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“Don’t Leave Her Out,” Meet Saleen Lee

As a Chinese-American teenage girl, Saleen Lee describes how being misrepresented and underrepresented in media is an isolating experience. When she walks down the street or watches TV and sees people in ads and popular televisions shows, she doesn’t see someone who looks like her. “I feel like I’m always left out. I am always looking for someone who looks like me in all the media I see. I’m always yearning for that person I can relate to.”

When Saleen was a kid, her mom watched Charlie’s Angels. Saleen felt like really empowered, seeing Lucy Lui, a powerful woman, fighting villains and defying stereotypes set for Asian American women. This positive role model made a huge impact on Saleen, who notes that Asian women are often left in the shadows.“People who look like me are often background characters, secondary characters, or have non-speaking roles. Asian women are portrayed as two dimensional characters that aren’t relatable or likable.” As a result of discouraging media representation, Saleen feels she is seen through this lens by the world.

“Media stereotypes tell me that I am supposed to be quiet and submissive. I am supposed to be a secondary character in someone else’s life. I am not supposed to have my own troubles or feelings. It puts me in a place where I feel like I am a background character in my own life. I feel invisible because I have no one to relate to. It makes me feel like because my story isn’t told, it isn’t valid.”

Saleen believes that the sharing of diverse stories is the vehicle to validate people’s unique and authentic experiences in the world. Far too often, the storytellers come from outside of the community they tell stories about. Saleen thinks instead, people need to listen. Let communities speak for themselves and represent themselves!

”The fact that there are so many stories throughout history that could involve people of color, that could involve people that look like me, but that aren’t being told is really disheartening.” Growing up at BAYCAT, Saleen says that she was exposed to the most amazing work she’s ever seen, produced by women and people of color. Yet in Hollywood, it’s still mostly movies made by white men.

“I know that women and people of color produce amazing work, but we aren’t given the resources to be filmmakers.” Saleen sees BAYCAT as the solution. At 12 years old Saleen was put in front of a camera and behind a camera for the first time. “BAYCAT really helped me discover my talent and passion for filmmaking. At my school, I don’t have this type of equipment or programs. When I went into BAYCAT it was like entering a whole new world. We worked with a camera on the very first day.” Saleen says that because of BAYCAT she’s gone from a shy student in the back of the class to a leader creating her own independent films.

Through a BAYCAT partnership, Saleen was hired by UCSF to make films for two annual Young Women’s Health Summit, where she was able to impact thousands of diverse young women by shedding light on critical issues like body image, rape culture, female empowerment and social media. You can watch one of her videos here. Saleen says, “The most important lesson is that whatever stories I create deserve to be told.”

Saleen’s message is loud and clear: Stop portraying people of color and women as background characters!

 

Sick of the Same Stories? Your New Storytellers Are Here.

Join us to support young women like Saleen, who refuse to be silent.

“I Only See the Typical Stereotypes,” Meet Alex Sorto

Alex Sorto immigrated from Honduras when he was 16 years old and is now a dynamic entrepreneur, an incredible filmmaker, rapper, graphic artist, and his signature on his email says, “Future CEO.” With English as his second language, he found his way to BAYCAT through one of our programs at San Francisco International High School and has since inspired our own CEO Villy Wang to do a TED Talk. After directing award-winning music video ‘Hard Times,’ Alex began college at California State University, East Bay where he’s studying Multimedia, Marketing and Advertising full time. Yet despite his success, Alex says that when other people look at him, they won’t necessarily see him as a filmmaker or a music maker.

We’re always portrayed as the gang members, the drug dealers, the maids, the Spanish speakers who don’t know English,” says Alex. “On TV, we’re never the main actors. We aren’t portrayed as being successful.” So in the eyes of other people, Alex doesn’t feel seen for who he truly is or, the values he represents or the future he imagines for himself. “They never show a Latino who is a CEO, never.” Instead Alex sees the media industry profiting by villianizing his culture.

Like Angela, Alex carries the burden of misrepresentation by the media every day. He recalls how he went to a job interview and the first thing they asked was, “How good is your English?” Though he is bilingual, Alex wants the world to know that not all Latinos only speak Spanish.

