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Shokare Nakpodia Archives » DreamWeek San Antonio

DreamWeek Seeks to Promote MLK Jr.’s Legacy of Diversity, Equality / SA Current

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By Mary Tuma : January 15, 2014

SA Current - Cover

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, San Antonio—home to the largest MLK Day March in the nation—will be buzzing with events aimed at modernizing the late civil rights leader’s teachings. The 12-day summit dubbed “DreamWeek” features more than 60 speakers, screenings, mixers, youth events, workshops and parties centered on preserving the legacy of King. Presented by the City’s MLK March Commission and DreamVoice, a non-profit offshoot of local media company The Mighty Group, the conference is billed as a means of promoting “an exchange of ideas on universal issues facing our multi-cultural communities.”

Still in its infancy, this is DreamWeek’s second attempt, and if the goals of The Mighty Group’s president Shokare Nakpodia—or “Sho” as he’s called—go according to plan, it will be a San Antonio staple event for decades to come. But let’s backtrack a bit: How did the idea come to fruition and what are SAers supposed to gain from going?

SA Current - Sho

Shokare Nakpodia, DreamVoice San Antonio President

A native of Nigeria, Nakpodia left Africa in his teens to study in London before heading to New York for an education in the visual arts. He eventually settled in San Antonio to form his local marketing group, which specializes in messages laced with community empowerment. During a meeting called by Mayor Castro a few years ago, Nakpodia and eight others representing various groups around town were tasked with expanding the image of SA beyond just the River Walk or the Alamo.

While he was overlooked for the MLK March assignment, instead assigned to focus on the military, Nakpodia’s interest was piqued. Still ruminating on ways to further promote the leader’s legacy, a year later his non-profit won a contract to beautify MLK March Day graphics—and that’s when Nakpodia got the ball rolling.

“I thought, how can we advance the voice by presenting all the different parties and issues and get everyone to come together and resolve these conflicts?” Nakpodia tells the Current at the Mighty Group headquarters on East Commerce Street during an interview a day shy of the summit’s kick-off event.

Nakpodia elaborates: “I wanted to host an environment where we can create healthy debate. Why don’t we move past the civil rights discussion and also start talking about immigration issues, women’s issues, gay and lesbian rights issues?”

The DreamWeek lineup includes speaker Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author of April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How it Changed America, a screening of Freedom Riders and subsequent discussion with four of the original participants, an MLK oratorical contest and a stream of events from thought-provoking to whimsical.

The co-host considers last year’s inaugural DreamWeek a success. While the group tapped organizations (local universities, restaurants and art museums) to participate during its first go-around, preparing for the 2014 event was noticeably more fluid: This time, organizations solicited them. If the trend continues, Nakpodia hopes to multiply the number of events and, eventually, take DreamWeek national—and even global one day, he muses aloud.

The long-term ambition is getting big-ticket speakers in the mix—leading theorists, academics and personalities—associated with resolution and, as Nakpodia puts it, “the face of America’s tomorrow.” (A couple of names on his speaker wish list: Cornel West and Desmond Tutu.)

If the summit gains enough momentum and expands to meet Nakpodia’s vision, one aspect will certainly remain the same: Each event must encourage tolerance, equality and diversity.

“Diversity is not how many people of different cultures are existing in one place, diversity is how many people of different cultures have access to other people’s cultures and celebrate it,” says Nakpodia.

Amid DreamWeek’s feel-good call for equality and tolerance, local African-American rights leaders remind us there’s still a long and rugged road ahead for black progress.

SA educator and writer Fred Williams argues one of the major problems impeding black progress comes from within communities and from the generational psychological damage inflicted upon black youth. “These kids are very pessimistic about life; they are seeing they don’t have options so they end up in prison or worse. How do we change that around? That’s our big dilemma,” he says.

The San Antonio College professor and author of African American-based literature feels particularly nostalgic about MLK Day. While working for former Indiana Democrat Sen. Birch Bayh years ago, Williams helped coordinate a hearing to promote the federal holiday, initiated after a request made by Coretta Scott King (widow of the late leader) to get legislation introduced on the Senate side. “I feel really close to the holiday,” says Williams.

