Friday, August 26, 2016

Midpen Receives National Park Service Grant for Education About Japanese American Confinement Sites

Midpen Media has been awarded a grant of $143,482 from the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) program administered by the National Park Service. The grant, awarded last month, will support a two-year educational project with the working title, "50 Objects / 50 Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration." 

Fifty objects from museum, archival and family collections, such as a family piano, a toolbox and a suitcase unopened for decades, will be selected by a curatorial team to tell 50 stories about the wartime removal and confinement of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. The “50 Objects” project was inspired in part by renewed public interest in camp artifacts due to the successful halting of the Rago auction of heritage items in 2015. A collection of 450 photographs and artifacts that were collected in 1945 by the scholar Allen H. Eaton were going to be sold in a public auction before the provenance of the items could be determined. A national grassroots protest movement helped stop the public sale and the collection was eventually acquired by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. 

 “We feel honored to sponsor this important project.  Interviewing the survivors and their descendants, and empowering them to tell their stories is at the core of what community media is all about,” said Annie Folger, executive director of Midpen Media Center. The narratives will be told using multimedia formats, including long-form journalism, short videos and audio narrations. The stories will be released beginning in 2017 on a dedicated website and shared through social media. In addition, Midpen Media Center will air episodes on cable television. 

“This history is still within living memory, so it’s possible to preserve these stories for future generations. By researching the different objects and uncovering the human stories, we hope to let the artifacts ‘speak’ and become a portal into this history which is so relevant to society now,” said Nancy Ukai, project director. Joining Ms. Ukai on the curatorial and production team are Bay Area artist David Izu, filmmaker Emiko Omori and writer Chizu Omori. 

Nancy Ukai is a writer and researcher who was head of two public art projects in Princeton, NJ. She helped lead a social media protest to rescue the Eaton collection comprising 23 Lots of Japanese American incarceration artifacts from public auction in 2015.

David Izu is a Bay Area based artist and holds an MFA from Stanford. He has taught at Stanford, the SF Art Institute and the California College of the Arts. His work is part of the permanent collection at SFMOMA as well as other institutions. 

Emiko Omori is a camp survivor and her award-winning documentary "Rabbit in the Moon" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on the national PBS series POV, and has won numerous awards.

Chizu Omori is a survivor of the Poston I camp in Arizona, a columnist for the Nichi Bei Weekly and was a named plaintiff in the Hohri class action suit, which went to the Supreme Court in 1983. 

The director of the project’s Academic Advisory Board is Dr. Franklin Odo, founding director of the Asian Pacific American Program at the Smithsonian Institution. 

This project is particularly timely now as the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 is Feb. 19, 2017.  The order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt led to the forced removal, without trial, of tens of thousands of American Japanese living on the West Coast by the U.S. military. Two-thirds of the evicted people were citizens and one-third were children. In addition, thousands of immigrant men, and some women, who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship due to their race, were arrested by the FBI and imprisoned as “alien enemies” in Department of Justice and military internment camps.

Many of our readers may recall our association with the historical recreation on film of "Gila River & Mama: the Ruth Mix Story", championed by Midpen Media producer Charlie Class. Charlie produced the documentary based on the book written by Ruth's daughter Claire.  Ruth had kept her sorrow about her own experience as a nurse's aid in one of the camps a secret, until when nearing death she shared her painful story of loss, helplessness and frustration at the the plight of the Japanese Americans she came to know and love. Using connections he made through Midpen, Charlie saw the book produced as a play in Houston last Spring. 

We believe that sharing stories like Ruth's, the the stories behind these 50 objects is an important addition to the expanding treasury of Japanese American Incarceration stories.   For as George Santayana the celebrated Spanish writer said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

Artwork courtesy of David Izu

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Learn All About The Summer Interns

By Giana Borgo

The Media Center is currently hosting 15 summer interns; however, this number is continuing to grow each week. We youth hope to gain valuable career experience in video production plus increase our office skills. Some things we get to do here include helping facilitate summer programs going on at the center--for example, editing classes, sports broadcasting camp, live Television shows, and much more. We have also been gaining office experience by working in the tape inventory room, organizing and creating files, and exploring the field of journalism.  Here's a "snapshot" of our current crew:

Tonnia Allen is a 15-year-old incoming Sophomore at Menlo Atherton High School. Tonnia enjoys listening to and watching K-Pop. She is currently studying Korean and is striving to become fluent in the language. Tonnia hopes to travel to Korea in the near future and explore the culture. She hopes to move to Korea with her close friend Frances and become an English teacher for young children.

Giana Borgo is a 16-year-old, lifelong resident of East Palo Alto. In the fall she will be a Senior at Summit Preparatory Charter High School. Giana has a passion for filmmaking and came to the Media Center through the Sponsored Employment Program (SEP)  to  deepen her  exploration of  film. In her free time, Giana likes to sing, play the ukulele, write and produce short films, and dance. Giana has traveled to Costa Rica where she built a recycling center for locals in Providencia de Dota, and will be traveling to Jaipur, India this summer to teach young children English and Math.