Before BAYCAT, Alex wanted to be a musician. He remembers thinking, it doesn’t matter what I’ve been through, nobody cares about Alex. But then I came to BAYCAT and they said, it does matter, and people need to hear it, people need to know who you are. Without BAYCAT I wouldn’t be who I am today.” At BAYCAT he learned English, filmmaking, music production and most of all, that his own story matters.

Latino Success

“The media always make us feel like we aren’t worth being represented in a positive way. It’s sad, that we are always seen as the bad guys.”

Alex might attribute his success as a creative to BAYCAT, but BAYCAT owes our success just as much to young people like Alex. CEO Villy remembers, “We were talking and dreaming about doing a TED Talk, and he showed me his draft of what his would look like. Seeing his fearlessness to tell his story, he inspired me to pitch his story and then mine. I wouldn’t have been invited to do a TED Talk if it wasn’t for Alex.

Alex makes media to change the way people think. He is sick of the lack of diversity in media creation. He imagines a world where communities represent themselves in media. Only then, he says, will people see the reality of diverse communities from their own point of view, without stereotypes or bias. Alex’s simple solution: 1. Be the change you wish to see AND 2. Donate to BAYCAT

Sick of the Same Stories?

Your New Storytellers Are Here. Join Us!

Donate to support creative powerhouses and future CEOs like Alex Sorto!

 

“Stop Dumbing Yourself Down,” Meet Angela King

16 year old Angela King can light up an entire room with just one of her signature smiles. She is a singer, songwriter, music producer, activist and a high school junior. A seasoned BAYCAT student, Angela is an indispensable role model to our younger students. Yet from an early age she struggled to find role models in the media. She was disappointed to find time and time again that people who looked like her were often represented as “loud and ignorant”.

“Media representation is not authentic, what you see in media does not parallel what you see in real life.” Angela talks about the internalized oppression she’s experienced as a result of how African American youth are portrayed in the media, “you start hearing things about yourself and you start believing it, and you think you’re supposed to act the way you’ve been told to act. You start to take into account how people view that image of you. Though Angela defies the negative stereotypes that she sees represented in the media, she says, It almost gets to me.”

As the only African American female in her entire AP Geography course, Angela admits that she used to feel that she had to fit herself into the stereotypes she saw on the media: “I wanted to hide my intellect. I wanted to hide my knowledge. I didn’t want to seem intelligent. In order to fit in with my community, I had to dumb myself down and that’s something I felt I had to do because that’s how I have been represented. What does that say about misrepresentation?” Angela says, “I ask myself why there isn’t more people like me represented to look educated? Smart?”

Before coming to BAYCAT, Angela had big dreams about one day being a superstar. Think: Beyonce. Unfortunately, she had no idea how to make that dream a reality. At 11 years old, she walked through BAYCAT’s doors, admittedly introverted and unable to look anyone in the eyes. Immediately she realized that BAYCAT was going to be really special. I knew this was a place where I’m comfortable being me”, she says.

Angela recalls her first solo song that she made at BAYCAT, about moving outside San Francisco and not having a space of her own to write music. Angela’s family, like so many others, had been displaced by skyrocketing housing costs, but she says, writing that song helped me get that stress off my mind”.

Though women and people of color are grossly underrepresented in creative media roles, the lack of diversity in media is something Angela knows we can change,I’m 100% sure that not just white men can make media. I make media, and I’m not a man or white.”

“BAYCAT is giving opportunities to people like me, to represent me, in the right way. BAYCAT has brought tons of joy and inspiration into my life. I used to see myself as somebody who wasn’t musically gifted enough. Even though I had big dreams, I lacked self confidence and now after seeing what I have already done at BAYCAT, it gives me a lot of pride.”

Remember Angela’s dream? That pop star dream? In just a few years it’s molded into something radically bigger, and much more authentic. Wise beyond her years, Angela explains, “It’s not about becoming the next Beyonce. It’s not about becoming Drake. It’s about becoming YOU. Honestly, be yourself. I’ve faced a lot of internalized oppression about myself, and I won’t be labeled as anybody else but me.”

