A local nonprofit strives to change the way we think

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A local nonprofit strives to change the way we think

Gapastione opens up with an inspiring talk to the audience before the film starts.

Gapastione opens up with an inspiring talk to the audience before the film starts.

Evan Ajuria

Gapastione opens up with an inspiring talk to the audience before the film starts.

Evan Ajuria

Evan Ajuria

Gapastione opens up with an inspiring talk to the audience before the film starts.

Evan Ajuria, Staff Writer

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BraveMaker is an emerging nonprofit based out of Redwood City, seeking to make a difference in not only the way we look at each other, but the way we look at change. Its goal is to provide a platform for filmmakers to share brave stories centered on injustice and discrimination.

On March 25, BraveMaker had their fourth monthly screening. Over 150 people attended to view the film and engage in a thought-provoking and educational panel discussion centered around unconscious bias.

A lot has happened since their first screening in December of last year. Since then, Bravemaker has hosted screenings about race, disabilities, sexuality, and most recently, gender and racial bias. Each time, they have managed to draw large diverse crowds well into the hundreds.

I truly believe most of us know there’s work to be done to make our world better, but we get overwhelmed and we don’t know where to start. I think the first and most simple step it to make the time to listen and learn,” founder and CEO of BraveMaker Tony Gapastione said.

Many members of the Redwood City community have embraced BraveMaker’s vision by showing up to engage, observe and participate in the events each month.

Sheila Cepero from the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation saw firsthand how something such as a short film and panel discussion could bring so many people together and spark awareness.

“I absolutely love BraveMaker’s mission to give a voice to issues of discrimination and injustice. These are difficult topics to talk about, and that has affected me personally,” Cepero said. “By having our community watch a movie that highlights one of these important issues, it makes it easier to talk about them. The films help foster communication.” 

A lot of volunteer work and commitment has helped pull the event together. The BraveMaker team has been working night and day in an effort to overcome the speed bumps and problems that continuously occur.

“I have worked for for-profit corporations all my life where motivation was easy to identify — monetary compensation, status, job security, etc. Volunteering for nonprofit does not come with any of them,” Yuka Kato, a voluntary team member, said. “It’s been a good opportunity to step back and think, ‘what motivates me? Who and what am I doing this for?’” 

Everyone on the team, including the sponsors, know Bravemaker’s goal and collectively strives to make it work.

“Because I am participating as a volunteer, the amount of work depends on what BraveMaker needs versus my availability,” Kato said. “I have to learn a lot about the nonprofit world, as it has its own rules and regulations that I am not familiar with, plus lots of email and text communication with other team members. Constant communication is critical in working with other volunteers because they all have day jobs and other commitments too.”

In addition to the monthly screenings and panel discussions, BraveMaker is planning to host a local film festival this June in Redwood City.  It is encouraging students and young creatives to join and submit their films, music, or anything else that they want to share.

A Carlmont student who was deeply affected by BraveMaker’s efforts decided to get more involved with its events. In a recent screening, Abigail Alberti volunteered to participate in the panel discussion related to the LGBT community.

“BraveMaker gave me the opportunity to share about my experiences with and what I do for the LGBT community, which is something I am very passionate about. In most places, what a 15-year-old girl has to say wouldn’t matter, but at BraveMaker, they cared about what I had to share and all the work I have done, and that means a lot to me,” Alberti said.

BraveMaker is working on their next film event to be screened at the Fox Theater in downtown Redwood City. The theme is justice reform, there is expected to be lots of enriching and thought-provoking discussions.

“Each screening impacts the community by creating the opportunity to discuss social issues we normally don’t talk about.  Many of the films we feature contain sensitive topics that are uncomfortable to talk about for some people, but going to the screening gives us an excuse to bring it up and talk about it,” Kato said.

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