Sunday, May 22, 2016

Walk of DREAMers: An Evening of Stories

One of the storytellers Karolina Soto taking a selfie of
herself with author Francisco Jimenez.

On June 29th at Palo Alto’s newly renovated Mitchell Park Community Center, the Midpen Media Center, in partnership with the Palo Alto Library will present an evening of storytelling.  All of the storytellers are DREAMers, meaning that they were brought to this country as children - without authorization – and now hope to attain a legal pathway to citizenship. 

The six storytellers have been working with renowned memoir author, Francisco Jimenez and Elliot Margolies of the Media Center to shape and present their individual 10-minute pieces.  Professor Jimenez, who will emcee the event, came across the border as a child and worked alongside his parents in the fields of California. He eventually attained citizenship and became a distinguished writer and professor of literature at Santa Clara University. Each of the storytellers were inspired by his work when they were growing up.

The DREAMers will share a range of emotion-filled experiences threaded by hope, perseverance, fear, secrets, and dreams for their families and themselves. One will take us to the strawberry fields where he worked as a ten year old. Another will bring us on a flight to reunite with his mom for the first time since his infancy. One ventures far from anything familiar and finds a welcoming home during her college years in a tiny town, Ripon, Wisconsin, “the birthplace” of the Republican Party. “The Border” is a dividing line in each DREAMer’s life, mapping both physical and emotional challenges to overcome.  All are now temporarily protected from deportation and able to work legally in the US since President Obama’s executive action called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The event is part of a larger project called Made Into America that includes an archive of immigration stories at www.madeintoamerica.org. The stories underscore the importance of immigrants in every era of US history and they begin in dozens of different countries worldwide.  Over 5,000 people visit the archive every month – thanks in large part to a Google Adwords grant. You can contact editor@madeintoamerica.org if you have a group or class that would like to experience a workshop and contribute their family stories.


The storytelling event was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org.


This event is free and open to the public, 7 – 9 PM.  There will be light refreshments and an art exhibit.  Please RSVP here.


Written by Elliot Margolies

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Everyday People, Extraordinary Heroes!




What motivates someone to transform lives and change the world around them?  What was the path that took them from pondering to creating and then to challenging the status quo? Sound like the making of an HBO drama? No, this is a real life mini-series on our channels! “Local Heroes” celebrates everyday people who feel called to acts of service and sacrifice.

On May 21, Midpen Media will honor this year’s Local Hero Award winners at the annual screening and reception.  Louise Pencavel, creator of the “Local Heroes” series, will introduce this year’s recipients and together we will watch five video profiles that showcase the passion and dedication of this year’s winners. Pencavel has also created longer format videos of each Hero, which will run on our channels and be posted on our website. Pencavel started the series in order to call attention to extraordinary people in our own community - not only to honor them, but to tell their compelling stories, stories that inspire us to be the heroes of our own lives and perhaps even a champion of someone else’s life. Without these videos, the public might not know about their work and their stories.  “Their lives and their stories are what define our community at its finest and I feel truly privileged to be able to share them,” Pencavel said.

The 2016 Recipients of Midpen Media’s Local Hero Awards are Tamar Sofer-Geri, Ashley McIntyre, Roger Vernon Smith, Mike Jones and Virginia Anderson. 



Tamar Sofer-Geri
When her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, what did Tamar Sofer-Geri do? After the initial shock, she felt a strong desire to connect with other families affected by the illness, hear their stories, swap best practices, and support one another through this life-threatening condition. But she soon found that information was in silos and not really aggregated anywhere. That’s when she created the non-profit Carb DM,a word play implying, “seize diabetes.” Carb DM serves families in the Bay Area, providing resources and connecting them through instructional and social events held throughout the area. 