Lineni Fonua is 17-years-old and recently graduated from East Palo Alto High. This fall she will be attending Georgia Tech in Atlanta, majoring in Neuroscience. Born and raised in Bakersfield, Lineni moved to East Palo Alto when she was in the 5th grade.  Lineni enjoys reading, writing, singing, and watching Fifth Harmony videos. She hopes to gain further knowledge about film through interning at the Media Center so she can then use new skills to start a YouTube channel for herself.

Maria Guadalupe Vazquez is 19-years-old and will be entering her sophomore year at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). At UCSB, Maria is double majoring in Sociology and Political Science. Maria came to the Media Center through the Dream Summer Program. The Dream Summer Program is an empowering youth program for undocumented students that is spread throughout the country. In her free time, Maria loves to play soccer and listen to R&B and Hip Hop. Justice Sotomayor has been a big inspiration to Maria for many years. Justice Sotomayor, the first Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Hispanic heritage, has inspired Maria to believe that following your dreams and working hard can get you anywhere no matter what your background may be.

Samain Henderson is a 16-year-old resident of East Palo Alto. She is an incoming junior at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. Samain heard about and was brought to the Media Center through the Sponsored Employment Program  (SEP.)  This program allows youth to explore different fields of work during the summer.  Samain enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Hannah Illathu is a 17-year-old who is going to be a Senior this fall at Gunn High School. In her free time, Hannah loves filming, reading, listening to music, and swimming. Hannah has a passion for all aspects of film. She heard about the Media Center through a friend who was a past Media Center intern and quickly followed in her footsteps. Hannah had her first experience with high-end filming when she was able to work a camera for one of the Media Center’s live shows!

Carla Kong is a 15-year-old incoming sophomore at Gunn High School. Carla enjoys playing volleyball, volunteering, and participating in her her school’s Class Council. She also is a diverse musician who enjoys playing the guitar, ukulele, and piano. In her spare time Carla also loves to bake. Carla was introduced to the Media Center through school last year when she and a few of her friends participated in a film festival the Media Center was running. She and her friends actually won the film fest and Carla soon found herself at the Media Center learning more about film.

Kalene Lacey is a 19-year-old who was born and raised in East Palo Alto. Kalene will be going into her sophomore year at College of San Mateo in the fall, where she will study nursing. Kalene hopes to one day be a labor and delivery nurse.

Sam Lee is 17-years-old and is going to be a Senior at Palo Alto High School in the fall. Sam experienced a lot of moving throughout his childhood. Born in South Korea, Sam moved to California, then New York, to Arizona, and back to California where he currently resides in Palo Alto. In his free time he loves to play basketball and listen to Hip Hop and R&B music. He also has a great passion for journalism. Sam started interning here two summers ago because he wanted to gain more experience in the fields of film and television.

Frances Lopez is a 14 year old who grew up in San Mateo but soon moved to Menlo Park. She will be a sophomore at Menlo Atherton High School this fall. Frances learned about the Media Center through the Sponsored Employment Program (SEP). Frances loves to listen to music by her idols Fifth Harmony and Selena Gomez. In her future, Frances hopes to one day move to Korea with her friend Tonnia and teach English to young children.

Clarissa Vokt is a 19-year-old, incoming Sophomore at Chapman University in Orange County. At Chapman, Clarissa studies both Screenwriting and English Literature. Clarissa was born and raised in San Jose. In her free time she likes to read, write, and watch movies. Clarissa came to the Media Center in order to gain further experience in film production. She hopes to one day be able to write, direct, and produce her own films.


Lupe Maafu is an 18-year-old incoming freshman at UC Davis. In the fall Lupe will be majoring in Psychology at UC Davis. Lupe is a diverse athlete who has played sports such as volleyball, basketball,  and soccer. She believes family time is very important and loves spending her free time with her family.  Lupe found the Media Center through the Sponsored Employment Program and hopes to gain not just film experience but office work experience.

Miguel Moreno is a 15-year-old who will be a Junior at Palo Alto High School. He enjoys playing badminton, soccer and hanging out with friends. Miguel really dislikes boba tea. His favorite class subject is Chemistry. Miguel has been into film making ever since he took video production classes in 8th and 9th grade. He learned about the Media Center through the Sponsored Employment Program (SEP) last summer. Miguel so loved his summer experience at the Media Center that he continued interning throughout his past school year.

James Chang-Davidson is a 15-year-old incoming Sophomore at Gunn High School. He has a passion for  filmmaking and loves producing professional-event videos. James actually built his own drone. He heard about the Media Center about 4-5 years ago in middle school when a summer school teacher told him about it. He then took two studio classes and volunteered on some shows. He’s been interning at the Media Center for quite a while now and helps teach classes.