“MLK changed the whole face of America. Just 30 years ago, I couldn’t walk into a classroom and teach. Today my students don’t think, ‘here’s a black instructor’—they ask ‘how hard is this teacher going to be?’” he says.

“The civil rights problems today are somewhat different,” Williams continues. “Racism is still alive but it’s controlled. And if there is some semblance of it, there’s recourse.”

San Antonio NAACP President Oliver Hill contends institutional racism is still pervasive and threatening. Hill points to recent attempts by state legislatures to restrict minority voting, such as the infamous voter ID law—enacted here in Texas—as examples of systemic oppression. (The law, which prohibits certain forms of identification at the voting booth, disproportionately impacts minorities—the Department of Justice and federal courts have found it discriminatory and unconstitutional.)

“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” says Hill. Comparing it to a contemporary version of a poll tax, Hill says voter ID laws fall “under the guise of voter integrity,” but are truly meant to prevent minorities, especially African-Americans, from voting.

Locally, Hill hears several complaints of police brutality, intimidation and school bullying based on race. He also says there’s been a mass exodus of educated African-Americans from San Antonio, fleeing to find better job opportunities. “Our young folk that are going to college don’t come back because there is no reason to return—they can’t get hired. We need more homegrown African-Americans in employment and leadership positions,” says Hill.

SA Current - March

The MLK Day March in SA attracts aproximately 100,000 participants

While on his search to answer why SA holds the nation’s largest MLK March, attracting an estimated 100,000 people, Nakpodia discovered the city’s reputation for peaceful resolution—perhaps signaling hope that the problems for minority communities may not vanish any time soon but that, at the least, thoughtful dialogue on progress and reconciling differences may emerge—the very point of the MLK Jr.-inspired conference.

“I learned that we tend to resolve our conflicts with less drama and more tolerance than most other cities of our size,” Nakpodia said.

DreamWeek runs from January 10-21; a full schedule of events can be found at dreamweek.org.

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DreamWeek’s 60-plus events to kick off Friday / MySA

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By Elaine Ayala : January 9, 2014

SAN ANTONIO — DreamWeek opens Friday with a St. Paul’s Square ceremony in the morning and 2nd Verse, a spoken word event at the Continental Café on Fairdale Drive, in the evening.

In between, the San Antonio Ivy Educational Fund‘s scholarship dinner will feature a keynote address by author Michael Eric Dyson at the University of the Incarnate Word‘s Sky Room, and the San Antonio Museum of Art will host the Dream pARTy.

In all, more than 60 events — “and counting,” organizers said — will make up the 12-day summit, with San Antonio’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. March on Jan. 20 as its highlight.

Each event through Jan. 21, in one way or another, has been organized to advance MLK’s dream of tolerance, diversity and equality, said Shokare “Sho” Nakpodia, president of DreamVoice, the nonprofit behind DreamWeek.

“Last year was obviously the first. We spent a lot of energy just trying to get people aware,” Nakpodia said, while this year, “interest has been overwhelming.”

Nakpodia, an immigrant from Nigeria by way of London and New York, said it’s no surprise to him that the city’s annual MLK march attracts such a diverse audience and is known as the largest of its kind in the country.

“This city is known nationally as a place that resolves its conflicts with little or no drama,” he said. “It’s a place of the future. It’s the face of the future of America.”

Ultimately, DreamWeek’s goal is to promote San Antonio as a destination for MLK-inspired events each January. The city has estimated that as many as 100,000 people have participated in the march. “There could be 250,000 people at the march, if we plan it right,” he said.

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro helped conceptualize DreamWeek, challenging advertising agencies, including Nakpodia’s firm, The Mighty Group, “that we needed to tell a broader story of what San Antonio is. And he mentioned the MLK march as the largest in the nation, and basically said that it was an incredible opportunity to show off Diversity USA.”

