Summer Project Updates from San Jose, CA, by Sachin Vallamkonda

by MH
Aug 24

I have collaborated with grass-root non-profit organization San Jose Strong (SJS) for more than a year on their South Bay Research Team, who specifically works to archive and highlight the amazing social activism feats of youth in the local area. Because SJS can be seen as a digital database and community organizing platform, I have been able to work with them extensively on various projects remotely. However, with the generous support from the IGL’s Empower Grant, I have been able to make further progress on the team’s projects in-person this summer.

The current project’s mission is two-fold: 1) create and organize documentation of events featuring youth social activism in the South Bay and 2) highlight and capture the voices of youth social activists. From the beginning of June, I first worked on attending multiple events and protests in the locality – capturing their essence via photography and connecting with the activists present. The first of these events that I attended and took photography for was a student’s mentorship finale project. SJS has a mentorship project that pairs passionate highschool students and older organization members. One student’s final project in the program consisted of a community painting for the local library alongside an open-to-the-community free canvas painting event for local children.

The next weekend I attended a Juneteenth Celebration Night Market. The event brought together small local businesses that got to showcase and sell their crafts, jewelry, art, and more. Families and people of all ages attended and also enjoyed the event’s live music and food vendors.


Later in the summer, SJS’s founder Mary J. Celestin and I both attended a new art studio’s opening in downtown. 1Culture was a new art studio that supported independent artists from the community and was showcasing their amazing work. As one of the studio’s leadership explained, the studio hopes to showcase an air of professional art pieces while also making supporters feel connected to the community present. Mary and I were given VIP photography passes to attend the event with the task of raising awareness about their studio and their mission. Much of the work primarily featured Latinx and San Jose native artists’ pieces. I felt fortunate to witness work that illustrated such a high degree of talent, beauty, and culture. At the event, we also got to listen to several of the artists themselves speak about their art journeys and then detail their pieces present.