Category Archives: Politics

Democracy Cafe

Welcome to Democracy Cafe!

Democracy Cafe is a new series of free art, music and social events for people of all ages and backgrounds, hosted in Marin County. We build community and drive social change through creative expression and civic engagement.

We think making art, music and talking with people from diverse cultures can bring our communities closer, build mutual understanding and engage us to take meaningful political action together.

Art and Music for the Women’s March

Our first Democracy Cafe took place at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley on January 14, 2018. A creative group of 50 activists and artists of all ages gathered to make signs, art and music for the upcoming Women’s March.

In just a few hours, we created dozens of inspiring signs, blue flags and Liberty figures. We also practiced protest songs with the Freedom Singers in the beautiful sculpture garden. We’re now well prepared for our Women’s March next week.

I loved seeing so many creative collaborations take place throughout the afternoon. Participants told us they really enjoyed themselves and would like to meet again at Democracy Cafe!

For more information about this first pilot, visit our event page — and view our photo album for Democracy Cafe.

 

Next Steps

In our first pilot series for winter and spring 2018, we plan to host Democracy Cafes on the third Sunday of each month, centered around a wide range of social and civic themes:

  • February: Youth and Politics
  • March: Diversity
  • April: Environment
  • May: Get Out The Vote

Our next Democracy Cafe will be on Sunday, February 18th from 2 to 5pm, on the theme of Youth and Politics. We will invite young people to participate, so we can connect with them, learn more about their views and how to get millennials engaged in the next election. Save the date and sign up here for more information!

Each 3-hour session can include several hour-long activities. For example, the 1st hour could be for art-making, the 2nd hour for a music performance or sing-along, and the 3rd hour for a group discussion. Where space allows, small group meetings can be held at the same time.

Democracy Cafe shows great promise for energizing people through the transformative power of the arts, and sparking our imaginations to solve problems together — and change the world. At the end of this pilot, we will evaluate results of this program to decide next steps.

 

Join Us!

If you would like to join future events or volunteer on our team, please sign up for our Democracy Cafe mailing list.

Democracy Cafe is produced by a team of Marin activists and artists led by Fabrice Florin,  with Danny Altman, Mary Cosgrove, Carol Korenbrot, Marilyn Price and many more. Our goal is to engage our communities to help change the world, by combining arts and politics through fun, hands-on and inspiring activities.

Thanks as well to all our gracious crew and activity leaders: Jean Bolte, Jake Cohen, Dana Dworin, Wayne Lechner, Gareth Loy and Gary Yost, to name but a few. We’re also grateful to Erma Murphy at the O’Hanlon and all our wonderful participants, whose commitment to art and activism inspires us.

Many of us are part of the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), our political action group in Marin. We’re delighted that so many MVCAN members joined us for this creative experiment.

Join your neighbors to make political art — and keep democracy alive!

 

Note: This page was updated on Jan. 15 to include info about our first event.

MVCAN-Do Revue

Singer Matt Jaffe performs ‘Dark Ages’ at the MVCAN-Do Revue. Photo: Martha Ture.

We celebrated one year of resistance with friends and neighbors at the MVCAN-Do Revue, our first anniversary celebration for MVCAN, our progressive political action group in Marin. To energize our community and lift our spirits, we presented an evening of music, dance and storytelling at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, on Saturday, November 11th, 2017.

I produced and hosted this community celebration with a world class team of MVCAN volunteers, to honor community members who took political action this year. We featured talented local performers, including rock singer Matt Jaffe, poet Natalie Frederick, hip hop dancers from RoCo Dance, music director Reed Fromer with the Shady Ladies and the Can-Do Singers — along with special presentations by MVCAN team leaders.

Watch their performances in the full event video below, shot by by David DonnenfieldEd Ellsworth and George Eade — and edited by yours truly.

In collaboration with filmmaker Gary Yost, I also created special video montages to tell the story of how MVCAN came together the day after the election, to resist the attacks against democracy by the Trump regime and right-wing extremists.

Their Year in Review video below showed many of the actions we took together: we marched for democracy, we defended civil and women’s rights, we phone banked to flip elections, we protected the environment, we helped reverse Trumpcare, we created political art, and much more. Watch other videos of this event in our MVCAN Vimeo album.

Special thanks to the photographers who took pictures of our event (Martha Ture, George Osner, Suz Lipman, Tim Pozar and Jean Bolte). You can view more pictures of our anniversary in our photo album on Flickr and on Facebook.

To produce this event, we assembled a special events team, which I spearheaded along with Danny Altman, June Cooperman, Mary Cosgrove, Suz Lipman, Carol Korenbrot, Marilyn Price and others. If you have any questions or comments for the team, please email us at events-lead@mvcan.org .

Thanks as well to the 60 cast and crew members who generously volunteered their time to host this event, and to all the donors who contributed generously to support our cause. And kudos to all community members  who took political action this year! In dark times like these, community action is more important than ever: it’s that choice to act together that defines us — and gives us hope that we can build a better world.