“That resonated with me,” Nakpodia said, “and I kept thinking of how we could tell that story every single year.”

DreamWeek has commissioned a documentary and a photo book about the events this year, he said.

Not every mixer, basketball game, luncheon or film screening will be about MLK, organizers said, but each encourages people from different walks of life to come together under one roof.

Events are organized under 10 themes, including arts, education, youth, justice, sports and business.

DreamWeek is named after King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial.

SA Express News - Events

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A sense of face in S.A.: Photographer uses portraits with messages to help define San Antonio / MySA

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By Elda Silva : July 30, 2013

Sarah Brooke Lyons had practical reasons for shooting her portrait series “1005 Faces” in black and white, including maintaining visual continuity.

More important, however, she wanted people to look — really look — at her subjects, each photographed holding a piece of placard inscribed with a short personal message.

“With a black-and-white image, you’re sort of forced to look at certain things,” said Lyons, who began the project in February to document the cultural diversity in San Antonio. “You’re not going to look at skin color. You’re not going to look so much at outfits. It forces you to look at the character of the face, and it forces you to look at the words.”

A mural of images culled from the series was installed recently at the former home of the Texas Highway Patrol Museum in Southtown. While there are a couple of familiar faces in the crowd — Hello, Spurs Jesus! How’s it going, David Robinson? — many look like people you might cross paths with at the grocery store or Starbucks.

Lyons, 30, started working on the project after taking photographs at a series of events held in conjunction with DreamWeek, a summit focusing on issues facing multicultural communities.

“I was inundated with diversity, and I came away with so many images,” she said. “I was talking with a friend of mine, and he said, ‘You probably have 1,000 really different faces that you could pull out of this, and it would look like San Antonio. It would be this diverse group.’

“I thought that was a really interesting concept, but I wanted to sort of explore that organically, so I took that idea and sort of ran with it.”

Born in San Antonio, Lyons divided her early childhood between Boerne and Harlingen and spent her middle and high school years in Castroville. She briefly attended the University of Texas at Austin before returning to San Antonio, where she has family. At the time, Lyons didn’t want to quit school, but she wasn’t ready to plunge back completely into academic life.

“I thought, ‘I’ll just take photography at (San Antonio College). It sounds really easy,’” she said.

It wasn’t long before she realized she’d found her passion.

“I just became obsessed at that point,” said Lyons, who has a tattoo of a smiley face on the inside of the index finger of her right hand to remind subjects to smile when she clicks the shutter. “It was film, so I was in the darkroom until it would close. They would have to kick me out. It was a kind of therapy for me, developing film and watching paper change and the image produce. I ended up taking all the photography classes they had.”

The bulk of Lyons’ work is business portraits. The freelance photographer also has done work for local publications, and last year, she had an exhibit of her fine art photography — images of Burkina Faso she took while on a missionary trip to the African country with Oak Hills Church.

So far, she has taken about 600 portraits for the “1005 Faces” project, some of them at events hosted by businesses such as The Mighty Group, a marketing firm, Local Coffee and Whole Foods. She chose the number 1,005 because it was more interesting than a round 1,000.

“(It) makes you stop and think and wonder and get curious and ask questions and stay engaged a little bit longer,” she said.

Lyons isn’t necessarily trying to accurately reflect San Antonio’s demographics — “Whatever happens,” she said — and a scan of her Facebook page reveals images that seem to skew toward young urban professionals. But she is interested in capturing members of certain subcultures. And she has an eye on certain public figures and community leaders.

“I want some punk rockers, and I want some of the medical community and some wounded warriors and some military,” she said. “And then there’s some key people I want to get like Graham Weston and Max Lucado and the mayor and his brother.”

The idea behind the signs in the portraits was to give each subject an opportunity “to contribute, really making it community art,” Lyons said. “It’s just whatever anybody wants to write, as long as it’s not vulgar.”

Shokare Nakpodia, creative director of The Mighty Group and founder of DreamWeek, boiled down his message to the essentials.

