With support from the James Irvine Foundation’s Exploring Engagement Fund, BAVC Media is collaborating with local social service agencies to provide a series of digital storytelling workshops to San Francisco-based individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to tell their personal, important stories. The workshops, called SF Stories: A Shared Experience, teach participants the technical and creative tools for creating a digital story on their own from start to finish. Each participant completes a three-minute digital story for exhibition both within their service provider agency and on San Francisco’s public access television station, on the Web (at bavc.org) and in non-traditional exhibition spaces, including at community events. Read more about SF Stories and BAVC Media’s other digital storytelling initiatives here.

Previously, SF Stories Program Manager Andy Kawanami wrote about the challenges and ultimate success of bringing BAVC Media’s SF Stories program to the San Francisco County men’s jail in San Bruno, California. On Friday, July 18th I had the honor of attending a screening at the San Francisco women’s jail facility at 425 7th Street to see the digital stories created by 10 women incarcerated there. That evening BAVC Media staff were joined by the women who created the stories, BAVC Media’s social service partners from the Recovery Survival Network, program staff from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, and San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

BAVC Media staff members Andy Kawanami and Jessica Flores worked with the 10 participants, supporting them over five weeks as they learned new technology and storytelling skills. The stories we all heard in the room during the screening were moving, but the entire experience was so much more for everyone there.

Throughout the screening there were tears. Using their own words and images the digital stories the women created depicted their struggles and their hopes. Stories of children left behind, parents who were absent, brothers who showed up when they were needed, and poetry that lifted people above their circumstance and gave them hope.

BAVC Media will upload the stories to our YouTube page but nothing will take the place of seeing these stories in a room with the women who made them, and hearing them talk about what they learned in the program. One woman called the program “liberating”. Another explained that it made her feel important – that she had never been able to use an Apple computer before. Another broke down talking about being able to hold a camera for the first time in years and being able to “feel like a kid again.”

The screening left an impression on every person in that room who had the privilege of walking out the door and onto the street at the end of the night. I hope the messages that resonated will help BAVC Media and our partner organizations to continue this work with the many people in San Francisco who don’t have access to the digital tools and resources that many of us take for granted in this City – an international technology hub.

As I left the screening that night I talked with one young woman about her incredibly moving story and told her that I hoped to see her at BAVC Media. She said she is being released in August and that she is planning to come by very soon. I look forward to seeing how BAVC Media, along with our partner organizations, can help her build a strong and supportive community when she is released.

To see more digital stories created by women and men in the San Francisco County Jail, as well as others created by participants from the Homeless Prenatal Program and the Veteran’s Administration’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, visit BAVC Media’s YouTube playlist page.