Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
I grew up in a martial arts studio and in SF's public school system until my parents pulled me out because I was stealing from Walgreens, tagging on buses, and running away from home. In my own defense, my home life wasn't pretty at the time and I fell in love with the freedom of being outside in the world. In hind sight, I was irresponsible with that freedom.
I was then sent to school in Pacifica and was asked to leave in 10th grade after I refused to take a standardized test. Instead I wrote a short essay on the Scantron which stated that I didn't believe that filling in bubbles and answering questions posed by institutions (that aren't regionally relevant) was the most productive way to gauge the aptitude of students or effectiveness of education. I also advocated for teachers to gain more support and resources. In the months prior to being asked to leave, I organized with a youth organization called 3rd Eye Movement. We organized against investment in the prison industry (in the form of CA Proposition 21) and advocating for investment in educational resources.
My school and parents felt like they didn't know what else to do with me, so I was sent to a Scientology boarding school in New Mexico. When I finished the program, I came back to the public school system to discover that none of the academic work I did at the boarding school transferred. Going back to high school was no longer an option in my mind and I decided to take the California High School Proficiency Exam to begin an Injustice Studies program at San Francisco City College and later at San Jose State and San Jose City College.
During my time at SFCC, I lost several friends - one to murder and the other, my best friend from boarding school, to cocaine. All of which just created a deeper desire to study healing practices and criminal justice. At the age of 24, I got my job working at the Excelsior Community Center down the street from my house. After a few years there, I got burnt out by the politics. I began focusing on taking photos and shooting short videos of my friends who are hip hop artists in the Bay. In 2012 I began to seek out mentorship in documentary filmmaking and found Debra Koffler, a producer and one of the camera women for A Tribe Called Quest: Beats Rhymes and Life. She was hiring a manager for her youth documentary film program, Conscious Youth Media Crew. It was the perfect opportunity and I seized it. I began working 30 hours a week for that program and 15 hours organizing youth summits designed to encourage law enforcement and youth communication in hopes that it would bridge a gap. I began to see the value in the community being confident in capturing their own stories. Since then, I have been determined to learn how to create digital media.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Who or what do you most admire?
What do you love about SF?
What do you fear most for SF?
What do you hope for SF in the next 20 years?
In 20 years, I'd like SF to find an equilibrium. There has to be a way to build communities that invest in its people vs investment in acquiring material status. I don't know how that would be achieved, but one can hope, right?