Even after all she’s accomplished at just 16 years old, Angela reminds us, “you can’t put a due date on art.” What’s next for Angela? She wants to record more solo music that takes a stand against misrepresentation in the media. I hope more people get to see the wonder of BAYCAT. I hope people stop seeing people who look like me as people who don’t care about education.”

Sick of the same stories? Your new storytellers are here. Join us.

Donate to BAYCAT to support powerful young women like Angela King.

Harness Hope Not Hate: BAYCAT’s Response

Four days before the fatal deaths and tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, 24 of BAYCAT’s young filmmakers, ages 11-16, put themselves on the line in a nonviolent and expressive way on the stage of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema here in San Francisco. Building together a series of short films and animations on the theme of innovation, they premiered to the world, their stories and inventions to inspire us to rethink the social issues that they grow up with every single day: gun violence, racism, gender inequality, gentrification, immigration, incarceration, and the need for safe spaces– while sprinkling the show with their sense of humor with things like an indestructible juice box.

Then Heather Heyer made the news, along with others who lost their lives or were injured by putting themselves on the line. Even more disheartening to witness throughout this week of tweets and headlines is the growing hate, fear and anxiety, and for me personally, the lack of moral leadership from the President.

“I want you, the audience, to reflect on how you can make a change to help social injustices through innovation. I believe you out there can be part of the social innovation that is now occurring, and that you can be the change you want to see.” – Jamahl Edwards, 14, Award-Winning Youth Media Producer

Rather than dividing our communities, our government and business leaders, it is the wisdom of BAYCAT’s teenagers I would rather follow. Working with our youth every day and watching these films reminds me that “out of the mouths of babes,” these youth, our own kids are urging us to INNOVATE. We need a new way to talk to each other. To work with each other. To be with each other. To share who we are, what we value, what we are afraid of, and what our dreams are. Safely.

Jamahl also said to the live audience during the premiere, I don’t want to be a statistic. We don’t want you to be either.  Not one of those stereotypical ones, where young African-American teenagers are destined for jail or the streets.

Last year in my TED Talk, I confronted one of my deepest fears, my own racism. Part of my healing journey was to start a business to end racism and social inequality, one untold story at a time.

If you are like us, and want to rewrite America’s narrative, or help us to build our safe space that allows  young people to fully express themselves and to innovate new ways we can work together, then join our community. Join the conversation. Watch their work below. Comment. Tell them you believe in them. Share. Invest.

Love,

Villy

Why Donate to BAYCAT Today?

Because our educational and training programs bring diverse talent to the tech, media and creative industries.

Make their dream jobs come true. Help us reach our $85,000 goal today.

In light of all that has occurred in the past months and especially in this past week, BAYCAT stands strong and committed to equality, social justice and opportunities for all. For the last 12 years, we have served those most misrepresented in our country: 100% low-income youth, youth of color, young women and unemployed young adults. Last year, 300 applicants applied for our 100 positions. It is a myth that there aren’t enough diverse, talented and qualified candidates who are female or of color, and passionate about working in the creative industry.

We’re here to tell the real story and their stories. The pipeline of qualified young people is here in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and that is why we want to solidify the path between education and employment for more qualified youth-in-need.

BAYCAT gets real and sustainable results. 80% of BAYCAT Studio interns get hired after graduating from BAYCAT at companies like Autodesk, Lucasfilm, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Pixar, Sephora and WIRED. Our transitional-age young adult graduates are on the path to careers with livable wage salaries that will keep these talented digital media creatives in the Bay Area. These 18-24 year olds are 100% low-income, unemployed or underemployed and predominately of color and female. They are the solution to keeping San Francisco diverse, inclusive, and vibrant.

BAYCAT Studio is an important part of our unique hybrid business model. Working with nationally-recognized and socially responsible clients like The Golden State Warriors and National Parks Service makes the internship and on-the-job experience for our students real and relevant, while building their resumes for success. Although in this last year, our Studio helped to bring in 40% of our annual income, the revenue from our Studio alone does NOT pay for all the educational and on-the-job training costs. Every dollar earned supports our ability to keep our Academy and internship pipeline going, but we also need your donations to keep our youth classes free, and to allow us to pay and train our interns on-the-job.

