Welcome to Portland Monthly’s “Ripping the City”, a new series that highlights interesting Portlanders doing interesting things in the community, and offers their insights on the city they call home. This week: NFL Player/Big Yard Foundation Founder/President Brennan Scarlett.
Born and raised in the Rose City, Brennan Scarlett will be the first to tell you about how important it is for kids to have a strong support system. The 28-year-old NFL player—currently with the Miami Dolphins—credits his family for providing him with the tools to succeed on (and off) the field. A few years ago, while reflecting on his journey, the Holy Redeemer and Central Catholic alum came to realize every child isn’t so lucky. “It was important for me to go back into my community to provide the same type of privilege, support, encouragement, inspiration, and all these things that helped me live out my dreams, to some of the youth in our city that maybe aren't necessarily born into to cultivate that,” Scarlett says.
So in 2018 , he created Big Yard Foundation, a non-profit that aims to support community empowerment, lessen neighborhood tensions, and combat community deterioration through initiatives focused on education, creativity, and wellness development. Since its start, Scarlett and his Big Yard team have organized book fairs in partnership with Portland elementary schools, hosted football camps, and staged an annual art fundraiser to highlight local and national Black artists.
We caught up with Brennan to learn about some of his favorite places in Portland and his outlook on the future of the city.
Where's one place in the city you can go to get inspired/clear your mind and why?
I've just recently started to hike. I’m living in Northwest now, so I love to hike the Wildwood Trail. I’ll also go down on 23rd and hang out at a coffee shop like Coffee Time. They have a library vibe with rooms in the back and a bunch of old school lamps. Another thing I’ve been doing lately is a tour of high schools when I go to do my workouts once or twice a week. I’ve visited Lake Oswego High School, Southridge, and Catlin Gabel just recently. It’s been cool to see different parts of the city that I’ve never really spent much time in.
What's your go-to restaurant to take out-of-towners?
Toki. They have good chicken wings, dumplings, and a bao burger that’s crazy. I took my mom there for brunch, which really doesn’t count as an out-of-town guest, but she loved it.
What's one of the most slept on shops/businesses in Portland?
There's a little vintage shop up in St. John's called Hound and Hare Vintage. It’s ran by a really nice lady who handpicks her collection. She has a lot of 70’s-inspire things, old leather jackets, and trinkets. Another slept-on spot is Tienda Santa Cruz in North Portland on Lombard—it’s the best Mexican restaurant in the city. You know it’s got to be good if the restaurant is in the back of the grocery store.
What's one misconception people have about Portland?
I think since 2020, people now have this perception that Portland is a really violent city, and that there’s a lot of chaos out here. That’s the complete opposite from the truth. I personally think Portland is one of the most peaceful and inspiring cities. It’s also one of the best places for people to cultivate creativity and happiness.
What excites you most about the future of the city?
I think that we have a lot of people doing a lot of great work around the community, and working towards making Portland a great city and a better place to live; better than it already is. I think that there's a lot of talent here and a lot of creative individuals who are going the extra mile to make Portland a place that they'd be proud to call home.
Define Portland in three words.
Inspiring. Beautiful. Creating.
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