Have You Considered “Both Sides of the Conversation”?

By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information 

Whether we recognize it or not, independent media is a staple to keeping us sane in a capitalist economy where people will use money and optical illusions to sway the public to support their opinions.

They will pay whomever they need to, to trick people into any uncanny schemes that can be conceived, to conjure up some money. Both Sides of the Conversation is a forum where community people can speak, as well as hear opinions that are not being promoted in mainstream media. 

In today’s times, it is essential that we have unfiltered forums like Both Sides of the Conversation to have true debate about the current social issues of the day. Check out the founder of Both Sides of the Conversation, Executive Director Jon Henry as he gives us some history about the San Francisco-based media phenomenon, Both Sides of the Conversation. 

JR Valrey: Why was “Both Sides of the Conversation” founded? 

Jon Henry: I saw a need to provide a platform that addresses the issues that are negatively impacting the Black and Brown communities with a focus on changing the narrative. I have first-hand insight into the issues at hand, how to best address these problems, and have developed a trust among community members to influence positive behaviors with an open line of communication and strong participation in our programs. When? BSOTC was founded in August of 2020.

JR Valrey: Are you an organization? And what does BSOTC do?

Jon Henry: We are a 501c3 California Nonprofit. Our mission is to provide resources through impactful dialogue that empowers the Black and Brown communities to become economically self-sufficient. Our digital media platform brings to the forefront issues that continue to impact our Black and Brown communities, with the aim to change the narrative.

JR Valrey: Where does the name come from?

Jon Henry: I believe there are always 2 sides to any conversation. No one person thinks like the other, and each has the freedom to express their feelings and thoughts. My goal was to bring them together, regardless of where they stood on an issue to discuss in a positive and open forum.

JR Valrey: Why is media such a big part of what you do? 

Jon Henry: Nowadays, media is the quickest way to get the word out, regarding community resources, events, and general news regarding the BIPOC communities, that they might not otherwise have access to. And what are the three shows that BSOTC produces weekly? We host: “Sunday Conversations”, “Hidden Gems”, and “Educational Thursday”.

JR Valrey: What does it take financially and personnel-wise to run BSOTC? Have you been successful at acquiring sustainable funding for y’alls activities?

Jon Henry: Financially, we have a capital campaign through GoFundMe for $500,000, which is about 50% of what we need per year to operate a successful program. Personally, my finances are being directed to the business to continue operating as we have been. As the host, I attend a lot of community events and functions, and host the 3 weekly shows, as well as work my full-time job. We have yet to receive funding on a regular basis. We have received several small mini grants.

 JR Valrey: What is it like being the director of BSOTC, which is really making a difference, and watching organizations that don’t have half of the presence in the community that you have, getting funded regularly?  How would you explain it?

Jon Henry:  It gets very frustrating at times. We provide quality services for the community and have yet to be funded, while other organizations continue to receive funding but don’t provide the services that our community members need. Regardless, we continue our quest to serve the community.

 JR Valrey: How would you describe the non-profit landscape for new Black organizations in the Bay Area? 

Jon Henry: It is difficult to be a Black-led organization in the Bay Area. We are often overlooked or disregarded for funding or other services. We must go through extra steps to prove ourselves in ways in which other organizations do not have to do. We must battle and beg for funding while organizations (that are not providing the services in their Scope of Work) are freely given the funding support.

 JR Valrey: What are some of the accomplishments of BSOTC over the last year? 

Jon Henry: We have developed a strong infrastructure – digital media program, mentor and financial literacy program, and a strong social media presence. We have the following successes:

  1. Community Events 1,000+
  2. Weekly Shows 200+
  3. Volunteer Team Members 30+
  4. Volunteer Team Hours 40,000+
  5. Meals Distributed to Community Members 16,000+
  6. Program Viewers 20,000+
  7. Reentry Mentor Program Participants 140+

JR Valrey: Who were some of the most interesting guests that BSOTC has featured? 

Jon Henry: We had guests on the show that discussed relationships (male and female) that was very successful and morphed into Part II. It was very lively and engaging from beginning to end with the conversation continuing in the comments and on social media.

JR Valrey: Where would you like to see BSOTC in the next 5 years?

Jon Henry: I would like to see BSOTC become financially self-sufficient with an office and community space, and the ability to pay full- and part-time employees. I would also like to see BSOTC  develop more programs to meet the needs of the Black and Brown communities. We also need to bring youth and college students into the program as interns with paid stipends.

JR Valrey: How could people keep up with you online?

Jon Henry: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BothSidesoftheConversation

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BothSidesoftheConversation/

Twitter: @BothSidesofthe5

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/both-sides-of-the-conversation

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRNslj_wJZikOBgYly6sGLg

Website: bsotc.org



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