We Are SF: Pathways To Citizenship

Published On: January 19, 2016 |

At the Bay Area Video Coalition, much of our work is to share diverse stories through art, education, and technology. For this reason, we are especially excited about the work being done by BAVC Media Productions in collaboration with the California Arts Council and San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA).

OCEIA offers a series of free citizenship workshops as part of its San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative. The initiative brings together multiple philantrophic organizations and community-based naturalization service providers to “develop new approaches, methodologies and service delivery models to promote citizenship and civic participation among San Francisco’s citizenship-eligible immigrants.” The workshops provide free assistance with the naturalization process, from application preparation to review by a qualified legal representative.

With the financial support of the California Arts Council and OCEIA, BAVC Media Productions documented OCEIA’s Citizenship Workshops using three distinct mediums: film, social media and visual art to create We Are SF. The film crew documented the workshop’s operative process and interviewed workshop attendees along with volunteers and event organizers.

Similarly, a group of six “story collecting docents” interviewed workshop attendees and staff to create Instagram posts in the style of social media projects such as Humans of New York.  These Instagram posts also provided muralist and visual artist Nate Tan with quotes featured in a mural designed and executed during the workshop. The overall goal is to create awareness of the services provided by OCEIA and CAC’s workshops, and of the stories behind the members of this community. As one workshop attendee put it, “We want to invite all the Latinos to come and visit us, let’s spread the word and take action and let everybody know “Sí se puede, Latinos unidos.”

The experienced turned out to be a powerful one. As Alex Torres, a college student working as a “story collecting docent” said, “My father is an immigrant, so I found that this process really spoke to me. I was able to see people with experiences that reflect upon my own heritage as well as experiences that are totally different than my family’s. It was enlightening to understand that the border of Mexico and the US is not the only place immigration happens, and it is important that all immigrants, both from Mexico and elsewhere, are allowed to prosper in the United States.” Cassie Ingrasci, another “story collecting docent” added, “Attempting to capture this type of event, whether in a video or in a sentence, exceeds expectation. On the surface it is an organized information session, but digging deeper you realize the event consists of a patchwork of stories, dreams, and histories, each equally diverse and complex.”

You can take a look at our Flickr album from the first event in 2015. Below are a few of the testimonies collected. More stories will surface weekly on OCEIA’s Intagram!






“We want to invite all the latinos to come and visit us. Let’s spread the word and take action and let everyone know ‘sí se puede latinos unidos!'” #sfpathways2citizenship #newamericans #OCEIA

A photo posted by SF Office of Immigrant Affairs (@sf_immigrants) on

“I immigrated from Mexico in 1996 and decided to bring my 6 year old son to have a better life and to build something different, start a new life…” #newamericans #oceia #sfpathways2citizenship #BAVC Media

A photo posted by SF Office of Immigrant Affairs (@sf_immigrants) on

“Aquí hay más libertad y no me siento discriminado como en mi país.” #sfpathways2citizenship #immigrants #OCEIA

A photo posted by SF Office of Immigrant Affairs (@sf_immigrants) on