Love, Loss and Hope in Dark Times: A Valentine’s Day Essay

Like most people we know and have met, 2016 was just all around difficult to bear. John Oliver’s Fuck you, 2016, seems to be the thematic video for the year. There are many reasons to feel despair in this world, and so many folks I know suffered personal tragedies in 2016.

Manchester-by-the-Sea, an Oscar-nominated film of late 2016, left me in stitches last night as it unfolded the complexity of dealing with tragedy. Sometimes, it just can’t be overcome. It’s not a comedy at all, but it’s authenticity tapped my sense of family, responsibility, and the mundane and comedic day-to-day-ness of taking care of teenagers, yourself, finding a path through grief, and figuring out what the hell to do when people die. It’s funny because it’s true, in a New England kind of way that you know well if you have grown up or lived here.

The film is a series of awkward moments and we know these spaces well, so I laughed and cried throughout the film. Originally from western Maine, I related to the stoic-yet-directness, the paradox of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and the vulnerability of living in relationship with family and in small communities. It’s heartbreaking, quietly narrating how isolating grief is and the curious relationships between men who have few tools for communicating their losses and deep love for one another. It’s quite beautifully-told, and strikingly-acted.

Last October, we suffered another incident in the long line of personal tragedies of 2016. The loss of a parent. Another parent had fallen and was in a nursing home. Two difficult-to-diagnose family member illnesses to cause worry. Skin cancer narrowly averted. A gallbladder surgery. Hives. The loss of a best friend of over 20 years, and a web of concerns for the futures of those left behind. It just kept coming.

We made our plans to escape to Italy while these heartbreaks and worry took their toll. We kept working, not taking time off to process; we kept on keeping on, as our families have done for generations. When we settled into a seventeen-day vacation circling Rome, Tuscany, Florence, Venice, Bologna, Cinque Terre and Saturnia, and there, the mineral hot springs moved some rigidly lodged emotional bubbles to the surfaces and asked them to be acknowledged.

My then-boyfriend (now fiance), Al, asked me to marry him on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on a hike between Monterosso and Vernazza. I said yes.

We sat in the springs where Romans had bathed, ate and drank like nobility in Florence, walked miles every day through ancient ruins and museums in Rome, and shopped for presents to take home. We shot 360 footage of the site, made new friends, and dreamed of our next trip back.

It is hard to celebrate your love when the world is falling apart. But we did. We do. Every single day. I’ve learned about the small ways to love, to forgive, to let go, to run errands, to make dinner and wash dishes, and to let someone you love grieve, for as long as it takes. It’s hardest to watch that process unfold, and one of the best ways I’ve learned to love is by letting them be.

I am so grateful to be in love, to be loved, and to be alive. It is hard to keep your head afloat when the new year comes and among personal tragedies, a new president comes along and threatens your deepest values and American security. But we are fighting for our democracy, and we shall overcome.

We decided to create a Free Speech series every month this year at my work (a community media center I manage in the Boston area called Brookline Interactive Group) called Hopes & Dreams 2017 where we asked our community what they dreamed about and hoped for in the new year.

Here is a summary reel of their beautiful responses, and you can watch their individual full interviews here.

February’s theme is “Do you believe in Love?” We asked the community to share about how/who/why they love out in the world! Next month: “Your Immigration Story: How did you/your family become Americans?” If you’re in the Boston area, come share your stories with us!

It is a new dawn. For us. For our families. For this country.

I’m not sure how it will all unfold, and I am afraid at times for our nation. After interviewing 50+ people across the political spectrum at the inauguration and at women’s march in Washington D.C, I felt a new hope rise inside of me, and popping up all around me. It is the emergence of the largest people’s movement of activism and civic engagement I have ever seen in a full career of social justice work as community organizer, educator, and media maker.

It’s a mixed reality of sorts, where the world can be crazy, unsettling, disruptive, scary, unkind, and unsupportive. Surreal. And then….I see new voices being heard and new hope being organized into positive, persistent action. I can see love manifesting as conversations, as investments in our political system by people who used to not care, and as my fellow citizens rallying to go to airports and taking to the streets to express collectively themselves across our great nation.

I just keep breathing and working towards the change I want to see, in myself and in the world. One day at a time. One breath at a time.

There has been greater darkness than this, I know it and I can feel the power of this new dawn. It is authentic, on the side of the vulnerable, and sourced from the heart.

It is love. It is god. It is just.

Just for today, I watch the sun to rise up and flood the day with light, darkness, warmth, cold, joy, love, and hope, loss and grief.

Its beauty lies in its complexity, and I welcome them all as guests. Today on Valentine’s Day, we mourn the loss of our friend, James Bickford, a warrior of light, love, humor and passionate advocate of staying involved in your community. I hope that the love he demonstrated for his community will inspire and guide us through these dark times, though knowing him, he would have enjoyed the chaos descending as a way through all of the BS he saw in politics and in the world. Still, he invited it all in.

The love, the anger, the pain, and the humor. I am grateful I got to witness his vulnerability, his love for his family, and his patriotism. He spoke truth to power at every possible chance and he wasn’t afraid to speak out even though I sometimes thought he should be.

