the University of Oregon and her early involvement with local organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League of Portland.
She began her political career with Senator Margaret Carter, the first African American woman elected to the Oregon House of Representatives. Together they introduced and passed the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Bill, and led groundbreaking initiatives such as divestment of state funds in South Africa and environmental legislation. She assisted Senator Bill McCoy, the first African American to serve in the Oregon Legislature, with the establishment of the Oregon Minority Women Emerging Small Business (OMWSBE) Program. Today, she remains a passionate advocate for support services to MWESB firms. Her first contract in business was with Prosper Portland to create a three-day opening for Walnut Park Plaza.
She served as the senior policy analyst for Governor Barbara Roberts’ full term from 1991-1995, and together they made several first opportunities happen in the community.
When the established women’s political groups were closed to women of color, Faye worked with the African American Leadership Conference to build a network of support for African American leaders and candidates for election. This group provided a platform for her sister Avel Louise Gordly to announce her candidacy for the Oregon Legislature and for Ed Washington to run for and serve on the Metro Council, the first and only African American to do so.
Faye’s and Avel’s childhood home, located within the heart of the African American community on Williams Avenue, now serves as the Gordly-Burch house. Prosper Portland celebrates Faye Burch and her contribution to economic prosperity and equity for all Portlanders.