Bag & Baggage Theater Productions Shakespeare Hillsboro Oregon

Portland Meets Portland


It used to be that a piece of good news brought some cheer and then I’d move on. I don’t know if it is true for you or not, but these days a piece of good news makes me also feel a palpable sense of relief that not all is bleak in this world of ours. That is particularly true if it concerns issues around refugees and immigrants, a domain where misery and heartbreak dominate the current news cycle.

So share my joy in reporting about the newest venture by Portland Meet Portland, a young organization that provides one-on-one professional mentoring, citizenship and language classes, youth leadership development, and cross-cultural dialogue for immigrants and refugees: It calls itself “a cultural exchange right in your backyard.”

Shredding it at “Pass the Mic” camp.

It also offers music, in the new summer camp Pass the Mic, which will culminate in a free, open performance on Friday, July 20 by the youth bands taking part in the camp. Twenty-five young musicians, originally from Africa, India, and South America, have been at the camp, working with 10 experienced Portland musicians.

The nonprofit was started in 2014 by Susi Steinmann and Kay Reid, who promoted the idea of offering a Peace Corps-like experience in our city. Convinced that connectivity and exchange would benefit both newcomers and PDX residents, they built a program that fosters inclusion and cross-cultural learning.

An active and diverse board set out to convert the ideas into practice. A hugely wide range of partners and funders, spanning the city of Portland, community organizations like IRCO (the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization), the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Art Museum, radio stations and Portland’s creative laureate, Subashini Ganesan, to name just a few, helped to maximize support and impact. Projects multiplied and found ways to connect to otherwise underserved and perhaps even unknown populations. For detailed info, see the group’s Stories and Impact Page.

Manuel Padilla, executive director.

This summer PMP’s executive director, Manuel Padilla, who holds a BA in Philosophy from Portland State University and an MA in peace, conflict, and development studies from the UNESCO chair for the Philosophy of Peace, started a new venture for PMP: Pass the Mic, a summer camp that focuses on music education and experience.

Its mission: “The Immigrant and Refugee Youth Music Camp provides students with free, high-quality and culturally responsive music education and mentorship by experienced Portland musicians. Students will gain invaluable encouragement and experience in expressing themselves musically and artistically to their peers and their communities, and they’ll learn how to collaborate creatively with each other. The goal of the camp is to decrease isolation and find new ways to connect youth from inside and outside of mainstream American culture, allowing room for them to carve out their own expressive safe space an to share it in their own creative terms.”,, and REX Production and Post came on as co-sponsors of Pass the Mic., and the Regional Arts  Culture Council helped with a grant. So did many members of the community in general, donating instruments, sheet music, and funds and volunteer hours in general.

Wilson Vediner, a Portland musician and founding member of the band Point Juncture, WA (which Willamette Week has called “the Illuminati of Portland’s indie-rock scene” and “a beautiful and undeniable thing… organic, electric and pure”) acts as creative director for Pass the Mic. Judging by past experience of what he pulls off (think Pendleton Rock Camp and the 2011 THIS!Fest,  a two day, free all-ages festival that brought 26 local writers including Tom Bissell, Jon Raymond, Cheryl Strayed, Emily Chenoweth and Lidia Yuknavitch, and 13 bands together to perform) we are in for a treat.

I say we, because we are all invited to attend the culminating final performance by the music camp’s participants. The concert is free and open to the public. We will be able witness creative cooperation, integration and inclusion between culturally diverse youths through music. That’s the good news for us.

Join the youth bands of Pass the Mic on Friday, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium @ Franklin High School. 

The good news for the kids: A show of support of this kind of outreach –  if we appear in l a r g e numbers!


Details on Pass the Mic here.

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Friderike Heuer is a photographer and photomontage artist. Trained as an experimental psychologist at the New School for Social Research, she taught at Lewis & Clark College until she retired to pursue art full time. Her cultural blog explores art and politics on a daily basis through photography and commentary. She has exhibited most recently at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education and Camerawork Gallery, on issues concerning migrants and refugees. She frequently volunteers as a photographer for small, local arts non-profits. For more information, visit