What is the rhythm of our safety? 

This question is at the heart of Unit Souzou’s newest project, RHYTHM: Walking to the Heartbeat of our Community, which explores pedestrian safety in East Portland.

RHYTHM emerged from the relationship and collaboration between Michelle Fujii from Unit Souzou and Candace Kita from APANO, an advocacy and community/cultural development organization uniting Asians and Pacific Islanders in Oregon. APANO has participated in projects to increase pedestrian safety in East Portland where they are based. They recognized there was much more work to do, and that cultural arts was a strong way to engage communities. Michelle connected the drum to the experience of moving through the streets: the energy, movement and rhythms.

Over the course of 2021, Unit Souzou is collaborating with community members and organizations to devise a series of creative experiences addressing pedestrian safety in East Portland. With the rise of Anti-Asian violence, the impacts of COVID, and historic disinvestment in East Portland, safety in public is urgent and multilayered.

As COVID-19 restrictions relax, vaccinations roll-out and the weather warms, many Portlanders are moving through shared public spaces with new and ongoing concerns. RHYTHM will document this unique time and share how our communities are imagining their safety as a result of their experiences. 

To culminate this project, a virtual presentation will be presented on Sunday, December 4th. Stories shared by interviewees and cohort members will inspire and be woven into new works created by Unit Souzou and artistic collaborators – visual artist, Horatio Law and film artists, Dawn Jones Redstone and Annie Tonsiengsom.

Project supported in part by Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights and the City of Portland.


We are also seeking eight community members with strong connections to East Portland to form a Neighborhood Cohort, which will work together over the course of three months, August – October 2021, over Zoom (with the possibility of gathering in-person at a physically distanced outdoor space) to document this unique time and explore how our communities are experiencing and imagining safety. Unit Souzou will facilitate cohort activities and conversations that spark remembrance, observation, and investigation. Guest facilitators will also be invited to provide tools in bystander intervention, processing trauma, and self-defense. Cohort member stories will also be collected and organized into an atlas, documenting experiences of safety/lack of safety over the past year and ideas for the future.

Cohort members should expect to spend 25-30 hours of time on the project over the course of 3 months (August – October, 2021) and will be compensated $1,000, paid in three installments.