Ashley McIntyre

As a youngster, Ashley McIntyre was a multi-sport competitive athlete. She knows what it takes to succeed in the face of hardship. But what made her take that competitive spirit and combine it with a counseling degree to inspire the other-abled to challenge their perceived limitations? As an Equine Therapist at BOK Ranch in Woodside, Ashley shares the therapeutic benefits of riding and caring for horses with her clients who, under her tutelage, soon find they can overcome obstacles they never imagined they could conquer and begin thinking in positive, new ways about themselves and their capabilities. 



Roger Vernon Smith


Upon retirement, Roger Vernon Smith, founder of Silicon Valley Bank, wanted to give back to his community.   He decided to devote his time, treasure and talent to the founding of an organization that supports the families of murder victims. Mothers Against Murder, or MAM, guides these families through the complex legal, financial and emotional maze into which murder has thrust them. Roger believes that victims often get lost in a system that favors the accused.  He adds that the families have already been victimized once. MAM’s goal is to stop ongoing victimization by advocating for the legal rights of the surviving families in a supportive and loving context.



Mike Jones


Mike Jones, Senior Unit Director at
The Mervin G. Morris Clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula in Redwood City, has not had an easy life: young and Black in Louisiana, the child of divorced parents, exposed to family violence and then contracting a debilitating illness.  Early on, Mike decided to respond to it with love. Steadfastly sunny, optimistic and grateful for his blessings, he has transformed his own life challenges into a passionate caring for and mentoring of young people.  He is deeply committed to helping our local youth find and nurture their own pathways to self-love and self-reliance.




Virginia Anderson
Virginia Anderson, an Atherton-based therapist, wants to help people engage in life by acknowledging death.  She volunteers her time to sit with the terminally ill in hospice care. She talks candidly and comfortably about death, in an effort to remove the taboos that prevent us from discussing it as an everyday topic of conversation.  She routinely participates in Death Cafes, where people can talk freely about any and all aspects of death that concern them.  She is confident that confronting our fear of death can free us from that fear.  She believes deeply that living a full and engaged life is the best path to allowing us to embrace death with dignity and without regret. 

In its tenth season, the Local Hero Award series has showcased almost 60 Heroes (and their affiliations). This year we will be adding a special tribute including all of our heroes to honor them and to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  

By acknowledging some of the most interesting and inspiring community members with a great diversity of experiences, the Local Hero Awards series is creating an ongoing community quilt of our service area, an evolving snapshot of who we, as a community, are at our finest. The videos bring to life a picture of our community with a clarity and immediacy that is instantly evident upon viewing, which no other (non-television) award series can do.  A vibrant historical record of our community is emerging and will grow in value over the coming years. These Heroes represent us. They are both a mirror to ourselves and ambassadors to the outside world – they are the best of who we are and what we have to offer. The videos are a living testament to their and our legacy. 

Please join us to celebrate our Local Heroes.  You will have the chance to meet our Heroes and hear their stories!  The event is free and open to all, but donations always graciously accepted:

Saturday, May 21, 2016 from 7 – 9 pm
Midpen Media Center Studios
Space does fill quickly.  RSVP by May 6 to Louise@midpenmedia.org


written by Becky Sanders



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Of Sound Mind: Dementia Demystified



He sat where his wife had put him, his hands folded in his lap, taking up as little space as he could.  His shoulders had rounded and his face bore a confused, lost look. It was hard to reconcile this man with the person I knew my father-in-law to be: a man who always knew where he was going and who had filled the room to overflowing with his presence, just a few short years ago. His diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease had a huge impact on our family and started me on my road to discover all I could about this debilitating, progressive disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of the dementias, however it is not the only pathway for a diagnosis of the incurable disease of dementia. There are some estimates that as many as 14% of people over age 70 have dementia and that percentage increases with age.  Of those over the age of 65 who die in any given year – 1 in 3 will have been diagnosed with a dementia.  This past summer, the National Institutes of Health sponsored a new Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Stanford School of Medicine.  Long known for its outstanding neuroscience department, Stanford is home to brilliant scientists in dementia research.  The Stanford ADRC has become a beacon bringing together experienced researchers in the field, as well as inspiring and training new researchers.  

