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Youth Against Violence and Word is Bond

Multnomah Youth Commission (MYC) is the official youth policy body for both the City of Portland and Multnomah County. As part of their MYC journey, youth can choose to be part from three committees. 

Youth Against Violence (YAV), a subcommittee of the MYC, is currently focused on Anti-Gay and Gender, Cyberbullying, Gang Violence, Police Violence, Home Violence, School and Bullying Violence, and Sexual and Dating Violence. Since 2011, YAV has hosted three Youth Against Violence summits, which have highlighted the reality that, “for youth of color, negative police interactions are a life-and-death situation, a power dynamic with real-life consequences.”

YAV, in collaboration with project partner, Word is Bond (WIB), have now laid the groundwork for “Community-based research for the county’s OJJDP Strategic Plan to Address Gang Violence

This project aims learn what youth, particularly youth of color, in the community need to build relationships and encourage better interactions between law enforcement and youth of color.

Project Research Question: What are the problems experienced between youth and police and what can be done to make the relationships better? 

“The lack of dialog between police and youth has resulted in an unfair police and youth dynamic. Our goal with this project is to educate the police to better understand the teen mindset. We also hope to bridge the gap between the two groups with an end goal of minimizing police and youth violence.”

—Britt Masback

Founder and CEO at Youth Educating Police


 "Through this project, our hope is to rebuild relationships and encourage better interactions between law enforcement and youth. Our work is to create a platform that advocates for and works with youth, particularly youth of color. With this platform we hope all communities will gain education but will also accept and apply that knowledge to make sure a positive change will happen between youth and law enforcement.”

—Antonia McSwain

Multnomah Youth Commission Co-Chair for 2018-19


From Lakayana Druy, Executive Director at Word is Bond:

WIB is a local non-profit supported by Portland Opportunities Industrial Opportunities (POIC), Northwest Outward Bound and the Portland Police Bureau. Their mission is to build positive relationships between young Black men and law enforcement.

More from Lakayana Druy:

How Word is Bond was recommended to be a part of Strategy Six: Links Between youth and Police by Antoinette Edwards, the Director of the Office of Youth Violence Prevention. She felt that our focus on community engagement efforts would be a perfect fit for the strategy. For Word is Bond, Strategy Six directly relates to our mission to build positive relationships between young Black men and law enforcement.

Being able to build with another group of youth leaders who are committed to creating a more equitable Portland is important to WIB. Both groups are able to learn from each other and use our individual focus, policy for YAV, and community engagement for WIB to work towards a shared goal. We are able to share our resources, talents and passion to make a bigger difference in our city collectively, than we could individually. 

WIB's expectations from this project is that we will make meaningful change between how youth and police interact in the city. We aim to create safe spaces for youth and police to interact and build trust. We also hope to make policy changes that reduce the incarceration rates of youth, particularly youth of color in Multnomah county. We are aware that these challenges won't be easy but we also believe that change starts by taking the first step.

We don't have a timeline for the completion of Strategy Six but are committed to sticking with it as long as it takes. We have already taken meaningful steps including hosting a youth-police basketball tournament, called Peace Jam, this past September and also receiving a grant along with YAV, to host focus groups with youth in the community.