TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Activist Cameron Whitten spoke to supporters in July 2012 after his nearly two-month hunger strike to protest the treatment of Portland's homeless people. Whitten was named this week the new executive director of Know Your City.Portland activist Cameron Whitten has been named the new executive director of Know Your City, a group that supports regional arts, civic engagement programs and hosts tours of Rose City neighborhoods and landmarks.

Board Chairman Benjamin Gerritz said Whitten’s hiring fulfilled the group’s desire for an executive director “with lived experience of racism and economic inequality in Portland — someone who understands why our mission of combining the arts and social justice is so vital.”

Whitten succeeds interim Executive Director Amanda Tillstrom, who also served the organization as programming coordinator for the past three years.

Whitten, 24, who begins his new job Monday, Nov. 9, said he was “excited” to work for the group and hoped to expand its programs and impact on local issues.

“Since I first came to Portland at the age of 18, I’ve been inspired by the active civic culture of our community,” Whitten said in a Wednesday, Nov. 4, annoucement. “However, I’ve also seen how things like poverty, racism and sexism have created barriers to prosperity for all people. I’m thrilled to work with Know Your City, because we know it takes bold creativity to inspire community-led action. I have a good feeling that 2016 is a turning point, where Portlanders will mobilize together and say ‘enough.’ I’m definitely ready to help make that happen.”

Whitten joined the Occupy Portland movement in October 2011, camping for nearly 40 days in two downtown Portland parks across the street from City Hall. He was arrested four times during that tumultuous protest that was eventually cleared by police in a late-night push.

In 2012, Whitten embarked on a two-month hunger strike to protest the city’s treatment of homeless people. It ended when the mayor’s office agreed to work on the issue.

That same year, Whitten was a candidate for mayor.

Gerritz said Whitten’s background in nonprofit administration and political advocacy “has leveraged his mission in life — civic empowerment and justice for all people.”

Whitten has worked with local civic organizations, including the Bus Project, the Urban League and the City Club of Portland. He also serves on the board of trustees for Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Multnomah County Oregon Historical Society Levy Oversight Committee, the Bureau Advisory Committee for the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Advocacy and Awareness Board for the City Club of Portland.

Whitten has been a Know Your City board member since May 2013. He has been board president since January 2014.

Whitten is in his final year of a bachelor’s program in economics at Portland State University.

Know Your City will host a welcome party for Whitten, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 30, at Center for Intercultural Organizing, 700 N. Killingsworth St.

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