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Storytelling workshops: Galvanizing community around displacement

By Reanna Tong, AICP, January 17, 2021

Every year, SF Urban Film Fest (SFUFF) hosts storytelling workshops as part of its annual programming of interactive film screenings. These workshops are organized to guide planners in telling stories, an unfamiliar skill and exercise often not taught in school. This year, SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District is inviting SFUFF, planners, and others interested in inspiring community action to join them for two storytelling workshops on February 13, 2021. Participants will learn the basics of storytelling and apply this knowledge by creating narratives for anti-displacement strategies.

Why storytelling?

Some colleges and universities have courses dedicated to teaching narratives and storytelling, helping people to learn and remember through seeing and hearing lived experiences. People are motivated and invested in a call to action when stories make complex concepts relatable and accessible. Telling stories builds community relationships and trust — they give people a voice! Communication through stories and visualization can often tell so much more than pages of words.

Community groups, organizations, and government agencies are examples of partners who have joined SFUFF’s storytelling workshops in the past few years. In 2019, Young Community Developers (YCD) wanted to create a video that would kick off the 100 Black Homeowners campaign. Inspired by the concepts and individuals’ stories told at the workshops, the final video tells the story of Black families’ Great Migration from the South to Bayview, and the role of YCD and the Bayview community today. Today, this video remains front-and-center on the YCD homepage to continue conveying the community’s goals.

At last year’s workshop, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) presented workshop goers with the challenge of communicating a transit planning concept and traffic congestion through individual stories and experiences. At the end of the second workshop, SFCTA staff reflected on the stories they heard from participants and chose a story that best fit their needs.

About the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District

SOMA Pilipinas is a movement anchored in the South of Market neighborhood and its Filipino history and people. They have hosted film screenings and panels for the SF Urban Film Fest.

Over the past year, SOMA Pilipinas has been working hard to develop its Cultural Heritage Housing Economic Sustainability Strategies report, also known as CHHESS. All cultural districts in San Francisco are required to develop such a report unique to their communities. The reports require extensive engagement with community members to achieve consensus on identity and policy strategies for strengthening community infrastructure.

A major component of the SOMA Pilipinas CHHESS report addresses anti-displacement strategies. This year’s SFUFF storytelling workshops will focus on community-centered narratives to support these strategies.

The workshops

If you have little to no experience in storytelling, you need not worry about being unable to contribute. The Level 1 Workshop is organized to help with that and is led by a popular instructor, Keith Battle of the Bay Area Video Coalition. At this workshop, you will learn the basics of storytelling through a framework known as SAMS: Story, Audience, Message, and Style. You will then use what you learned to analyze a few videos on anti-displacement.

In the Level 2 Workshop, you take what you learned in Level 1 and work collaboratively with other participants in small groups to begin creating anti-displacement campaigns that connect the community to the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District’s anti-displacement strategies. Each group will be led through a storyboard exercise by a professional storyteller/filmmaker. At the end, SOMA Pilipinas will vote on the one they feel best communicates the stories of the community.

Members of the South of Market Community Action Network gather on Third Street at Market calling for a landlord to rescind evictions of several Filipino families, June 2018. Photo: SOMCAN

Workshop details

Here’s a chance to help SOMA Pilipinas with their Cultural District’s anti-displacement strategies while also equipping yourself with a new skill! What you learn can be applied across all jobs, workplaces, and community groups, whether trying to communicate a complex concept, share a community’s history, or begin to get the public invested in an effort. We hope to see you at this year’s SF Urban Film Fest screenings.

Storytelling Workshop Level 1: How to Use Storytelling to Fight Displacement. 1 CM Credit Pending

Saturday, February 13, 2021, 2:30 pm | 60 mins. Register here.

Come learn the basics of storytelling and apply it as a tool to fight displacement. In this intense and accelerated workshop, you will learn how to be an effective storyteller using the SAMS (Story, Audience, Message, and Style) framework and will test your knowledge by analyzing a few short anti-displacement videos. You will be surprised at how easy it is to become a storyteller and use the method in your communication to galvanize communities and government leaders around anti-displacement efforts. We recommend taking both Workshops Level 1 and Level 2 to get the most out of becoming an effective storyteller and apply your skills in support of the anti-displacement efforts of SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District. Led by Keith Battle, Filmmaker/Educator, Storytelling Workshop Lead Instructor.

Storytelling Workshop Level 2: Create SOMA Pilipinas’ Anti-Displacement Campaigns. 1.5 CM Credit Pending

Saturday, February 13, 2021, 4:00 pm | 90 mins. Register here.

Participate in an advanced interactive storytelling workshop to create campaigns that will galvanize the community around SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District’s anti-displacement strategies! Develop strong messages and stories that will marshall resources to protect and stabilize buildings containing a high proportion of Filipino residents in the South of Market (SOMA) district of San Francisco. After a brief introduction, participants will break into five small groups led by a pro­fes­sion­al story­teller/film­maker. Each group will generate a storyboard for a video campaign, and SOMA Pilipinas will vote on the best one! We advise you to take Workshop Level 1 to get the most out of Workshop Level 2.

Presenters: David Woo, Senior Planner, SOMA Pilipinas; Keith Battle, Filmmaker/Educator, Storytelling Workshop Lead Instructor; Leah Nichols, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Deana Mitchell, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Ken Fisher, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Avni Shah, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Serginho Roosblad, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader.

Author Reanna Tong, AICP, is a planner with the City and County of San Francisco. She holds an MS in city/urban, community, and regional planning from Pratt Institute and a B.Arch (minor in city and regional planning) from UC Berkeley. Reanna has been volunteering for SF Urban Film Festival since 2019 and is passionate about the subjects of storytelling and engaging youth in planning.

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