If you had asked Chido Nmereole where he planned to be at two in the morning on a Saturday, he would have said at home, sleeping. Instead, he ended up in downtown Portland, witnessing his first protest and watching someone bash in the windows of Scotch & Soda. Looking around at all the broken glass, he remembered that he had a broom in his car.
He wore white coveralls to disguise himself from the police. “If I had shown up in regular clothes, the police would’ve seen me and they would have fired off, no problem.” He cleaned for six hours, had a whole conversation with a police officer before revealing to her that he was not, in fact, a city worker and was given a hundred dollars by a stranger after he observed Nmereole clean up a Starbucks.
But he was never there for the money. All he wanted was to make an impact. “When you impact the community, the community impacts you back.”
If you’ve been an active participant in the Portland Black Lives Matter movement, you likely know about Chido Nmereole, the 23-year-old creator of Project Floyd, a movement that cleans up the aftermath of Portland protests. In the beginning, he was out there every night, risking getting tear gassed, flash banged, arrested, all so he could clean up his streets. Now, weeks later, the police know who he is and leave him be, and he has several helpers.
For Nmereole, it’s about leaving a mark on his community. To him, helping others is what matters most. “If you can go ahead and impact that person, that smile you get from them is worth more than any million dollar check,” he says. “Money grows on trees, but time doesn’t.”
To him, community means “help.” People who help each other. Growing up in Southeast before moving to Gresham as a teenager, Nmereole’s community has always been Portland. His hope for the community, once the protests die down, is that people do not forget what has happened here. That “we have a sense of kinship because that’s what really builds a community. It’s not a color, it’s not the color of your skin, it’s what’s within.”