“I always think I have a lot to say, but it had just come after DreamWeek and mine was just two words — ‘Dream big,’” he said.

A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Nakpodia has lived in San Antonio for about 10 years. He thinks that “1005 Faces,” like DreamWeek and events such as Luminaria, has the potential to create connections between people living in different points of the city separated by urban sprawl.

“That’s why ‘1005 Faces’ is so important. You have some of the usual suspects, but you have a ton of other people that folks look at and go, ‘Really, this person lives here?’” he said.

Nan Palmero, a business growth expert on staff with the consulting firm Salesby5, is likewise a supporter of the project and a subject.

“I saw some of my friends had gotten photographed by Sarah for the project, and I thought it was really cool, so I just messaged her and said, ‘I think this is awesome. How can I help?’” he said.

For his portrait, Palmero chose to pose with a sign that reads “Rules are ruining your life.”

“There are a lot of rules that are simply in place for the efficiencies of the organizations that are putting the rules in place rather than trying to keep us safe or for a greater purpose,” he said. “’Should we try to go backstage?’ ‘Should we try to get into this event?’ ‘Should we try to ask for the things that we want?’ Yeah, maybe we should. Oftentimes, when we do, people go, ‘Yeah, sure you can do that. Come on!’”

Dayna De Hoyos had no words. Instead the artist, who is a close friend of Lyons, used symbols to reflect her Comanche heritage. The same symbols adorned her wedding dress.

“I think the project is a great vehicle for different parts of the population to merge,” De Hoyos said. “Although we are a melting pot, there are different populaces that don’t mix — not in terms of ethnicity, but in terms of economics. In this art context, everyone’s together in one pot and it’s nice to see that.”

Lyons was able to fund the mural in Southtown with a grant she received from Awesome SA, a group that distributes $1,000 each month “to awesome projects that enhance the San Antonio community.” Eventually, she hopes to have murals around the city.

“San Antonio gets a bad rap for being dull and boring, and I get to meet so many cool people all the time,” she said. “So this is my way of trying to rebrand San Antonio. This is what we actually look like. We’re really interesting people. We have interesting thoughts and interesting things to say, and we’re doing cool stuff.”

Creative thinker celebrates King / My SA

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By Elaine Ayala : January 18, 2013

Shokare "Sho" Nakpodia says he'd like next year's DreamWeek to focus on celebrating people's successes. Photo by Helen L. Montoya/SA Express-News

Shokare “Sho” Nakpodia says he’d like next year’s DreamWeek to focus on celebrating people’s successes.
Photo by Helen L. Montoya/SA Express-News

For 12 days in January, Shokare Nakpodia helped drive diverse and disparate groups to join in the first-ever DreamWeek, a series of panels, workshops and mixers celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

A San Antonian by way of London, New York and his native Lagos, Nigeria, he is known for bringing people together and articulating a message.

Friends say if “Sho” builds it, they will come. In the end, more than 60 events made up DreamWeek.

“All in all, it was an incredible success,” said Nakpodia, who with wife Tracy owns The Mighty Group, a multimedia design, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Sunset Station.

The Mighty Group built DreamWeek’s vision and website. Already, he’s dreaming of 2014, when he’d like San Antonians to take the occasion to share their dreams and acknowledge reaching part or all of them.

“It’s one of the things we don’t do enough — celebrate our successes,” he said.

In just under a decade, Sho and Tracy Nakpodia built a clientele that has included various City of San Antonio departments and the Zachry Corp.

Friends and clients use words such as creative, innovative, even genius to describe him.

“He understands a client’s needs and delivers above expectations,” said Terri Toennies, general manager of the LA Auto Show, who hired him to rebrand Sunset Station and design its new website.

“He has the ability to look beyond what people see right away,” she said. “Then he tells you, ‘This is what you should be talking about.’”

Nakpodia, a permanent legal resident on his way to citizenship, declined to give his age. He and his Illinois-born wife have two children, Amaya, 10, and Edafe, 7.