Many of our Academy students grow with us through the years and become graduates of our Studio Internship Program because the mentoring they receive keeps them focused and on-track. 100% of our youth of color who have taken more than two BAYCAT Academy classes continue their education in school. For many BAYCAT students, our facility is the only place they have to access industry-grade equipment to teach them professional tech and storytelling skills in conjunction with a safe and nurturing environment that teaches them skills every employer is looking for: the ability to problem solve, to collaborate, critically think, communicate and actively listen and learn.

Turning 200 students away last year was extremely difficult. With growing demand from our youth and from the tech, media and creative industries for increased diversity, now is the time to build our reserves so that we can strategically plan to scale what we do best to bring more diverse youth into the education to employment pipeline.

BAYCAT students are diverse. Help us change the face(s) of the tech, media and creative industries, literally.

BAYCAT Stats

Want to meet some of our graduates in person? Join us and our youth on December 8th from 6pm-8pm, for the World Premiere of Zoom In: Episode 36 – The Media Effect at the recently renovated, historic Bayview Opera House. Witness and listen to our students’ stories as they address the role of race, gender and new technologies in the media.

More than 3,500 BAYCAT low-income students and interns found success with our model. You can be a part of the solution that our region, and this country, needs to see and hear. You can give them the support and tools they need to become skilled, qualified, educated, digital media artists.

You can help them find their dream jobs and not just survive, but thrive. Please donate today.

Interested in going the extra mile and doing more this year? Set up your own fundraising page and goal. Go to our donate page, and click Become a Supporter. Start Your Own Campaign Page.

Let’s get students to dream big, get hired and repeat!

Why “Fund Passion. Not Prison.”

We’ve launched our year-end annual campaign: “Fund Passion. Not Prison.”

At BAYCAT we believe in the power of education through arts and tech as the best way to inspire our youth to stay in school, find their creative passions, and be lifelong learners.  For the past 11 years, BAYCAT has educated more than 3,250 low income kids, kids of color and young women. We need help from the community to keep our FREE educational arts and tech programs available to the youth who need them most.

The US has the highest incarceration rate of the developed world, and its prisons are overwhelmingly filled with African-Americans and Latinos. The paths to prison are many, but often the starting points are access to education and foster care systems.  Here in SF, the land of a growing gap of “Haves” and “Have Nots;” it matters what zip code you were born in, or if you were even born in this country. Add to that generations of inequality, quality of our schools, and access to technology, the stakes are against most of our low income youth, youth of color and young women to finish school, let alone to find their passion and a dream job.

You need some data?

  • 70% of students involved in “in-school arrests” or referred to law enforcement are African-Americans or Latinos.
  • 40% of students expelled from U.S. schools each year are African-Americans.
  • African-Americans and Latinos students are twice as likely to not graduate high school as Whites.

Below an Infographic with some staggering data.

digital equity

Source: Community Coalition

 

 

 

As mentioned in a previous blog post, prison and the juvenile system is also the topic chosen by our BAYCAT Academy students for their upcoming show Zoom In #34, that will be premiered on December 8, at Z Space in San Francisco. Don’t miss it.

What do you think? We’ll cover more this topic in the coming months and would love your opinion.

diversity in media, Oscars, 2015 Academy Awards

Diversity in Media is an Ongoing Effort

“Tonight we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry … brightest.” – Neil Patrick Harris, host of the 87th Annual Academy Awards.

Diversity in media matters. That is one of the core beliefs here at BAYCAT, and it’s something that many would say they support as well. However, diversity and representation was not on display last night when the staff at BAYCAT joined 36.6 million Americans in watching the 87th Annual Academy Awards.

diversity in media, Oscars, 2015 Academy AwardsWhen we look past the glittery gowns and gold statues, we realize that not much has changed in the last 87 years of the Oscars. 2015 marks the whitest Oscar year since 1995, as the Academy did not recognize a single actor of color. There were also no female directors, screenwriters or cinematographers nominated. None of the Best Picture nominees were films about women or had a female lead.

