Tag Archives: liberty

Democracy Cafe

Welcome to Democracy Cafe!

We host free art, music and civic events in Marin, to help people of all ages and backgrounds drive social change through creative expression. We offer a range of activities to build mutual understanding and engage us to take meaningful political action together.

We host free Democracy Cafes on the third Sunday of each month. Each event focuses on a different theme, such as Gun Violence (March 18) or Climate Change (April 22 – Earth Day). A typical event includes several hour-long activities, such as sign-making, sing-alongs, speakers and group discussions.

To learn about our latest events, read below — and sign up for our newsletter.

Join our next Democracy Cafe: End Gun Violence!

Our next Democracy Cafe will take place on Sunday, March 18, from 2 to 5pm, when we will help people of all ages prepare signs and songs for March for Our Lives, a nationwide rally to end gun violence. This event  will be in Mill Valley and announced soon. Sign up here to join us.

We are inspired by all the young people who took political action to protest the recent school shooting in Florida, such as the Tam High Vigil pictured above (see more of our vigil photos). We want to support their cause and empower them to join their voices, hearts and minds for social change. Their dedication, passion and creativity are our best hope for building a better world. 

 

Democracy Cafe 2 – Youth In Action

Activists and artists of all ages gathered at our second Democracy Cafe, for a fun afternoon of art, music and politics. This free community event celebrated Youth in Action and took place at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, on February 18, 2018. 

We started by brainstorming ideas for a new art float, to be shown at public events in 2018. Participants suggested we build a large earth and a circle of caring hands, to symbolize social change. 

The float will be created in the Tam High Wood Shop by students and adult makers led by Fabrice Florin and Geo Monley. Anyone who wants to help is invited to join the welcome meeting on March 1.

 

We then sang along with the Freedom Singers, led by Marilyn Price, in a medley of songs for a better world, including the two tunes heard in the video above, shot by Phyllis Florin: mexican folk song “De colores” and “Building Bridges”, a call to action by Wayne Lechner.

Young activists from ‘Generation: Our Climate‘ and 350 Bay Area spoke about their climate action campaigns: testifying with local and county governments to promote green energy policies, limit emissions from oil refineries and protest the new coal terminal in Oakland. Speakers included activists Mimi Lawrence and Avery Brandes, along with their adult mentors Daniel Heagerty and Carolyn Clara (you can support their latest project here).

To hear their speeches and performances, watch this cool 360° video by Gary Yost, with a panoramic coverage that gives a full experience, as if you were in the room with us. To look around, swipe the video (or view it with your smartphone in a Google Cardboard-style headset.) 

Young singers/songwriters Matt Jaffe and Patrick Maley took turns playing personal and politically-minded songs. Poet klipschutz and musician Joel Hamilton performed an inspiring mix of poetry and jazz, with paintings by Eun Lee in the background. For highlights of their performances, watch our 360° video above.

We love that so many young people joined their voices, hearts and minds with ours. Their dedication and creativity are our best hope for building a better world. Many thanks to all the presenters and community members who participated in this celebration — and to the gracious organizers, activity leaders and multimedia creators who made this very special event possible.

Learn more about this inspiring event.

This is a 360° video of Democracy Cafe. To look around, swipe the video as it plays.
Created by Gary Yost.

Democracy Cafe 1 – 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. To see scenes from the event, view our photo album or watch the video below.

Our first pilot exceeded all our expectations. Participants gave high ratings for this event, told us they had fun, made new friends, enjoyed making art and singing together, and felt more motivated to take political action. They felt well prepared for our Women’s March the following week. Most participants wanted to join our next events, and several offered to help organize them.

The event was covered by local and national journalists, who wrote these fine articles:
• Marin activists gear up for women’s marches, midterm elections
by Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal
• Organizing The Resistance, One Meeting At A Time
by George Osterkamp, Dan Rather’s News & Guts

This enthusiastic feedback and this favorable press coverage suggests that we are on the right track with Democracy Cafe. To learn more about our first pilot, visit our event page.

 

Join Us!

If you would like to join future events or volunteer on our team, 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, Carol Korenbrot, Bruce Mowry, Marilyn Price, Laura Riley 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 wonderful participants, whose commitment to art and activism inspires us. And kudos to our gracious performers, crew and activity leaders: Jean Bolte, Jake Cohen, Mary Cosgrove, Dana Dworin, Matt Jaffe, Kurt Lipschuck, Wayne Lechner, Craig Love, Gareth Loy Patrick Maley and Gary Yost, to name but a few. We’re also grateful to Erma Murphy at the O’Hanlon for hosting our first events.

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 are participating in this creative experiment.

Democracy Cafe shows great promise for energizing people through the transformative power of the arts, sparking our imaginations to solve problems and change the world together.

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

Photos by Fabrice Florin, Mary Cosgrove and Dana Dworin. Videos by Phyllis Florin, Craig Love and Gary Yost.

This page was updated on Feb. 21, to include more info about our first and second events.

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!