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Valerie Soe (San Francisco) collaborating with New Hope Convenant Church (Oakland)
Award: $35,000 Media Arts grant awarded in 2006
Premiere: San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, March 14, 2010

Media artist Valeria Soe collaborated with New Hope Covenant Church and Russell Jeung to create Oak Park Stories, a 22-minute documentary focusing on the Oak Park Apartments in Oakland. The apartments, which were home to large numbers of non-English-speaking tenants, many from Mexico and Cambodia, had become dilapidated, infested, unhealthy, and unsafe; and the tenants seemed to be at the mercy of their landlord. Through efforts of New Hope Covenant Church—a faith-based institution located adjacent to the apartment building—a tenants coalition formed and ultimately was awarded in court $1 million in damages from the landlord.

Oak Park Stories recounts the journeys of multiple families who lived at the apartment complex, the community’s legal victory, and how the apartments changed after the settlement. Lead artist Valerie Soe is a videomaker and artist whose work focuses on issues of culture, identity, and political empowerment. She worked closely with Russell Jeung, a fifth-generation Chinese American with a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, who co-founded a community-building ministry in the Oak Park housing project, living in the same conditions as the neighbors there. Soe and Jeung included Oak Park residents in the fundraising, production, and screenings of the film. Oak Park Stories has been screened on numerous college campuses, at film festivals, and neighborhood churches.