As trainers of the media makers of tomorrow, BAYCAT aims to change this trend.

In Academy Award history, only 4 female directors have ever been nominated, and there has been only 1 win (Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker). The number of major studio films directed by women has declined since Ms. Bigelow’s win, “hitting a high of 8.1% in 2010, and falling to a low of 4.6% last year,” according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of films directed by women at the six major studios. Women in general lagged behind their male counterparts across the board, with 44 out of 200+ Academy nominations being for female artists this awards season.

Academy membership is still 94% White, 77% Male, with a median age of 62. What kind of stories will be told, and what narratives recognized when there is such a sameness in the voting body? We can access such a rich story when we invite a diversity of perspectives.  Now, more than ever, nurturing the ambitions and career plans of our young artists is essential if we hope to see a change on screen and in society.

But becoming one of these media makers requires access. Access that many youth of color do not have, thanks to the creative digital divide. In San Francisco, specific communities like Bayview Hunters Point and the Mission have limited access to computers and technical training. A 2013 U.S. Census study found that Hispanic and African American youth still trail significantly behind other ethnicities in computer ownership, while a class-based digital production gap exists, as low-income users are less likely to engage in content creation due to disadvantages in education, according to a 2011 study out of UC Berkeley.

If Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma had been nominated, she would have been the first African American director nominated in Oscar history. Some groups had planned to protest the lack of diversity among nominees, but it was canceled at the director’s request.

Diversity and representation in media is not equitable, and as a community, it is up to us to demand change, not simply by words, but through action. Our Media Pathways Internship, and youth programs began earlier this month, and BAYCAT is working with our youth of color, low income youth and young women, to strengthen the representation of all people in media, both in front of and behind the camera.  Our young artists create a tapestry that reflects all of us, not just some, and we empower them, everyday, to tell their own stories. We don’t have to wait for change to start. It already has.

Sign up for our newsletter, or follow along on Facebook as these talented and capable young media makers add their voices to diversify an industry that will only evolve if you demand it. 

 

 

BAYCAT, OITNB, Orange Is the New Black, Lea DeLaria, LGBT, Spotlight on Diversity, filmmaking, digital media, representation, education, nonprofit, social enterprise, Netflix

Making LGBT Representation In Media a Reality

This past Sunday we had the pleasure to be part of “Spotlight on Diversity,” a panel discussion in LA to discuss the impact and importance of LGBT media representation. BAYCAT was invited as beneficiary of the Box Scene Project’s Mirror Scholarship & Fellowship, but also to celebrate our 10th birthday, and a decade of educating and empowering youth people in the digital media arts. We thank the Box Scene Project for throwing us a fun and thought-provoking “Party with Purpose”!

We are humbled and honored to be part of such an important movement and to be surrounded by so many great people, sharing their own experiences. We had the chance to interview some of them, from Lea DeLaria (Big Boo in Orange is the New Black), Amy Fox (The Switch), and Julie Vu (The Switch), to Sean Maher (Firefly), Dylan Marron (Welcome to Night Vale), Jasika Nicole (Fringe, Welcome to Night Vale), and Crissle West (The Read). We extend a gigantic thank you to Amelia from The Huffington Post for delivering such a moving keynote address. Look out for our highlight video, premiering soon on our website!

Also, we are supporting The Box Scene Project’s Mirror Scholarship & Fellowship: a campaign working to facilitate the entrance of diverse and underrepresented youth and independent content creators into the media and performing arts. We need to raise $35,000 in 35 days. Check out the Indiegogo campaign we just launched and help us spread the word.

 

10 Years Bold

BAYCAT is turning 10 years old, and for a decade our young media makers from low income communities have been at the cutting edge of producing untold, poignantly powerful stories from diverse and vibrant perspectives.  From Carlean, a 14-year old who came out as she made the award-winning short film, Finding Your Voice, to Isaac, who shares his experience living with Aspergers in his festival-featured autobiographical piece, “Talking About It.”