PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – With violent crime on the rise in Portland, a local nonprofit says its work to support youth and young adults at risk is more important than ever.
Pride In Unity started in Los Angeles in 2017 and recently expanded to Portland. The goal of the organization is to increase self-esteem in children and young adults and help them achieve their goals.
Founder Damond Collier has said so often that children growing up in poor households lack resources and their difficult circumstances cause them to give up on their dreams. Collier’s goal is to help them rethink their ambitions.
“As long as we can make you believe in yourself, then that’s our goal,” Collier said.
Pride In Unity aims to involve children in video and music production. However, the group’s organizers work to further the children’s hobbies or interests. Collier said they were hosting auditions for roles in the movies and even those who didn’t get support.
If they are not chosen as actors and actresses, Collier will find out what else interests them. If they like fashion, they’ll help with the costumes. If they like the music, they will work on the soundtrack for the film. If they like art, they’ll make the original soundtrack album cover art. If they are interested in basketball then Pride In Unity is also supporting them and will work to get them tickets to Portland Trail Blazers games and set them up with a mentor.
“We don’t want to be the person who destroys that hope when he had it so great. We want to keep them where we haven’t met them, ”Collier said.
Pride In Unity also helps children and young adults open bank accounts and learn how to manage their money. That way, if they continue with a career in film or music production, Collier said they would be ready to be successful and have a place to keep their income.
The group also pays people for their involvement in the films that Pride In Unity produces. Collier said 15% of the film’s proceeds go to Pride In Unity to help keep the program going. The remaining 85% is distributed equally among everyone involved in the project.
“They don’t know that you can make more money doing that, which I do, than what you’re influenced to do on the street,” Collier said.
The first Pride In Unity film, “Baby Gangsta”, was released in 2020. The film focuses on what happens when gang violence arises in West Los Angeles. Collier said it was an important project for the people who produced it, some of whom are gang members themselves. He said it was a chance for them to provide an honest description of what gangs are like in West Los Angeles, while also allowing them to show that not all communities are bad.
Collier said members of the Bloods and Crips gangs worked together on the film.
“Everyone believed in the need to get this message out to say, ‘Hey, even though a few of us can mess it up and this person can mess up, there are some good people in the community. “It’s also something that has never really been shown,” Collier said.
Regina Warren, secretary of Pride In Unity, said Portland is currently experiencing a lot of violence similar to that in Los Angeles. The city recently broke its record for the number of homicides committed in one year and recorded more than 1,000 shootings in 2021.
Warren lives in Portland and has two teenage sons. In the past year, three of her sons’ classmates have been murdered, she said. As a mother, this makes her very worried.
“If we can offer another alternative than part of the violence that is taking place in the streets, give them something else to do, that is positive,” she said.
The latest Pride In Unity film, with the working title “Skookum Woods”, is currently in production in and around Portland. Collier said the film explains what happened to Native Americans and African Americans who lived in Oregon in the 1800s and how their land was stolen. It’s a thriller set in the present with things from the past that can come back to haunt people.
Collier still seeks to cast two actors in the film: a white man between 35 and 50 and a white boy between 10 and 13.
Pride In Unity is looking for more mentors to guide young actors, editors and producers of videos and music. It is also a 501 (c) (3) recorded and Collier said they were counting on donations to continue their work supporting young people and producing their films.
Anyone interested in auditioning for roles in the upcoming film, donating, or getting involved with Pride In Unity should visit his website.