Just edited my first director's reel! Grateful for all the wonderful people I've been able to work with. Take a peek and let me know what you think.
Back from Netroots Nation in 107 degree sweltering hot Phoenix! Grateful to the abortion storytelling organization 1in3 for sponsoring me to speak at the conference about Art and Activism. Was amazing to experience how the #blacklivesmatter intervention transformed #NN15 and the democratic candidates national conversation. The sister Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac used the intervention to ask Martin O'Malley & Bernie Sanders what they would do to end structural racism. Thank you Elizabeth Beier for drawing this gorgeous activist portrait!
Delighted I could volunteer my skills as a filmmaker to support this important project. Densho has been documenting the untold stories of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during WWII. The organization provides a broader and more complex version of history. Special thanks to the awesome team George Takei, Eric Liu, Daniel Fallik, Pete McDonald and the whole Densho Staff. Check out "What Does An American Look Like" and please share!
We've had a dynamite year at imMEDIAte Justice, our film camp for high school girls. Firstly, youth from the Academic Leadership Community created a badass film about street harassment. Their work was featured in the Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Mic. It screened at the imMEDIAte Justice Comedy for a Cause fundraiser featuring Laura Kightlinger, Chelsea Peretti, Iliza Shlesinger, Eliza Skinner, Janine Brito, Helen Hong, Jenny Yang + D'Lo! The Ladies of Comedy Association (LOCA) sponsored the event at the Hollywood Improv and the house was packed! It was such a great night of girl filmmaking and feminist comedy. What more could one ask for.
Had a great time photographing Chelsea Jackson & Pia Schiavo-Campo for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine hitting stands at Whole Foods Market today! It was my first time shooting for a print magazine spread. Appreciate Melanie Klein's Yoga and Body Image Coalition for promoting yoga that is accessible, body positive and celebrates more gender queer & people of color bodies that we don't often see in magazines like this!
Healing from abuse has taught me to believe in magic. How else would we be able to alchemize violence into a loving vision of hope?
A few days before Valentine's Day -- the anniversary of my rape -- I thought about all the times I had wanted to end my life. But this time, I decided to write myself a love letter. This radical act of self-love was the start of a letter-writing project called Survivor Love Letter.
I wrote in my journal: "After surviving my rape, I spent 10 more years surviving chronic depression and a perpetual feeling that I had to continue to fight for my life. This is my survivor love letter. Don't give up on your own happiness."
I reached out to women of color activists such as Suey Park, Lisa Factora-Borchers, Patrisse Cullors as well as friends who were healing from abuse and in doing so, envisioning a world free of violence. Valentine's Day kicked off #SurvivorLoveLetter, and we flooded the Internet with love for survivors on twitter and tumblr.
Angry Reader of the Week: Tani Ikeda
"I am interested in the healing and restorative nature of story..."
What are you all about?
I am interested in how those who have been dehumanized and marginalized within the cultural narrative can recast themselves as human. I am interested in the healing and restorative nature of story and how changing the story around our lives and our people changes the future. My grandfather was incarcerated during World War II. When I was a little girl, he used to tell me over a bottle of Sapporo, "The government rounded our family up like cattle and then expected us to prove our loyalty as Americans by dying for this country." Although I was very young at the time, the choked down pain I heard in his voice transmuted something deep and engrained inside of me. It was a story of my family's struggle and our history. I've written about my grandfather throughout my life and am currently working on a documentary film about him. My grandfather's story has been my compass for locating the necessity to tell untold stories.
What makes you angry?
My anger is a response to racist attitudes and to the actions that arise out of those attitudes. Being Asian American means a lot of different things today. As author Eric Liu notes, "There are Asian Americans who are out numbering other demographics in college and at the same time there are still many Asian Americans who are struggling under the radar of that narrative." It makes me frustrated that often times only one dimensional portrayals of Asian Americans in the media exist and my hope is that we can start bringing in some more of that rich complexity.
Utne Reader visionary
For many of us, sex education consisted of half-truths whispered in the school cafeteria or movies in health class that suggested abstinence and heterosexuality were our only options. In 2009 Tani Ikeda, a new graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) film program, posed the question What would happen if young women took sexual health education into their own hands?
The answer was ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer program that Ikeda, along with cofounders Sylvia Raskin and Laney Rupp, created for young women in South Central and East Los Angeles that teaches media literacy and sexual health through filmmaking. Participants learn to write, direct, and film their own sex-ed videos with a “for youth by youth” philosophy.
In 2010 the program focused on issues of sexual orientation and the LGBT community. In the 2009 film Mariposa, student filmmaker Espie Hernandez chronicles her experience as a lesbian Latina planning her quinceañera, a coming-of-age ceremony for 15-year-old girls. The poignant short, filled with the painful complexities of family and the honesty of youth, earned recognition at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York—a thrill for both the filmmaker and a proud Ikeda.
Ikeda is no stranger to women-centered activism. In 2006 she cofounded the Women’s Creative Collective for Change at USC with Marissa Sellers. The feminist group’s weekly potluck dinners continue to provide a safe, inspired space where women can share ideas.
