Tag Archives: community

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:

#art #bamboodu #indivisible #mvcan #politics #puppets #resist #theater

Bamboodu Theater

Behold the Bamboodu Theater, my new puppet stage for civic events and art shows.

This interactive theater experience features the Bamboodu spirit, a mythical creature rising from the earth to expose the troubles facing America and the world. Above his head are some of the characters that haunt his dreams, playing out the eternal fight between fear and hope.

Our first scene stars Lady Liberty and Mr. Trump. As surreal music plays, Mr. Trump’s recent tweets and alternative facts scroll by on a news ticker below the stage. Each time Trump says something wrong, Liberty hits him on his thick, bobbing head — until his oversize jacket falls off, revealing that the emperor truly has no clothes.

At the end of this short play, we invite our guests to sing along the inspiring words of Emma Lazarus’s poem about the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor …”). Through this interactive experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to think about the values we share — and help change the world through civic action.

Bamboodu Theater is a work-in-progress, combining mixed-media art with radical puppetry, along with electronic text, lights and sounds powered by Arduino. We customize the experience for each public appearance, whether it is shown as a stand-alone exhibit, a parade float or a street theater performance.

We premiered this interactive theater experience at Signs of Hope, an inspiring exhibit of political art that ran from April 14th to 29th at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael. See photos of our theater in that exhibit. Learn more on our project page.

We are now building a special float to feature the Bamboodu Theater at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 29, 2017. To create this float, I am working with a wonderful team at the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), a local political group which I recently joined to resist the conservative takeover of our country.

Our new Bamboodu Float is coming along very nicely, as shown in this photo album. Learn more on our project page. In coming months, we plan to show it at other civic events and political rallies.

Bamboodu Theater was created by Fabrice Florin, in collaboration with Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis, Geo Monley, Jean Bolte, Howard Rheingold and our friends at Pataphysical Studios and Tam Makers. Special thanks to Gareth Loy for permission to use his Mother of Exiles song, and to all the MVCAN members who are helping build our parade float: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Suz Lipman and Jean Marie Murphy, to name but a few. I’m deeply grateful to you all.

It’s been a true pleasure to work with so many friends and neighbors to keep democracy alive through art and theater.
Vive la liberté!

Introducing Tam Makers

Tam Makers is a community of makers, teachers and students in Marin County. We build things together and offer courses, meetups and a makerspace at Tam High School in Mill Valley. To learn more, visit http://tammakers.org

We are starting Tam Makers, a new makerspace in Marin — and invite you to come visit, if you are in the area.

We offer courses for adults and teens, meetups and a new makerspace at Tamalpais High School, in our state-of-the-art wood shop and computer lab.

We created this community center to serve the needs of our local community, whether you are interested in making things for yourself or supporting a makerspace for your children.

Join our meetups

If you live in our area, come to one of our free meetups, so we can tell you more, hear what you think and plan our next steps together. Our monthly meetups are listed here and run from 6 to 8pm in our makerspace at Tam High School (see address below). Adults and teens welcome. If you missed our last meetup, here are photos and slides of this event, as well as the video of our presentation and group discussion.

Sign up for classes

This year, we are offering a wide range of classes for adults and youth: from Arduino to laser cutting, hand tools, wood turning and how to make elegant boxes, to name but a few.

Learn more in our Classes page, where you can sign up for these classes before they fill up.

All adult classes start at 6pm. Teens can also sign up for these classes, with the help of an adult.

Visit our makerspace

All events are at Tamalpais High School, in our state-of-the-art wood shop and computer lab: 700 Miller Avenue (Room 416), Mill Valley, CA 94941. See map.

The best times to visit our makerspace are during our free meetups (see above). To get a feel for our space and community, check out the Tam Makers Photo Album.

Meet our team

Organizers include: Geo Monley, Fabrice Florin, Howard Rheingold and our maker friends, with the Tam High School District’s Community Ed program.

We are developing this program to build fun maker projects with our community and learn from each other.

For more information, visit tammakers.org . To get our newsletters, subscribe to our mailing list. You can also email us at info@tammakers.org .

We hope you will join us. We invite you to share this page with friends and neighbors.

See you soon!

This post was updated on August 6, 2016 to introduce new classes and meetups.

Communications at Wikimedia

Wikimedia logo family complete 2

I am happy to announce that I have joined the Wikimedia Foundation’s Communications team as Movement Communications Manager.

I have really enjoyed my work as product manager at Wikimedia in the last three years, leading the development of new tools like Notifications, Thanks, Beta Features, Media Viewer and other multimedia products. I am grateful for this opportunity to improve so many different parts of the Wikipedia user experience.

One of the lessons I learned during that time is that ‘better communications’ are really important to make the Wikimedia movement more effective. I also think that growing a ‘culture of kindness‘ is key if we want to engage a broader community of contributors. I hope to support both of these goals in my new role. 

