Community In-Reach at Spotify

March 11, 2014

On February 21st, youth and staff from the Tenderloin Boys & Girls Club, the Vietnamese Youth Development Center, the Shih Yu-Lang Central YMCA, De Marillac Academy all converged and mixed it up with staff at Spotify, one of our new tech company neighbors at the landmark Warfield Building.   Spotify – thank you Mo – kindly invited the youth groups to showcase their work from their PhotoVoices Project exhibit Ain’t Nothin’ Tender.

There we’re many wonderful aspects to the evening.  I especially enjoyed seeing the youth excited about their photography exhibited at one of the much-fabled tech companies just blocks from where they all live.  Through the event Spotify helped demystify what a tech company was for the kids.  The event showed them how they belonged there just like everyone else.  (There were also many discoveries of shared interests in music, naturally, the event being at Spotify.)

I saw a glimpse of the future of the 950 Center for Arts & Education that night at Spotify.  Our kids, tech workers, parents, youth groups staff, local artists, all under the same roof and, to use a technical term, just chillin’.   The arts giving us a platform to share perspectives, interests, and the walls that separate us coming down, without us even realizing it.

I sometimes get asked by funders: “What’s your outreach plan?”   Or “What are your ‘social justice’ or ‘community engagement’ plans?   I’m always a little puzzled by these questions.  We all move forward together or not at all. Community outreach?  That question assumes a separation where none exists.  Maybe we should coin a new term: Community In-Reach.

The Spotify event started with the hard work of and collaboration between Judy Young at the Vietnamese Youth Development Center, Patricia Zamora of the Tenderloin Boys & Girls Club, James Alderson and our old friend J.D. of the Shih-Yu Lang Central YMCA.  De Marillac Academy’s Paul Avvento joined and brought copies of De Marillac kids’ first volume of poetry: Rise Above. That’s as good as it gets community in-reach, and we’re going to do a lot more of it and continue to bring the walls down.

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The TL crew at the original Ain’t Nothin’ Tender PhotoVoice opening exhibit at SF Camerawork, a world-class gallery on Mid-Market where they now also feel at home.  More walls came down as their art and prose went up.  Their powerful experience was covered in the SF Chronicle.