Justice Adrienne Nelson

At the Portland Business Journal Power Breakfast last week, Justice Adrienne Nelson took to the stage as the main event. Appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in January 2018, she is the first African-American to sit on our highest court.

Justice Nelson, who’s been open with the racism she experienced growing up, (read our 2017 interview with her here) is widely known throughout the city for her extensive community work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In a conversation between her and PBJ editor Suzanne Stevens, Nelson covered a wide range of topics from the state of American politics (“We’ve been through worse and we will come out on the better side”) to her whitewater rafting trip with the Freshwater Trust (“I don’t like camping!”). 

On the relationship between communities of color and the legal system here:
“I think it’s evolving….but we went from having two black judged in 2016 to now having six. We need to make the legal system live up to the promises they espouse.”

On her momentous appointment to the state Supreme Court:
“When this state was founded in 1859, I couldn’t spend the night here without being lashed. Now I sit on the court overlooking our constitution.”

On companies working on their diversity and inclusivity initiatives:
“Make a space for their values, not yours. If you’re going to value us, it might need to make you uncomfortable.”

On America’s creation:
“The founding fathers were not thinking about me. Not as a woman or as a person of color. But think how much I’ve enriched this country.”

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