Part of my work at the Stanford ADRC is focused around raising awareness of dementia in the community and sharing the current research that is ongoing in these terrible diseases.  The launch of the new TV program Of Sound Mind is a central piece of that awareness campaign. Delivered in a talk show format, Of Sound Mind draws from the excellent Stanford ADRC faculty and other researchers in the field of cognitive aging to explore dementia and discuss methods of keeping your brain healthy. As producer of this show, it has been my pleasure to work with some incredibly knowledgeable talent.  

Our host, Dr. Dolores Gallagher Thompson, is a geropsychologist and a professor of research at Stanford School of Medicine. Her research focus for over three decades has been on how to reduce stress and improve the wellbeing of family caregivers of older adults with dementia. She brings her experience on the impact dementia has on families to the discussion as her guests discuss issues and concerns surrounding cognitive aging. Each episode will explore and educate the viewer about the topic itself, how the topic may apply to individuals, and then end with a little something about the research itself.

“Healthy Cognitive Aging” was the first episode for Of Sound Mind and the guest was Dr. Frank Longo. He is a professor and the Chair of the Department of Neurology at Stanford School of Medicine. In this episode the focus is on healthy aging and what people can do to reduce risks of getting dementia: things like modifying one’s diet, staying socially engaged, and exercising among other strategies. Dr. Longo wrapped up by discussing the importance of healthy controls in research. 

The second episode of “Let’s Talk about Dementia” went into more depth about dementia, itself. The guest, Dr. Victor Henderson, is the Director of the ADRC and a professor of Health Research and Policy as well as Neurology at Stanford School of Medicine. This episode focused on what happens when a person is concerned about whether they have dementia. They talked about the progression from normal aging to dementia and what warning signs to look for. As a neurologist, Dr. Henderson spoke about what to expect if you talk to a doctor, from what kinds of tests you might encounter to what they tell the doctor about your condition. He briefly introduced the Stanford ADRC and went on to demystify the process of what to expect if you became a volunteer for a dementia study. 

We are very excited about our upcoming episodes. In May, we will be looking at Music and Dementia with the UK musician Beatie Wolfe, who has been doing some interesting research surrounding the effect of exposure to novel music in individuals with advanced dementia. In July, our topic will be Parkinson’s disease as we explore what it is, how it’s treated, how it affects someone’s thinking, and what new research is out there with Dr. Kathleen Poston. Later in the year, we’ll be looking at various topics, like taking a closer look at the impact of Dementia on families, having a panel come to speak about brain donation, and we’ll be looking at ways to get through the holidays if you have loved ones with dementia. We do hope you will join us. 

The vision of the Stanford ADRC is to serve at the forefront of the national effort to prevent dementia and to find effective forms of treatment. Its mission is to serve as a shared resource to facilitate and enhance multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, outreach, and education in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lewy Body disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment. To fulfill this mission the Stanford ADRC’s Healthy Brain Aging Study is looking for volunteers age 70 and older, both with and without dementia. If you are interested in volunteering or just want to find out more, please email the author at abilbrey@stanford.edu.

By Ann Choryan Bilbrey, PhD

 
Dr. Ann Choryan Bilbrey is a Postdoctoral Scholar in Geropsychology with the ADRC Outreach, Recruitment, and Education Core, where she is gaining experience in caregiver intervention-oriented research. Her interests in geropsychology and health psychology focus on ways to encourage and promote healthy aging.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Music of Justice

LaDoris Cordell (L) and Valerie Capers (R) photo Courtesy of Josie Lepe


“It suddenly hit me. I am playing all this music of these wonderful White composers, but aren’t there any Black composers?”
-- LaDoris Cordell, co-founder of the African American Composer Initiative.--


When LaDoris Hazzard Cordell resumed piano lessons after 36 years of pursuing an accomplished career in the law and mothering her two daughters, she could not have predicted that she would become one of the founders of a life-changing, world-changing musical movement and organization. Her only thought was to get back to music that she dearly loved.