If you would like to participate in MVCAN , sign up here — and/or donate to support our cause.

Join your neighbors to keep democracy alive!

Event producer and host Fabrice Florin kicks off the MVCAN-Do-Revue. Photo: Martha Ture.

Young poet Natalie Frederick performs her poem about her political awakening. Photo: Martha Ture.

Activist and MVCAN leader Suz Lipman thanks our action teams. Photo: George Osner.

Dancers from RoCo’s Hip Hop group bring funk and groove to our event. Photo: Martha Ture.

Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears speaks about community action. Photo: Martha Ture.

Activists raise their fists for democracy at our MVCAN community celebration. Photo: Martha Ture.

MVCAN leaders Danny Altman and Bill Jansen list Top 10 things we did this year. Photo: Martha Ture.

The Shady Ladies sing their hearts out for democracy, led by Reed Fromer. Photo: Martha Ture.

Reed Fromer leads a sing-along with the Shady Ladies and Can-Do Singers. Photo: George Osner.

Activists, cast and crew gather for a final curtain call. Photo: George Osner.

MVCAN leaders June Cooperman and Bernard Catalinotto as Liberty and Trump. Photo: Suz Lipman.

Carol Korenbrot and MVCAN volunteers greet our generous donors. Photo: Suz Lipman.

Meet our event team: Suz Lipman, Marilyn Price, Fabrice Florin, Mary Cosgrove and June Cooperman (from left to right). Missing in action: Danny Altman and Carol Korenbrot. Photo: Ed Ellsworth.

View more pictures of our anniversary in our photo album on Flickr and on Facebook. Watch videos of this event in our Vimeo album.

Bamboodu Float at the Parade

People loved our Bamboodu Float at the 2017 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade!

I created this political art performance with the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), to express our frustration with the Trump regime.

Our puppet theater on wheels stars Lady Liberty and Tiny Trump: each time Trump tweets fake news, Liberty bonks him on his thick bobble head.

Here’s a video of our parade with dozens of artists and MVCAN members:

Thousands of spectators cheered and sang along with us: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …” This lovely poem by Emma Lazarus was turned into song by Gareth Loy and performed by local singers, including members of the Shady Ladies.

Veteran journalist Paul Liberatore wrote this fine cover story for the Independent Journal, the largest newspaper in the North Bay. ABC 7 News featured our political art throughout their Memorial Day coverage (a clip from their news report is included in the above video). Our video also includes footage from a wonderful parade montage by Gary Yost, with a moving guitar solo by young musician Matt Jaffe.

This Memorial Day Parade was organized by Larry “the Hat” Lautzker, Mill Valley’s colorful clothier. The parade judges gave us the “Best Community Spirit Award.” One judge, Eric Christensen, explained why he voted for our entry: “I thought it was a very appropriate message to send on Memorial Day: if people don’t stand up to Trump and his policies, our future will be filled with many more war dead to memorialize.” 

Our friends at MVCAN invited me to give a talk about this project and the importance of art in politics at their monthly MVCAN meeting. Here are my takeaways:

  • Art engages us at a deeper level
  • It unites us around shared emotions
  • We identify with the characters of our stories
  • We spread our message to a wider audience
  • It invites people of all ages to participate
  • It sparks our imagination to invent the future
  • Making art together is fun and inspiring
  • It encourages playful collaborations
  • It builds community and strengthens our bonds

Here’s the video of my talk. See our slides for more info.

I’m very grateful to all the MVCAN friends and neighbors who helped build this float in our front yard: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, Phyllis Florin, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Edward Janne, Suz Lipman, Charlene Lundgren, Jean Marie Murphy, Mark Petrakis and Martha Roush, to name but a few. See the team in action in our photo album.

Special thanks to my amazing friend and associate Edward Janne, who designed and engineered the technology behind this float, using an Arduino, an MP3 shield and NeoPixel matrices. He coded the Bamboodu Player, the custom software which allowed me to choreograph our live performance, using this simple script. If you’d like to learn how to build systems like these, we’ll teach another Arduino class together this fall at Tam Makers.

Many thanks as well to our friends at Pataphysical Studios, our art collective, who marched ahead of us holding a large Traffic Jam sign, from an earlier caper memorialized in this video. We all wore our purple lab coats and funny hats, to set the tone for this new political art march.

I’m really happy that so many people enjoyed our Bamboodu Theater — and that our performance helped promote the Mill Valley Community Action Network — a grassroots political group that helps us coordinate our resistance to right-wing attacks on our liberties. 

Through this interactive art experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to get engaged in political action. If you live in the North Bay, sign up here on the MVCAN site — and join your neighbors to keep democracy alive!

Vive la liberté!

Fabrice

Learn more about the Bamboodu Float:

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