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Interview with Kathleen Saadat by Cameron Chambers on March 2, 2010 in Portland, Oregon.

Kathleen discusses how her family provided her with a tradition of camaraderie, social justice advocacy, and education. She also emphasizes how her diverse friendships and relationships opened her up to perspectives that had a great effect on her.


Kathleen Saadat is a mentor and activist in Portland who is perhaps best known for her work with the LGBTQ community. She is also politically engaged in activism for women’s rights, social justice, and racial equality.

She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1940, and graduated from Farragut High School in Chicago, Illinois, in 1957. Encouraged by friends and inspired by a visit to Oregon in 1967, Saadat moved to Portland from St. Louis in 1970, where she attended Reed College and graduated with a BA in Psychology in 1974.

In 1976, Saadat and six other activists organized Portland’s first gay rights march. She collaborated with Keeston Lowry to write Portland’s Civil Rights Ordinance, which prohibited public discrimination against sexual minorities. She also organized the group African Americans Voting No on [Measure] 9, a ballot measure which would have changed the Oregon constitution to ban civil rights protections based on sexual orientation, and served on the steering committee for the No on 9 campaign.

Saadat has held numerous positions with local and state agencies and community organizations, including Executive Director for the State of Oregon Commission on Black Affairs, Member and Co-Chair of the Portland Rainbow Coalition, Director of the Portland Urban League’s Youth Services, and Diversity Director for the Cascade AIDS Project. In 1987, she was appointed as Director of Affirmative Action for the state of Oregon. She also served as the assistant to Portland City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury in 1991-92.

[From a biographical essay by Rell Ohlson]


For more information on Kathleen Saadat please see the Black United Front Oral History digital exhibit.

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