After 4 years of studying the traditional repertoire with the renown pianist Josephine “Jodi” Gandolfi of Menlo Park, LaDoris realized something was missing: her own voice, that of her contemporaries and of her antecedents.  

“That’s when the journey started,” LaDoris said in a telephone interview. “[Jodi] was a Fulbright scholar; she went to Germany, she studied at the University of Wisconsin, then at Stanford.  She has done it all, can play anything, but in all of that, there was never any mention of Black composers.  That’s a huge statement about the state of the music establishment and of music education in this country at these major institutions. For years these composers have been ignored. So that started the journey.”

The “journey” morphed into the African American Composer Initiative of which Jodi is one of the co-founders. Since 2009, this group of Bay Area musicians has researched, uncovered and performed the works of Black composers. Dedicated to music making and education, they perform an annual benefit concert for Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto on the campus in the Performing Arts Center. Benefitting Black and Latino scholarship in a Black and Latino community reflects the core values and mission of the Initiative. Despite pressure from some to move the series to San Francisco or Palo Alto, the performers insist on performing in East Palo Alto, a community “stigmatized by racism.” According to LaDoris, many faithful concert-goers admit that prior to attending their first of the sold-out concerts, they had never been to East Palo Alto, except to speed through as quickly as possible en route to their destination. And they also admit to having their views about East Palo Alto transformed. That’s one of the changes the Initiative is working for.

“We have played the music of more than 25 Black composers,” LaDoris stated with satisfaction, “but more than that, this [has become] a fight for justice.  When I started reading about the lives of some of these composers, who wrote the most fabulous music and died despondent, in despair, because when you’re a composer…the pleasure is having others enjoy your music. Not to write it down and then stick it in a drawer. And they didn’t get that opportunity. [They] trained at Oberlin, at Eastman, at the Conservatory of Music, training at the best places and we’ve never heard of them. I’m just trying to right some wrongs here…that’s my goal.  I just feel for all these creative geniuses because of the racism in the music establishment…if there were no racism in the music establishment, this gorgeous music would have been out there…so it’s part of my fight for a post racist America - it’s an acknowledgement that racism exists and it permeates everything in America. So if you look at music, oh yeah it’s there.”

“So what do we do about that?” LaDoris continued. “Well, what we’re doing about it was to form the Initiative…We keep packing the house and people come in and say ‘I never expected the caliber of music upon that stage,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, of course!  We work hard on this.” [Soon we will be] planning and preparing for next year’s concert…So that’s what this is about for me. I’m passionate about it. Just to sit and play it gives me pleasure.”

What role has the law played in her music? LaDoris is still passionate about the law, and she brings that with her in everything she does. Justice is the reason LaDoris entered the law in the first place. But she didn’t stop there. She served on the Palo Alto City Council.  She accepted appointments to the bench for Northern California and Santa Clara County, breaking gender and racial barriers both times. And even her position as Independent Police Auditor in San Jose was accepted because of her passion for justice and for transparency and accountability in policing. 

Furthermore in cooperation with local law enforcement, LaDoris has hosted local TV shows produced here at Midpen and at our sister station in San Jose. “Make the Call” is about profiling the victims of violent crimes and their families, and encouraging those with information to come forward. 

After a successful career in law, some folks might have kicked back and enjoyed the “good life,” but LaDoris is very much alive to the importance of leadership and visibility in the Black community. Which turns us right back to why she is promoting the works of Black composers, making sure their sonatas, chamber pieces, symphonies and even operas, are heard, especially by young people of all colors. The concerts regularly include guest performances by students at Eastside.  

Referring to her career path and then founding the Initiative, LaDoris said, “These are the things I wanted to do, what I thought I could do, not be a bystander… because I think if you are a bystander then you are part of the problem. Pursuing the law gave me this sense of urgency about justice, bringing about justice as much as we can, in any form we can. It’s the same with the music. That work I did, informs the work I do now. It’s in a different way, but it’s still that same passion.”  

