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Historic Albina tour guides (Photo/Brett Brown)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 30 January 2023

In Celebration of Black History Month, Word is Bond invites the public to step into the lives of young Black men across the greater Portland metro area. Community members of all backgrounds and walks of life are invited to walk or wheel (wheelchairs and strollers; no bikes or skateboards) and listen to the narratives of the Word is Bond Community Ambassadors who are a part of the next generation of Portland leaders.

In My Shoes features uniquely curated walking tours of eight Portland neighborhoods with in-person ambassadors. Each tour features local Black history and incorporates personal narratives, poetry, and an interactive survey for participants to engage with their ambassador and provide feedback and ideas on how we can make Portland a more inclusive city for all.

Saturday tours for Black History Month

Tours will take place each Saturday in February. There will be two neighborhoods featured each weekend, with two tour offerings each. This year's tours are on a sliding scale from $0.0 to $25.00 depending on each person's ability to pay. Funds will be going toward the organization's Spring Leadership Forum to Washington D.C. and its Black Star Homecoming Expedition in Ghana, this Spring, and Summer respectively.

The walking tours serve two purposes; to create opportunities for community members to learn about the experiences of young Black men around Portland and create dialogue about racial equity and inclusion.

Secondly, the tours provide opportunity for the ambassadors, to become more engaged in their community. Each ambassador, in addition to creating their tour, is required to conduct a walking audit of their community, attend two neighborhood association meetings, and present their findings from their audit and community meetings to an elected official to help improve conditions in their community.

Each tour is one hour, followed by a short Q and A session. Participants can purchase copies of the new poetry book, if I Ruled the World as well as Word is Bond apparel. Tours are youth-designed, youth-led, and powered by Black excellence.

“I’m very excited to give my tour because I can share my personal story," said Girmy Kiflemariam, Senior at De La Salle North Catholic High School, and guide for the New Columbia “We the North” walking tour.

"The part I’m most excited about is the opportunity to change the narrative of my neighborhood.

"We have a bad reputation because of our past and on my tour, I will show how we have become one of the best neighborhoods in Portland," Kiflemariam continues. "Living in my neighborhood, Fessenden has brought me happiness, many friends, knowledge, and a home. I will show the insides of my community that the outside world doesn't know about.”

Lakayana Drury is founder, and executive director of Word is Bond.

“Storytelling is part of the rich legacy of the African American experience," he said. 

"From histories and knowledge etched into hieroglyphics on Egyptian pyramids to contemporary Hip-Hop, telling stories is in our DNA. In My Shoes carries on that tradition, providing a creative outlet for young Black men to be masters of their stories in the City of Portland where these stories have long been denied.”

Sign up and view tour dates and times at mywordisbond.org.

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