James Dixon has a lot of friends, and there’s a good reason for it. “It’s really important for people to connect,” he explains. “Say hello to a stranger and just make eye contact. Just get to know someone,” he finishes with a hint of exasperation.
You see, James’ job is to get to know people; to help people and be a true-blue community and cultural activist. “I’m a cultural activist and artistic ambassador for the Color of Now, which is a new organization that fosters community discussions around specific equity topics,” he says.
Fortunately, Portland is just the place for this type of work.
“Portland is quite a focal point,” he says. “There’s something about this place, it has a special energy.”
He pauses for a moment before continuing.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t have enough ethnic diversity, though that is changing as plenty of people of color venture to Portland,” he finishes.
A person of color venturing to Portland is something James knows quite well.
“I’m originally from Goldsboro, North Carolina,” he explains. “I entered the military at eighteen and left for quite some time, traveling the world with the military.”
Upon finishing his time in the service, James found himself in Portland, where he’s been for the past nine years, though recently he did try his luck in New York, of all places.
“I love how bustling New York is,” he says before reminding us that “it’s a very rough city, very difficult.”
After about a month in the Big Apple, James returned to the City of Roses, where he stepped right back into his community activism and work as an actor.
For almost five years James worked in IT at the Gerding Theater at the Armory, where his computer science degree came in handy. After quitting that job and moving to New York and back, James is focusing on where his true passion lies.
“I’m an actor, a working performer,” he says. “I have a radio show and I host events. I do voice overs and I model. I’m also a freelancer,” he says before mentioning that he is still looking for a full-time job, even as he books acting gigs.
Being an actor takes a certain amount of empathy. Artistic expression requires understanding and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, something James knows well.
“I’m all about supporting the underdog,” he asserts. “I can’t stand bullies and there’s a lot of bullying happening on the state and federal level right now. A lot of people don’t even realize it’s happening to them. A lot of my work is pointing out these things and trying to foster conversations around these things.”
Fostering conversations isn’t hard when you are as immersed in the community as James is. Having PDX People like him representing the needs of the underserved, and forcing the hard conversations, is exactly what Portland needs, and we thank him for it.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.