January 7, 2013
By Lisa Hewitt
The Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) has a long history in Oakland, San Francisco and surrounding areas, beginning 36 years ago as a small media arts nonprofit, the organization was founded by community organizers and artists. They aimed to tell social justice stories and support independent filmmaking. Over the last four decades, BAVC has grown as technology developed; originally focusing largely on the PortaPak video camera, BAVC now works with a multitude of technologies, from filmmaking to music recording tools.
BAVC’s original mission still remains, to facilitate storytelling. They do this through alternative technical education in order to contribute to social change and justice. It is a complex and highly inclusive organization with a common purpose through all the departments, whether it’s preservation, adult education or the youth programs. Ian Davis, a Digital Pathways instructor for BUMP Records explains,
“Though there are a few different departments throughout the organization, the linking thread throughout is to bring the community in and help people who otherwise might not have, or mostly likely, would not have the opportunity to tell their stories…It gives them an opportunity to keep these stories alive…A tree falls, no one hears it, it doesn’t make a sound? I think [BAVC] helps the trees make sound.”
Much of the work BAVC does centers around youth educational training, their Next Gen Youth program offers instruction in audio engineering, video production and filmmaking for students 14-24 years old. BAVC seeks to level the playing field for youth who may not have the resources or opportunities to acquire emerging technical skills elsewhere. Chris Runde, the Manager of BUMP Records explains,
“I think that in current economy especially, we’ve seen a real emergence of where jobs actually exist. There is really a need for really specific skill sets in the technology sector. And the ability to jump in and navigate this world and provide services that are valuable to corporations, companies, [and the] government…People who don’t have those skills or the access to the training are really being left behind. Access to that kind of training tends to favor people from privilege backgrounds, so I think the work that we do here, we’re really trying to bridge that gap and provide some of those same opportunities for folks who in other cases wouldn’t have that access to it.”
BAVC aims to help students become well rounded artists, producers, or filmmakers possessing skills that enable them to find work in the tech industry. If the student is a singer or rapper they learn to record music, or if they’re a filmmaker they learn design. The work that students produce comes from their perspective; the work is compelling because it’s relevant to their lives and their communities. As part of KQED’s American Graduate initiative, the station partnered with BAVC’s Bump Records (the advanced recording program) and The Factory (the advanced video program) to produce an album entitled An American Graduate and a series of short films which examine the current dropout crisis in Oakland. Runde and Davis assert it challenged the students to work outside their comfort zones and address an issue that is very pertinent to their lives. An American Graduate album and the short films Stay the Course, Checkmate, and There is No Crisis in American Education address issues such as education, incarceration, student alienation, and one song on the album explores the teachers’ perspectives.
Ingrid Dahl, the Director of Next Gen Programs explains how BAVC’s youth programs can serve as alternative to the traditional high school experience, “I also think that Chris and Ian and all the staff of BAVC are more situated as mentors to students, [they] are much closer to a colleague or peer. It’s very different from the power structure unfortunately of… traditional education. I think all of us are sensitive to the fact that high school can be very hard. A lot of us didn’t like high school. I didn’t like high school at all. And there are reasons for that. We’ve spent most of our early adult lives having to break that down, dismantle it and try to understand it and the intersection of sexism, racism, classism, discrimination homophobia, hatred and why people need to categorize themselves so much and so deeply…We’re…creating an alternative way of being, way of seeing and that too is why students come back. They understand this is a place that they can be understood better. And maybe it’s a break from the pressure and the exhaustion that surviving in high school requires.”
To learn more please visit: http://www.bavc.org/
“This series of short videos profiles four parents whose students have pursued a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) field career through the Bay Area Video Coalition’s NextGen programs.”: http://bavcfactory.tumblr.com/post/30338539979/parents-talk-stem-directed-by-jacob-hirsohn-owen
KQED / FACTORY American Graduate films: http://bavcfactory.tumblr.com/
BUMP/American Graduate compilation: http://bumprecords.bandcamp.com/album/bump-records-and-kqed-present-an-american-graduate