Tempering cultural trends with high standards for the future.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Brief Interview with Dani Scoville

Without further adieu, here is a glimpse into the life of Ms. Scoville, a San Francisco-based visionary and activist...

TS: What are some of the literary or creative practices that you currently have adopted?

DS: Recently I've taken to writing poems while riding the BART to work. For you non-Northern Californians, the BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit train that runs from south of San Francisco, through the city and into the East Bay. I get on at 24th Street and Mission and exit at Powell every morning, so I really only have 3 stops, which is about 5 minutes at the most of writing time. I've found this to be such a great space to write because I only have five minutes, so it really forces me to get all my thoughts out, however ugly and ill-worded they may be. And I usually redraft on the ride home. Since I type all my words into my iphone, I am able to post them to my poetry blog (http://lysandrabrooks.blogspot.com/). Now don't get me wrong, I've only written 4-5 poems so far, but that's in the span of only a few weeks. It's so much better than playing some sort of mindless iphone app game or awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact with any sort of men who may mistaken your people-watching habit for checking them out.

As for other creative practices, I'm a hopeless gift giver, so I am constantly making cards and little care packages for my friends. [Our] best friends get a monthly wedding gift from me for this first year of their marriage. I've made them simple gifts like kitchen towels or I take a few months and embroider their portraits. There is also a couple in Norway who are constantly barraged with love tokens from me. I love creating, but I hate to keep my creations. I want others to know that I love them, and I think the time it takes to create something with someone in mind is a great way to show that love.

TS: Tell me about the workshops you have been doing and how they have been received.

DS: Well I've been helping facilitate these 6-week workshops created by ReImagine (reimagine.org) which are called Learning Labs. These Learning Labs each focus on one of the Seven Vows we as a community within ReImagine have taken. My first learning lab when I moved to San Francisco was the Creativity lab, and a year later this January, I helped lead it. It's an incredible experience, a lab that encourage therapeutic creativity. Weekly we have pieces that we create outside of the workshop and bring to share with each other. We also are creating in the lab. In all of it, we are supporting and encouraging each other. The portion of the workshop that really touched me this year was the theme of "to risk making beauty." What holds me back most from being creative, especially when I am writing, is fear. Fear of sounding clique, fear of being inarticulate, etc. Even now I'm frantically reading over these sentences, wondering if the readers of this blog will think, "She's claiming to be a writer? Pshaw. Clearly she should keep her day job." [Which is publishing.]

Attendees always enjoy the creativity workshop, because of its encouragement of self-exploration, that we are "created to be creative." Oftentimes, this workshop tends to bring up a lot of emotional issues, because of its focus on who we are, based around our family history and the lies we tend to tell oursevles (such as "you aren't good enough to love") The other workshop I helped facilitate was our Service workshop called Abolition. This and the creativity lab are usually our most popular labs [these labs are open to anyone, and folks outside our community are encouraged to attend]. Abolition is a workshop focusing on how we as Christians can be social activists, and our specific cause in this workshop is Human Trafficking. We focus on educating ourselves about the issue and how we can as individuals and small collectives create

change: whether that is in fundraising or assisting local organizations that are currently addressing these issues, or using social media to raise awareness. A great organization within San Francisco that is really trying to create change is the SAGE Project (http://www.sagesf.org/). I highly recommend everyone check out the amazing action steps they are taking, including the Johns School. It's incredible the work they do, and with such a small staff and budget.

If you do not have an organization you regularly give to, give to them. I monthly support them. This workshop empowers participants to take action steps and create change. We encourage participants to continue researching, fundraising and combating this issue beyond the workshop, which has resulted in a few fundraising and benefit events!

TS: Which organizations are you interested in or personally invested in locally/globally?

DS: The SAGE Project, The Sold Project and New Door Ventures- all of whom have offices in the Bay Area. SAGE and NDV are for the SF area, while the Sold Project is a organization that provides scholarships to children in Thailand, so that they can go to school instead of working for little wages in the sex industry (http://thesoldproject.com/).

TS: How do you think people can effectively get involved/back these causes?

DS: For human trafficking, we had this diagram for the Abolition workshop that was a circle cut into thirds. One third had an image of a shopping cart, showing that we can vote with our purchases. If we opt to only buy fair trade chocolate, coffee and bananas then the industry will take notice and shift accordingly. In the past few years, I've noticed an influx in these three products having fair trade branding on them at stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Fair Trade Bananas are still a little more difficult to come by.

The second piece of the diagram has an image of a letter. We can write to our government representatives and ask for them to pass legislature that will increase the penalties for traffickers, increase funding for organizations like SAGE and for the law enforcement to be able to identify the difference between a prostitute who entered the industry by choice and a sex-trafficking victim. In California, we have Californians Against Slavery http://www.californiaagainstslavery.org/,

which a great organization that keeps folks notified about upcoming legislature and petitions to get behind.

The third piece was a speech bubble- it's all about awareness raising!

So many people are unaware that many massage parlors are actually fronts for prostitution, and that the purchasing of Nestle or Hershey chocolate is directly supporting child slavery! A great place to be informed and to repost their articles is Change.org, for trafficking portion of the site: http://humantrafficking.change.org/ Copy and Paste into your Facebook, retweet, email, but most importantly TALK about these issues with friends and family. Sometimes, we can ignore issues that are only posted about on the internet.

TS: Talk a little about your understanding of that relationship between the creative and the socially aware individual.

DS: When we think about creativity, what is the purpose? To express of course, and not just ourselves, but the issues we are seeing around us. So many works of art are in fact messages and attempts to get people aware and shift minds. Living in the Mission District, there are a lot of murals. So many people walk by them and think about how beautiful they are, but every single one has a message to it.

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