He has come a long way from his village in Nigeria, where his father, the late Laggy Nakpodia, was a chief. Before anyone begins to conjure images of African royalty, Nakpodia explains that a chief is like a city councilman. His father, who had 12 children, was also an oil company executive.

His parents were first-generation college graduates at a time when that nation elevated such students to national leadership. But he speaks of his grandmother as having great wisdom.

From an early age, he loved language.

He read all of Shakespeare, and the works of African thinkers — but he came to see African American intellectuals as the most gifted on earth for their ability to overcome so much adversity. They became “the glue” between the West and Africa, he said.

“It was odd … they were looking at Africans,” yet they were the real Africans in the global sense, Nakpodia said.

He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Leeds, mostly at his father’s urging — but it wasn’t his bliss.

His life changed when his father was killed by a gunman in the late 1980s for “political reasons,” Nakpodia said. Even today he can’t bear to talk about it, though he’ll speak of his father’s joy, his parenting by parable and his love of debate.

When Nakpodia got to New York, he did odd jobs and drove a cab, hoping to become a writer — but people seemed more interested in “the doodles” alongside his stories. He went to the School of Visual Arts and did several illustrations for the New York Times, he said.

It paved the way to his current work.

He came to San Antonio with his wife in 2001. He worked for his brother-in-law and taught himself web design and programming and in 2002 made “a mighty leap of faith” to start up his creative agency.

The dread he left in New York and Nigeria still surfaces from time to time — the idea that, “I haven’t created anything on this planet.”

DreamWeek helped. He’s proud it gathered so many kinds of people. He doesn’t like using labels such as black, white and Latino, because they don’t really help define people, he said.

Nakpodia also has served on boards and commissions, including Goodwill Industries and the Downtown Alliance of San Antonio, and has been involved in numerous East Side events.

His “adopted” sister Adaku Okoro said she’s glad he’s “no longer hidden,” and has a wider audience for his talents.

Aaronetta Pierce, a longtime arts patron, has adopted Nakpodia, too. “I often think of Sho and Tracy as a dynamic duo because, together, they represent much of what is good about a community business,” she said.

Nakpodia seems shy about those accolades. But he is his father’s son. Like the chief, he’d like to seek public office. He isn’t sure what, but he intends to run.

eayala@express-news.net

Twitter: @ElaineAyala

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DreamWeek Sets A Goal To Share San Antonio’s Voice / San Antonio Business Journal

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By Andi Rodriguez : January 11, 2013

On Jan. 21, San Antonio will host the nation’s largest Martin Luther King Jr. march and day of service, designed to strengthen communities and bridge barriers, moving us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community.

However for Shokare (Sho) Nakpodia, one day wasn’t enough. Nakpodia, founding partner of San Antonio agency The MightyGroup, has kicked off ‘DreamWeek,’ celebrating Dr. King’s spirit for 12 days with a citywide summit.

Nakpodia explains this inaugural event is intended to promote an exchange of ideas on universal issues facing our multi-cultural community.

Nakpodia, who emigrated to the U.S. from a village in Africa, is today a successful agency owner and regarded community leader.

However, it was at the suggestion of Mayor Julián Castro, that he reached further, beyond his commercial success, to make a difference.

“The mayor challenged us to find ways to tell San Antonio’s story to a national audience … and what renders us unique,” Nakpodia says. He spoke to numerous leaders across the city and it was Tom Frost senior who led him to his DreamWeek idea.

“Tom shared that within his travels and experience, he discovered that San Antonio was highly regarded for the civilized way in which we resolved conflicts, and that led me back to Dr. King,” Nakpodia continues.

Nakpodia articulates that the singular goal of DreamWeek is to advance the voice and engage those who seek to understand their communities’ key issues by providing a forum for diverse partners and activities.

Starting Jan. 11 through Tuesday, Jan. 22, DreamWeek’s 12 days will focus on the following themes: City, Sports, Cuisine, Health, Energy, Technology, Education, Arts, Youth, Spirit, Justice and Business — with corresponding events all within or near San Antonio’s downtown area.

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