ImMEDIAte Justice aims to provide teenagers with an equally comfortable space, where they can develop the ability to educate peers with powerful stories. The program has gained national attention, earning grants from DoSomething.org and the Pepsi Refresh Project.
“Through ImMEDIAte Justice we’re reclaiming our bodies and our stories,” says Ikeda. “Now we’re the ones holding the cameras.”
What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? In Tani Ikeda's case, it's creating films that offer a fresh take on sexuality education.
Ikeda, an award-winning director and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, has received early success and was named one of 25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World by the Utne Reader as she continues to foster media that matters.
With help from her best friends Sylva Raskin and Laney Rupp, they co-founded ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer workshop and community outreach program for girls devoted to revolutionizing sex education through filmmaking.
Their curriculum places an emphasis on body awareness, gender and sexuality. Topics include teaching self-examination, transgender-friendly anatomy and queer safe sex. Not your mama's sex ed class, right? Ikeda wouldn't have it any other way.
"For many of us, sex education consisted of half-truths whispered in the school cafeteria or movies in health class that suggested abstinence and heterosexuality as our only options," she explained.
Ikeda was born and raised in Seattle, which isn't Hollywood but is home to the WTO protests and a thriving activist community.
It was in Seattle where Ikeda first imagined using film to create change. "In high school I felt ashamed of my sexuality and invisible in the media as an Asian American girl."
She began writing about the hyper-sexualized media representations of Asian women: "Everyone who looked like me on television were either kung fu fighting bad guys or fetishized sex slaves and I aspired to be neither." Ikeda hungered for something more, and she promised herself she would go to Los Angeles to change that.
If the rumors suggesting that a new Wonder Woman movie adaptation will be hitting theaters soon are true, then I have a perfect casting suggestion: Tani Ikeda. Back when she was interviewed this May, the 22-year-old was having a busy week: she had just won a $25K grant for her educational filmmaking program, “imMEDIAte justice” and had to get ready to work on Kylie Minogue’s new music video, “All the Lovers.” With her cutting-edge ideas about starting a revolution, the self-made Seattle native strives for a fairer world in which women gain more power in the movie industry, and in which filmmaking serves as a platform to drastically alter the current U.S. sexual education system.
Could you first introduce the readers to the concept of imMEDIAte justice?
imMEDIAte justice is an eight-week summer program which started last year in conjunction with the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the USC film school where fifteen high school girls of color from underresourced communities were trained in media literacy, pixelization, animation, poetry — they were also introduced to industry professionals who critiqued their work and talked about what it meant to be a woman in the film industry. The concept really stemmed from a conversation with Laney Rupp and Sylvia Raskin in which we wondered what would happen if we were to empower young women of color and young queer youth instead of marginalizing them when talking about sexual education. What could other students learn from using a model that doesn’t create gender binaries or treat sexuality as a normative, cohesive, whole? My friend and I figured that film and media were the most efficient vessels for these girls to communicate important messages about youth and sexuality.
CGI U aims to help future leaders develop, talk about what leadership means to you and your organization.
Traditional forms of leadership prize those who immediately take control of a project and carry their team toward victory. It’s a model of winners and followers that creates a hierarchy of power. My best friends/co-founders of imMEDIAte Justice, Laney Rupp and Sylvia Raskin, have shown me a different kind of leadership model. While they both have the talent, intelligence, and ideas to be the type of charismatic leaders people follow, Sylvia and Laney work to create organizational structures that allow everyone to lead. Their form of leadership instills a self-motivated call to action in volunteers and youth. They have taught me to use my position of power to synthesize others’ ideas and facilitate collectively envisioning change. While traditionally speaking this may seem like a weakness, it has transformed individuals who felt powerless into communities with a deep and meaningful sense of purpose.
Any words of advice for college-aged people who want to launch a social start-up?
Our generation wants change to happen fast and our impact on the world to be huge, but it's the attention to the often, slow process that builds strong movements. Many motivated young people burn out as social entrepreneurs from the difficult reality of affecting sustainable change. Take the time to build a self-awareness and love that sustains transformation in communities of struggle and celebrates the little victories. Stay present and bares witness to the suffering of others while making room for the possibility of healing.
The Mexi-Asian Persepctive: A Mexican’s Guide to All Things Latin, Asian, or Both by David A. Romero
Not all people that you meet in college are created equal. Some are jocks, some are jerks, some are weirdoes, and some are people you don’t ever want to see again.
Tani Ikeda is definitely not one of those people. I had the pleasure of meeting Ikeda while studying at the University of Southern California. We were both film majors, but, as luck would have it, we didn’t actually meet in film school. She and I met through a network of USC activists. Ikeda was keeping busy then. She’s keeping busy now.
Tani Ikeda is an award-winning Japanese American filmmaker. Ikeda has toured film festivals all across the globe with the films Blue Sky, Other, and No Kill. She is also a committed activist, dedicated to the issues surrounding reproductive justice. To that end, Ikeda has created imMEDIAte Justice, a summer program for young women. Both Ikeda and imMEDIAte Justice have garned attention from the likes of NBC and UTNE.com.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Ikeda in Mercado La Paloma during LA’s new open mic The Nook to discuss both her film career and imMEDIAte Justice.