When LaDoris spoke about topics like injustice, racism and despair in the African American community, her voice stayed steady, upbeat, positive, lilting, like grace notes. I had heard about her can-do attitude from others and had seen her on TV and even at the gym once or twice, always looking totally together. I asked her how she kept up the amazing attitude.

“I owe a responsibility and an obligation to the many, many people who came before me, but more specifically in my own family. My great grandmother and great-great grandmother were slaves.  My ancestors survived the Middle Passage, came here, survived slavery, survived Jim Crow, got the right to vote. For me to sit around and say “I can’t do anything” is an insult to them, to my family and to everyone…everyone who was out their protesting and marching, to do what they needed to do to get us to the point where this little Black girl from Ardmore, Pennsylvania could be a judge. I mean really? To not continue to fight is to do an injustice.”

A conversation with a visionary, a trailblazer and a fearless embodiment of “Justice” is not something I do every day. I knew I would take a walk after finishing up our conversation. But I liked her reference to herself as a child. She had mentioned her family growing up, how they were all musical.  It was a way of life for them.  I just had to ask LaDoris if she practiced everyday. “Oh absolutely. On a good day, two hours.  On a bad day, one. When I was little I didn’t like to practice, now I love to practice and of course, I still take lessons from Jodi.”  

written by Becky Sanders



The 8th annual concert of the African American Composer Initiative featured the music of Valerie Capers and was held on January 30 and 31st. A DVD of the concert is in production and will play on Midpen’s channels later this year. The 9th concert is scheduled for January 28 and 29, 2017. Mark your calendars!

The initiative also just released their first of what they plan to be many CDs. This CD features the piano pieces of Black composer Zenobia Powell Perry.  

The African American Composers concert series is available to watch this weekend on Comcast Channel 30 and is available to stream on our website in honor of Black History Month. The following will be showing:



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Confronting a Rising Tide of Anti-Muslim Hysteria


On the very day that I emailed Zahra Billoo to ask her to appear on Other Voices to talk about rising anti-Muslim antagonism, a very disturbing event took place that drove home the timeliness of the upcoming program. Zahra is the Executive Director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s leading leading civil rights and advocacy organization for American Muslims. On that December day, CAIR’s office in Santa Clara received a threatening letter in the mail. Even more alarming, the envelope contained a mysterious white powder, prompting fears of a possible anthrax attack. The police and fire departments were summoned and CAIR’s office had to be evacuated while a hazmat team inspected the premises. CAIR’s employees had to wait an anxious 36 hours before getting an all-clear from the authorities. (CAIR’s Washington, DC office received a similar envelope the same day and was also evacuated.)

In the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks, and with ISIS frequenting news headlines, American Muslims are experiencing a frightening spike in anti-Muslim bigotry, including right here in the Bay Area. Zahra was able to join us for the January 5 episode of Other Voices, and she described in detail the current atmosphere of fear that hangs over the American Muslim community. Referring to the threatening letter that CAIR received, Zahra noted that receiving hate mail is not unusual for CAIR, since they are so visible in the community. But, she added, “The fact that speaking out, promoting diversity and acceptance, promoting civil rights, would lead to such vitriol is frightening.” While the Bay Area has a reputation for liberal attitudes and openness to diversity, Zahra noted, “We are not immune in the Bay Area.”

The recent spike in anti-Muslim attacks has taken many forms. Nationally, there has been an increase in threats or direct attacks on places of worship and, again, the Bay Area has experienced this as well. The country has also seen a spike in violence directed against individual American Muslims or people who have been “perceived” to be Muslim. And the number of hate-filled verbal assaults against Muslims is similarly climbing.

Zahra was joined on the program by Mike German, a Fellow at the Liberty and National Security Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law. (Thanks to Midpen Media’s new studio, Mike was able to join us via Skype from his home in the Washington, DC suburbs.) Before becoming an outspoken civil rights activist, Mike served for 19 years as a special agent with the FBI, where he specialized in domestic terrorism. Mike worked undercover, infiltrating white supremacist groups that were threatening violence.