I am now working with the WMF communications team on the Wikimedia blog and movement communications. My focus for the blog includes improving contributor workflow for community members and foundation staff, and providing editorial guidance for contributors. I also act as the main contact point for authors submitting new blog posts, and shepherd the publication process. Within movement communications, I work to improve the availability, distribution, and timeliness of communications from the foundation to the broader community.

I’d like to thank all my colleagues on the multimedia and product teams — as well as our many community champions — for being such wonderful collaborators over the past few years. I am proud of what we accomplished together, and I hope that the features we created can help many more people share knowledge productively in years to come. 

I’m delighted to take on this new assignment, and I look forward to many more productive collaborations in the coming year.

Onward!

A Culture of Kindness

How-to-Make-Wikipedia-Better-Be-Nice-Jean-Fred-Wikimania-2013-1024px

Many community members think that ‘being nice to each other’ can help improve Wikipedia.

Can we improve Wikipedia by being nicer to each other?

This was the topic of my talk at Wikimania 2014, which you can watch in the video below. In this short post, I would like to share some ideas from community members for growing a “culture of kindness” on Wikipedia.

Over the past few years, I have asked hundreds of Wikipedians the same question: ‘How can we improve Wikipedia?’. I invite them to write down their idea on a notepad, and then I take their photo, which I then share with other community members, as shown here.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales invites community members to 'be kind to each other' at Wikimania 2014 in London.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales invites Wikipedians to ‘be kind to each other’.

Here are some of the most frequent responses I have collected: “Be nice,” “Help the newbies,” “Be friendly.” Participants often observe that participating on Wikipedia can be a frustrating experience for new and experienced users alike, because many of our members lack civility. That hostile behavior turns away many good people, who might otherwise contribute to our cause — and this seems to harm the free knowledge movement.

‘A Culture of Kindness’ Slides

With that in mind, here are some of the ideas I have collected for building more trust in our communities:

  • help newbies
  • train editors
  • reward kindness
  • build more social tools
  • use friendlier channels
  • give everyone a voice

Help newbies

Be more encouraging to new users. Improve the way we welcome new contributors. Let them know they can help. Show them easy, fun things to do. This can be done through community programs like the Teahouse, as well as through personalized tasks and to-do lists.

Train editors

Invite current editors to be more effective in their interactions with other users, through online training events and mentoring programs. This is easier said than done, as many editors don’t feel like they need to be trained or don’t have the time for this. But everyone can benefit from a bit of coaching when it comes to empathy. And special rewards could be offered to editors who take this practice seriously.

Reward kindness

Identify people who treat others nicely, show them appreciation, celebrate their acts of kindness, honor them as role models, encourage them to show others how to do the same. Kindness can be contagious!

Build more social tools

Simple features can help encourage kindness in subtle but powerful ways, like the popular Thanks notification feature that my team developed for Wikipedia. Other software tools could help invite more civil interactions, such as a better discussion system, real user profiles, or user avatars.

Another way to build more trust is to invite anonymous users to use a persistent identity, with some form of authentication that is more reliable than IP addresses. This idea is still controversial in our movement, but worth considering if we seriously want to improve current community relations.

Use friendlier channels

Communicate over more user-friendly channels: from face-to-face meetings to video conferences — or other ways to humanize how we interact with each other — to complement text-only channels that don’t convey emotions or body language very well. Our video roundtables are a good example of how civil conversations can be encouraged on multimedia channels.

Give everyone a voice

Make it easier for diverse user groups to contribute to our movement. For example, our nearly 500 million readers can help with simple feedback on how to improve Wikipedia content, as our largest user group. Women should also be empowered to participate more actively on our sites: to this day, a vast majority of Wikipedia editors are still men, and more kindness could help close that gender gap. And the same goes with many ethnic minorities and other disenfranchised groups. Giving all these users a voice can help make them feel part of our movement, and eventually engage them as future contributors.

Watch the video

To hear more about these ideas, you can watch this video of my half-hour presentation at Wikimania 2014, which provides more insights collected from community members:

Fabrice Florin presents ideas for improving how we interact with each other on Wikipedia, speaking at Wikimania in London on August 10, 2014.

This video is also available in other formats on Vimeo and YouTube. Key points of that presentation are featured in these slides.

I take these issues seriously, as they can slow down our collective work and prevent us from growing as a movement. The hostile behavior many users have experienced on our sites harms us all; I hope that over time, we can all make Wikipedia a safer place, so that more people can feel comfortable sharing knowledge in our projects. To that end, I am now studying the impact of kindness in collaborative environments — and I would be grateful for any recommendations you might have, as well as links to research studies, tools or best practices on that topic.

Some of the ideas above are easier to implement than others, some of them are more controversial. But I believe most of them could make a difference towards encouraging a kinder, more civil behavior within our movement.

Onward!

This personal blog post was re-published here on the Wikimedia blog on December 24, 2014. Fabrice’s talk on ‘A Culture of Kindness’ was first presented at Wikimania Social Machines Weekend, held by video conference on May 24, 2014. It was then shared with a larger group at Wikimania 2014 in London, on August 10, 2014. See also: Wikimania audience comments and video conference chat log.