“I’ve got my game face on trying to run this restaurant,” says Kiauna Floyd, owner of Amalfi’s Italian Restaurant on NE Fremont. A business-threatening pandemic coupled with mass protests has Floyd, a Black business owner, mentally and physically exhausted. But for the former collegiate athlete, wife, and mother of two, defeat is not an option.
Floyd took over the family-owned Italian trattoria, which has served Portland for more than six decades, in 2006. As she tries to keep Amalfi’s afloat, Floyd has also been grappling with how to protect and empower her two children at home: “My husband and I have started to talk with them about what’s going on and what they might have to deal with purely because of the color of their skin.”
For her daughter in particular, Floyd strives to set an example of what strength looks like. She’s always been inspired by Rosie the Riveter, the red bandana-wearing, muscle-flexing cultural icon from a WWII-era campaign that recruited women for factory jobs. “I want my daughter to see that Rosie the Riveter is in me, too,” Floyd says. With the challenges she now faces as a woman, a Black business owner, and a mother, Floyd says she feels more connected with Rosie than she ever has before.
About a month ago, she had a vision. Her inspiration from Rosie became something she wanted to share with not just her daughter but with Portland at large.
“I wanted Rosie the Riveter, I wanted her to have some color, and I wanted her to have some hoops,” Floyd says.
She brought her idea to Heart & Hustle Productions, a Black-owned digital production company based in Portland, which then contracted artist and designer Edmund “Mundo” Holmes to paint the mural on the western exterior wall of Amalfi’s. With a background in cartoon drawing and graffiti, Holmes was eager to take on the project. He saw it as an opportunity to visually represent women and people of color in Portland: “You don’t see women on walls all the time."
That all three parties involved in the project were people of color, as Floyd pointed out, made for a “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful collaboration.”
Floyd, Holmes, and Heart & Hustle Productions agreed that their reimagined version of Rosie should be energetic, something with “a lot of movement” and colors that pop, as Holmes put it, bringing her to life before you even approach her. In the center of what would become a nearly 20-foot-wide art piece, Rosie’s head towers higher than the restaurant’s door. The process was a lot quicker than Floyd originally anticipated, taking no more than a few weeks from start to finish. It was finished just in time for Multnomah County’s Phase 1 reopening, the first time Amalfi’s would open to the public in months—and, serendipitously, on Juneteenth. (The restaurant is doing takeout, plus outdoor dining and live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.)
When you look at the mural, titled “PDX Rosie,” Floyd says she hopes it conveys a multiplicity of meanings. As the caption on Amalfi's Instagram page reads:
“PDX Rosie represents the strength, independence, and worth of women. Given the racial, social, and political climate we find ourselves in, PDX Rosie can symbolize many things to many people. Our intention is that she’s received with love and respect. She serves the community as well as her race. I hope she inspires you as she has inspired me.”