On the "Other Voices" program, Mike talked about another, less visible form of backlash against the American Muslim community -- increased surveillance by law enforcement. Mike was highly critical of the nature of this increased FBI surveillance, noting that it was not the kind of work he was engaged in when he was with the FBI. Back then, he noted, they were carrying out criminal investigations based on evidence of an impending crime. These days, Mike contrasted, the FBI is simply compiling massive databases on American Muslims, without so much as a hint of criminal activity.

It isn’t all bad news for the American Muslim community. Because they are so visible and often in the news, CAIR has received warm offers of support and solidarity from other groups and other segments of society. Most notable among these, perhaps, are the expressions of support and understanding from the Japanese American community, prompted by their own history of intimidation -- and official internment -- also born of war-induced hysteria. CAIR has also received support from the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBT community.

Asked what average people can do to respond to this disturbing trend of anti-Muslim bigotry, Zahra promptly responded, “I would suggest a few things. One, get to know their Muslim neighbors. Two, speak out against racism and violence. And three, make sure others are hearing you, whether it's through independent media or speaking to their elected officials." We hope you’ll watch this bit of independent media and hear Zahra’s message.

written By Paul George


Paul George is the Director of Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, based in Palo Alto. He has been producing and hosting Other Voices at the Midpen Media Center for 19 years. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Celebration of 25 Years of Community Storytelling



We've come a long way from where we started! As a founding board member of Mid-Peninsula Access Corp. (MPAC), I hired Elliot Margolies as our first executive director and we opened the doors on Park Blvd. on February 5, 1990. We started out with one telephone sitting on the floor that first day. We had no office furniture, no equipment, no studio. Those first few weeks, Elliot and I circled “for sale” ads in the local papers and drove around picking up free office furniture, like a credenza from a houseboat in Redwood City. We bought a used copy machine at a garage sale. Then we bought a couple of field cameras and we were on our way. 

We shared Channel 6 with Cable Co-op. Volunteer programming manager Maureen O’Sullivan drove around town with an orange crate in the back seat of her VW bug, collecting VHS tapes from community producers. She’d play the tapes manually on the decks in master control – we started with 10 hours of programming per week. 

When the first Gulf War erupted at the beginning of 1991, we initiated a series of live shows providing an important forum for citizens to express their feelings and reflect on rapidly unfolding events. Having no studio cameras or official “call-in” equipment, we improvised by using a camcorder and taping a microphone to our office speakerphone.  We took comments and questions from viewers.  It worked!  One of our viewers, former Secretary of State George Schultz, called after watching a forum that provided insight into the various Middle East perspectives.  Mr. Schultz said he wanted to invite one of the participants who appeared on the forum to consider a job opening at the Hoover Institute! For 25 years our community members have found a voice and a platform here.

Being a founder of this organization is the single most gratifying professional event of my 40-year career in video production and community media. And I am eager to see how our future will unfold.  We got a glimpse of that bright future when media visionary John C. Hollar, CEO of the Computer History Museum, spoke at our 25th anniversary celebration - the Mosaic Open House that was held September 13. John was joined on stage during our live 3-hour show by our fans and well-wishers, many of whom have helped shape our institutional history and contributed to our treasure trove of community stories.   

We are so proud to have been chronicling those stories for the past 25 years. As part of the Mosaic event we have showcased some highlights in clips, performance, and, most importantly, community testament. I was honored to host this commemorative program.  Roughly 70 guests participated, including two-dozen producers from the early 90s through the present, a dozen government and school officials, 18 artists and performers, and 17 Board and staff members. The program will replay in its entirety in the months to come and be available to enjoy on our Youtube channel. 

