Dear film angels and friends,
Thank you all for supporting the development of the Between the Sun and the Sidewalk (still a working title) documentary. I am excited to be checking in and updating you on the project. We are now wrapping up field production and beginning the editing process. I want you to know that your participation in this project has brought us to this point. We are grateful.
Let me share our 3-minute video demo that we produced earlier this year to accompany funding proposals, and give a brief glimpse into the evolving story.
We began a year ago, in 100 degree plus heat, capturing growth and change in the lives of The Organizing and Leadership Academy (TOLA) Fellows, working relentlessly to organize for public health justice on behalf of their own families and communities in the central valley. As I spent my time looking below its tough, sun-bleached surfaces, I learned to love the feisty town of Stockton, with its boxing gyms, friendly residents and amazing ethnic and racial diversity.
Last July when we began filming in Stockton observing the young TOLA organizers and the teen interns, led by Christian Garcia and Aurora Castellanos, under the mentorship of founder Larry Tramutola, they were reaching out to residents to talk about the connections between soda drinks, diabetes and systemic health issues. Their hard work led to a recommendation to the City Council to consider a soda tax to combat the diabetes epidemic through youth education and action.
But on June 28, 2018, the TOLA Fellows were hit with a heavy dose of political reality when the California State legislature quickly and quietly approved a 13-year ban on all new municipal soda taxes throughout the state.
Their response? This team of young organizers fought the perception of defeat and demoralization. They traveled to Sacramento, and testified at the hearing before the vote. They demanded that lawmakers face the harsh realities of diabetes in their families. They asked for their courage and conviction to vote down and throw out the beverage industry-sponsored bill AB 1838. Nevertheless, our California state legislators overwhelmingly approved the bill.
Next, they organized a march and rally at the Stockton City Hall. They spoke out at the City Council meeting, publicly calling on Mayor Michael Tubbs and council members to support their vision for a statewide soda tax ballot measure in 2020.
We have captured the raw material for a great story of organizing in this American moment: a central valley town confronting change and transition. Young people taking action – fighting despair, and learning how they are capable of making a difference in their world. How they are practicing local democracy, persisting while confronting the hard lessons of conflict and disappointment, setback and failures.
It takes many eyes, hands and ears to make change and… to bring a film to the finish line.
Earlier this summer, when I served as a U.S. Fulbright Specialist at the Baltic International Summer Institute in Valmiera, Latvia, we explored what media literacy means in our global digitally connected world. We engaged with researchers and investigators revealing how the Kremlin uses media as an effective weapon to destabilize democracies in the region, and beyond to Europe and the US. We learned about ways in which the EU and NATO are fighting against these deliberate disinformation campaigns. “Perception is reality,” the EU strategic communications people say when facing these challenges on a daily basis.
From Stockton to Latvia and back, my experiences this summer profoundly shifted how I approach the role of documentary storytelling in our world today. It has introduced a profound sense of urgency in our work on the Between the Sun and the Sidewalk documentary.
Since I believe that “perception is reality,” I know that we need to energize the world with deeply-rooted stories that combat fear and hopelessness, numbness and confusion. We have to open doors to the work that makes real difference in peoples’ lives.
As one of the documentary’s early donors, your investment has carried the project to this critical juncture. To move into the phase of editing the film, and planning for national screenings with targeted public dialogues across platforms, we are working towards a production fundraising goal of $125,000.
Can you help me by identifying two or three other potential donors --individuals or foundations -- who may share your values and dedication towards telling the stories of, and engaging with the next generation of young, multiracial leaders who represent the diversity of our country?
Let’s bring this story to the screen and to audiences across the country: to empathize with the youth, to understand what it means to organize for change, and to inspire others to take up the call to action.
Thank you for all that you do.