Us Can Do It – Video by Gill Sotu

Q&A With Creator Gill Sotu  

Q:  How long have you been creating spoken word poetry? How did you break into the genre?

A: I have been a writer pretty much all of my life. But the spoken word, in general, I have been doing for close to twenty years, ever since I got out of the Navy.

Q:  Tell us a little bit about what inspired Us CAN Do it.

A: I started the poem and what I was going to say as honestly as I could.  “A part of me was scared to write this…” TEDxSanDiego asked me to speak on something that is affecting the entire world and I really felt the pressure to speak honestly and powerfully on the subject. What does one say to a world that is temporarily unraveling before our very eyes?  My answer is the response I always give when I feel I am in a crisis…How can I bless someone else so I am not so worried about my problems?  When I do that, the things that weighed me down magically begin to lift.

Q:  Walk us through the creative process when you’re putting together a piece like this.

A: I took in all of the input from my collaborators.  What did they want this poem to feel like?  What is the important thing we want people to know…things like that.   Then you just sit with it for a while and let whatever comes out come out.  Not to get too spiritual, but at that moment something magical happens and you let it flow WITHOUT JUDGMENT.  That is the important part.  Anything that comes out can be fixed in the editing process.  Then Jack introduced me to two amazing performers, Mandi and Jamie, we got together, and again, I just felt where the piece needed to go musically.  The final piece of the puzzle was bringing on Enjet Media to film and add their vision, and the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation to lend us their space.  The timing of the way everything came about was quite serendipitous.  If anything in the process happened a day later, we would most likely not have been able to shoot the video.

Q:  What do you hope audiences extract from experiencing your work?

A:  The feeling that they are not just observers to this pandemic, that we are all in this together.  That we all have a role to play. And if that role is not apparent, it is up to each and every one of us to make one up for the betterment of all.

Q:  Tell us about the #UsCANDoIt challenge!  How can people keep the conversation going?

A:  This #UsCANDoIt challenge is to find and nominate someone who you know is stepping up and going above and beyond for other people during this crisis.  We want to feature and celebrate them through TEDxSanDiego.  Our hope is that acts of kindness beget more acts of kindness. We are looking for short songs, poems, raps, prose, or really just a heartfelt video of you talking and sharing who you are nominating, what they are doing and what that means to you.  It is only together that “us CAN do it!”

Diversity and inclusion empowers community centered design – Bennett Peji at TEDxSanDiego 2017

Bennett successfully makes the case that everyone should play a role in the success of their city, as well as their local neighborhood, which means that development of those communities requires residents to be at the table when important decisions are being made.

This approach to community centered design requires all voices welcome and encouraged. With this progressive philosophy, new and diverse solutions can be discovered, and local residents can be empowered to take control of their future.

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Magical, Mystical, Mysterious Clemencies – Justin Brooks at TEDxSanDiego 2016

We see it each year at Thanksgiving time. A small crowd on The White House lawn, family members of the President gathered around while the star of the show, a turkey, is granted a pardon from becoming the day’s meal from the President himself.

With presidential clemency powers, it is within the president’s rights to save a bird (or two) each year, but more importantly, this power grants the President the right to pardon wrongfully imprisoned people.

This power has been exercised numerous times throughout history for not only full release from federal prison, but also to reduce sentences.

Along with the President, governors are provided the same power at the state level. This is significant because, as Justin Brooks, director and co-founder of the California Innocence Project, said, the United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world – most of which are incarcerated in state prisons. Additionally, California is the state with the most people in prison.

“To get a case opened in California is an incredible task,” Brooks said during his talk at TEDxSanDiego. “To un-ring that bell to get a court to say ‘we’re going to take a second look at this case’ … it’s a really difficult process.

To catch the attention of California Governor Jerry Brown, and in turn his clemency powers, Brooks and his team identified 12 compelling cases from all cross sections of the state’s communities to take to Brown as a petition for clemency.

But just sending a petition wasn’t enough to get his petition. So Brooks, and two lawyers from his office, set out to walk the petitions all 712 miles from San Diego to the state capitol in Sacramento and hand deliver them to the governor’s office.

As the title of his TEDxSanDiego presentation alludes to, clemencies can be magical, mystical and mysterious, especially when you’re wondering what became of the 12 case petitions that were walked straight to the governor’s office.

Justin Brooks Profile

Justin Brooks on Twitter

California Innocence Project

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