A number of prominent community leaders attended and/or sent proclamations to honor our 25 year milestone: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Rich Gordon, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, former San Mateo County Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, Palo Alto Mayor Karen Holman, Menlo Park Mayor Catherine Carlton, East Palo Alto Council Member Larry Moody, former East Palo Alto Mayors Duane Bay and Laura Martinez, former Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier, PAUSD School Board Member Camille Townsend, Executive Director of Youth Community Service Leif Erickson and All Schools Fund Board Member Sunny Dykwel.

If you haven’t crossed our threshold lately, come by and bring a friend. You’ll see what a difference the volunteers, staff and community partners have been making since those early days. We did some digging and have a few data points. How many storytellers have we trained? Over 7,000!  How many hours of government and school board meetings have we covered in 25 years? Over 30,000! How many hours of community programming have we broadcast? Too many to count! But we started with 1 channel, 10 hours a week, then we had 2 channels, then we went up to five and now with the addition of a regional channel, we program 6 TV channels, four that operate 24/7. Bay Voice Channel 27 that rolled out this year now reaches over 400,000 homes in 15 cities between Atherton and San Jose.  

Our Mosaic event was more than a summing up.  When the last guests left and we were resetting the studio and our facilities to get back to business as usual the next day, we felt the great gift and the great responsibility. To be able to be a part of something that has its very roots deep in our first amendment right to free speech, where cost and ability and connection are barriers everywhere else but here. How are we going to keep our lights burning even brighter over the next 25 years? I’m sure you have ideas. We invite you to imagine with us our next 25 years. It’s never too late to start your Midpen Media Center adventure. We are waiting for you.

written by Annie Folger

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From Documentary To Stage


Sometimes a story comes along that captures the heart and makes the heart its slave. Like many of our Midpen Media producers, Charlie Class has a full life and produces for the sheer fun of it. Charlie has produced hundreds of access TV shows since 1982 on topics ranging from square dancing to high tech to art and sustainability. Charlie joined the Midpen family 11 years ago during our first year here on San Antonio Road. Charlie was content to go as he was, until he met “the story.” Charlie’s good friend, Ruth Mix entrusted her daughter Claire with the telling of her experience as a nurse’s aide at the Gila River Japanese Internment Camp in Arizona. Charlie devoted himself to supporting Claire and Ruth and served as Executive Producer of a moving documentary entitled “Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story.” 

The story began on February 19, 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, designating certain areas of the United States West coast as military zones. This order paved the way for the unlawful imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese American Citizens in internment camps. Through Class Productions, Charlie also published Claire’s young adult novel about her mother’s experiences entitled “The Girl with Hair Like the Sun.” Both the documentary and the book have helped to break the silence around this terrible page in America’s WWII history. Sadly, both Ruth and Claire have passed away.  The good news is that Claire lived to see the documentary that she wrote and directed receive Best Documentary honors from the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club in 2012.  The documentary was also nominated for a Northern California Emmy Award, received two WAVE Awards and two CreaTiVe Awards. Charlie proudly displays the Press Club plaque on Midpen Media’s own Wall of Fame because he believes it represents the pinnacle of his producing career. “Karen (Adams) suggested we enter the competitions,” Class says.  “I am so grateful for all of the support I’ve received from the Media Center and the friends I’ve made there.” But this amazing story doesn’t stop here. There was a chance meeting between Charlie and a member of the Houston Repertory Theater, which has resulted in an upcoming stage version of the Ruth Mix Story! Doug Kreitz, principal instructor of the “Zoom In” Workshops and a deeply committed volunteer, introduced Charlie to his brother Gary Kreitz who serves on the Board of the Texas Repertory Theatre.  Gary fell in love with the story, and took it back to Houston where Artistic Director Steven Fenley and playwright Charles B. French fell under its spell. The rest, as they say, is history. “Hair Like the Sun” based on Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story” will have its world premier at the Texas Repertory Theatre in Houston, March 17-April 10, 2016 

To learn more about the Texas premier and to get your tickets, visit http://www.texreptheatre.org.

To read more about Claire’s experience, read her interview on Discover Nikkei.  

http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2011/7/26/claire-mix/

written by Becky Sanders

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