If you happen to stop by the Midpen Media Center this summer and see any of us interns, introduce yourself and say “hello."  We appreciate having the opportunity to be a part of this community, and hope in turn to contribute something meaningful during our time here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Teaching the Heart To Play Music

California Music Preparatory Academy could fulfill its mission of rigorously training youth in chamber music performance without a nod to any social benefit. However, the “About Us” page on the academy’s website indicates Cal Music Prep is about more than music:

“Beyond providing children with critical thinking and artistic skills, we provide our students opportunities to volunteer in their communities and perform in numerous outreach concerts. CalMusicPrep aims to empower, enrich, and equip each child with tools necessary to become successful in all areas of musical and personal development.”

Does their mission sound some familiar? Take Midpen’s mission, for instance: “To inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act on behalf of their communities, to use television and the internet to create and distribute programs that promote and celebrate individual expression, local achievements, education, cultural exchange, arts appreciation and civic engagement.”

How does Cal Music Prep put the public benefit part of their mission into practice? By performing for audiences and in places for free where the cost of admission is homelessness, hunger or infirmity. Tapping a child’s natural gift for music and transforming that into a heart for service is part of Cal Music Prep’s secret to success. By sharing their artistry, these young artists become ambassadors of hope. They learn that performing music is more than striving for excellence but it is in the sharing of their unique gift that the gift becomes meaningful.

Twila and John Harrison, the producers of Studio 32, have a similar mission. Produced in our studio with Midpen's trained volunteers, Studio 32 showcases local musical talent with an added touch of inspiration. When the credits roll, Twila and John hope the viewers not only will have been entertained but they will have experienced something special about our community and feel inspired. Artists from Cal Music Prep were guests on the most recent episode and fulfilled all our missions by playing for us!

On a chance visit to El Camino Hospital, MC Producer John Harrison followed the sounds of eerily beautiful music down the halls to the lobby. He joined patients, staff and visitors in a pop up performance. He ended up staying beyond his time. He learned that the performers were part of a school with a special mission to give youth valuable performance experience while sharing their gift at unusual concert venues. John invited the school to bring some of their chamber players onto the set of Studio 32 and tape a show. Under the musical direction of world renowned cellist Jonathan Koh, our studio crew was treated to a half hour of pure musical joy.

Samuel Kim, who will be attending Washington University in the Fall, spoke of his time at CalMusicPrep: “My most memorable moment was when I organized the Sunnyvale Atria senior home performance. It was extremely rewarding to see the look of enjoyment on the seniors' faces as our musicians performed. Moments like these reminded me why I play music. Chamber music has helped me immensely to realize that the point of music should be to share it with others.”

Another senior Anna Yang who will be attending Stanford this Fall, said, “Since I grew up playing solo repertoire, the first few times I played in a group, everything was about me; CalMusicPrep helped me learn that the success of our group depended on us."

Cal Music Prep is relatively young. Founded in 2015, the school is still building its base and hoping to attract not only students but community leaders to help grow their programs. Currently they are unable to offer scholarships to students, but they plan to provide scholarships when they have a solid foundation from which to grow.

If any community organization would like to have the Cal Music Prep students perform for them, please contact Grace Choi, Director of Operations at Their preferred venues are hospitals, senior centers, homeless shelters, churches and community centers, but they are open to suggestion.

written by Becky Sanders and Twila Harrison

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Power to the Voters!

written by Elliot Margolies

Most people in the Silicon Valley think of the recent primary election as a race between Presidential hopefuls, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but for the Midpen Media Center, the focus was on local races and our goal to provide video resources to help voters make informed choices.

The Media Center partnered with chapters of the League of Women Voters in Palo Alto, South San Mateo County and Los Altos/Mountain View to produce and televise a candidate forum in the heated race for the 24th State Assembly District. The video was viewed online 284 times and many more times on our cable TV channels.

State Assembly 24th District Candidate Forum
We also co-sponsored a video by the Palo Alto League that laid out the pros and cons of two Bay Area ballot measures and one State Proposition on the June ballot.  That video was viewed online 541 times.

The LWV and Media Center are gearing up to organize, televise and upload numerous candidate forums for the November general election.  There will be city council elections in Palo Alto (4 seats), Menlo Park (2 seats), East Palo Alto (3 seats), and Atherton (2 seats) and numerous school board races.  We also expect a number of local ballot measures to emerge this summer.

We make it easy for voters to find all the links and cable TV playback times on our web site’s Election Pages.

This year we have renewed a partnership with Dr. Patricia Gibbs, a Sociology Professor at Foothill College and her students.  The students are in the process of selecting two state initiatives that will appear on the November ballot.  They will organize debates on their campus featuring speakers from the campaigns in favor and against each initiative.  The Media Center will televise and upload the debates and promote them to voters throughout California.

Save the date for our Election Night show  - November 8th - which will feature analysis of results in Santa Clara and San Mateo County races and interviews with a number of the newly elected officials.

We are always looking for ways to make the video resources more useful for voters. Please send any ideas you have to

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 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 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

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

written by Becky Sanders

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