Portland non-profit gets at-risk youth involved in film, music production

Multnomah County

Organizers of Pride In Unity say the group's activities keep kids away from street violence

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With violent crime in Portland on the rise, a local non-profit says its work to support at-risk youth and young adults is more important than ever. 

Pride In Unity started in Los Angeles in 2017 and recently expanded to Portland. The organization’s goal is to raise self-esteem in kids and young adults and help them accomplish their goals. 

Founder Damond Collier said so often, kids who grow up in impoverished households have a lack of resources and their challenging circumstances cause them to give up on their dreams. Collier’s goal is to help them reset their ambitions. 

“As long as we can get you to believe in yourself, then that’s our goal,” Collier said. 

Pride In Unity focuses on getting kids involved in video and music production. However, organizers of the group work to foster any hobbies or interests kids have. Collier said they hold auditions for roles to cast in the films and even those who don’t make it are supported. 

Damond Collier, executive director of Pride In Unity, runs lines on Oct. 17, 2021 with cast members of Pride In Unity’s upcoming film. (KOIN)

If they aren’t cast as actors and actresses, Collier will find out what else they’re interested in. If they like fashion, they’ll help with costumes. If they like music, they’ll work on a soundtrack for the film. If they like art, they’ll create the soundtrack album cover. If they’re interested in basketball, then Pride In Unity supports that too 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 that destroys that hope when they had it so high. We want to keep them right where we hadn’t met them,” Collier said. 

Pride In Unity also helps kids and young adults establish bank accounts and learn how to manage their money. That way, if they go on to make a career out of film or music production, Collier said they’ll be set up for success and will have a place to keep their incomes. 

The group also pays people for their involvement in the films Pride In Unity produces. Collier said 15% of the proceeds from the film go back to Pride In Unity to help continue the program. The other 85% is evenly distributed among everyone involved in the project. 

“They don’t know that you can make more money doing this, what I’m doing, than the stuff that you’re getting influenced to do on the streets,” Collier said 

Pride In Unity’s first film, “Baby Gangsta,” was released in 2020. The movie 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 depiction of what gangs in West Los Angeles are like, while also allowing them to show that the communities aren’t all bad. 

Collier said members of both the Bloods and Crips gangs worked together on the film. 

“Everybody believed in getting this message out there to say, ‘Hey, even though a couple of us may mess up and this person may mess up, there are some good people in the community.’ It is also something that’s never really been shown,” Collier said. 

Regina Warren, secretary for Pride In Unity, said Portland is currently experiencing a lot of similar violence to Los Angeles. The city recently broke its record for the number of homicides committed in a year and has had 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, that makes her very concerned. 

Regina Warren, secretary of Pride In Unity, and Damond Collier, executive director of Pride In Unity, pose for a photo at their Portland location on Oct. 17, 2021. (KOIN)

“If we can give out another alternative than some of the violence that’s going on in the streets, give them something else to do, that’s positive,” she said. 

Pride In Unity’s latest film, which has the working title “Skookum Woods,” is currently in production in Portland and the surrounding area. Collier said the film explains what happened to Native Americans and African Americans who were living in Oregon in the 1800s and how their lands were stolen. It’s a thriller set in the present time with things from the past that can come back to haunt people. 

Collier is still looking to cast two actors in the film: a white man between the ages of 35 and 50 and a white boy between the ages of 10 and 13. 

Pride In Unity is looking for more mentors to guide young actors, editors, and video and music producers. It’s also a registered 501(c)(3) and Collier said they rely on donations to continue their work in supporting youth and producing their movies. 

Anyone interested in auditioning for the roles in the upcoming film, donating, or getting involved with Pride In Unity should visit its website.

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