Here’s my favorite Rumi poem about inviting it all in, the good, the bad, scary, sad and beautiful. I hope you’ll let in both the light and the darkness, the grief and the laughter, and find your hope in the sun coming up another day. May the love of Valentine’s day shine brightly in all the dark spaces of this world, and give us courage to open the gates of love in all ways applicable.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks



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New Screening Dates: Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream in Boston

New screening and Q&A with the Director in Boston! Monday, March 2nd, 2015 at 7pm at 46 Tappan St, Brookline, MA at Brookline Interactive Group (BIG).

Check out this cool art from our narrator, MC Radioactive, created at our premiere. Looking forward to meeting east coast folks, showing the films, and conversing about the current state of the 52-year Cuba-U.S “bad divorce” that seems to be moving towards reconciliation and normalization!

See you on March 2nd!

-Kathy Bisbee, Director and Co-producer of Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream

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Watsonville Film Festival & How to Support the Artists of Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream!

Quick Upcoming Festival Announcement: Don’t Cost will be at the Watsonville Film Festival on March 3rd, 3-5pm at the Mello Center in Watsonville, CA. More details to follow: Save the date! In the meantime, learn about the north American-based artists featured in the film.

Thank you to the entire DCND crew, but a super special muchismos gracias goes out to all of the artists whose music and narration is in the film; (SF-Oakland- Santa Rosa-Bay area represent!) Sellassie, DJ Leydis and DJ Radioactive, Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream’s music and narration has touched the audience with the passion and lyrics of change that these north American artists share with their Latin American counterparts.

Please check out their music online and go see them LIVE in person!

Originating from Boston, MA, Radio Active embodies the essence of hip hop. He is an emcee, beatboxer, writer, painter, and b-boy. He plays musical instruments, incorporates electronic beats with his beatbox and commands active audience participation during his fresh, soulful original live performances. Check out his new collaboration with Jessi Rose on Flowerbox!

Innovative to the industry, Radio Active brings hip hop into other genres, a true crossover artist. An electrifying performer, Radio Active has toured extensively the past years throughout North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan as a member of the politically charged musical group Michael Franti & Spearhead to audiences in theaters and festivals upwards of 100,000 people and appearing on national television programs such as David Letterman, Craig Kilborne and on MTV with the critically acclaimed single/video “Rock The Nation.”

Along the years, he’s shared the stage with artists such as Ani DiFranco, Common, Indigo Girls, KRS-One, String Cheese Incident, Roy Ayers, Talib Kweli, O.A.R., Karl Denson, Ben Harper, Keller Williams, Trey Anastasio, Jeru The Damaja, DJ Apollo,Keaton Simons, Trevor Hall, Tyrone Wells, Pat Mcgee, Jonah Sharp and Meshell N’Degeocello.

As featured in the films, “Breath Control” and “Freestyle, The Art Of Rhyme,” Radio Active has made a worldwide impact in this genre of beatboxing; the art of vocal percussion. This skill has translated into a new industry as a voice talent and you can hear Radio Active as announcer on two very popular video games, “Dance, Dance Revolution” and “Dance, Dance Revolution 2” as well as game announcer for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors on Fox Sports.

DJ Leydis
DJ Leydis can be found performing in Oakland and Berkeley, CA. Check her web site out here!
Leydis was born and raised in Cuba. She became involved in the Cuban hip hop movement during it’s inception and helped organize events, community shows, and a women’s hip hop collective called Omega. Leydis has created the first female DJ mixtape and has performed across Cuba as a spoken word artist. She has also appeared in other famous documentaries such as Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano, Jovenes Rebeldes y Mi Revolution, and continues to be an articulate speaker on Cuban hip-hop culture. Having recently moved to the United States, she currently resides in the Bay Area.

San Francisco rapper, trendsetter, activist and entrepreneur, Sellassie is the world’s first Higherground Hip Hop Artist, coining the term, Sellassie won’t sell his culture out for money and fame and is a leading progressive voice in Hip Hop today. With an acclaimed and award-winning debut release, I’m Tryin’ to Make a Livin’ Not a Killin’, a recent follow-up, Sins of Your Forefathers plus brand new single, Stop Hatin in the Bay Remix by Traxamillion, Sellassie has garnered a street level buzz with a fresh perspective. Find out more about Sellassie and his music here!

Revolutionary music that is creative, street, positive and smart, relevant, lyrical and motivational. Sellassie cares about his community and works to bridge gaps, his plan for his music was set forth to “…Disturb to Increase the Peace, Bring Awareness to the Beast.” His songs use rap as a tool to reach others and an outlet for self-expression. Alongside his lyric and politic, his business is revolutionary, Sellassie created, co-produces and hosts two Live Show Series, 2Racks Rap Contest and ​We All We Got with which he’s showcased and connected with thousands of independent artists and hiphop affliates across the country. The series are in excess of 125 shows in the last 2 years and are very successful. Innovative, Inclusionary and Pioneering, Sellassie is a standout individual with the ambition to create change.

​Rap Music… to inspire a lost generation, his catalogue exceeds 300 songs, he brings light and knowledge to his music and wants a better tomorrow. Working with many social, political and youth based initiatives, contributor to various special projects, and always on the move, Sellassie is continually performing and has shared the stage with many great artists including Saul Williams, KRS-One, Michael Franti And Spearhead, Raekwon, The Goodie Mob, Mos Def, Sly and Robbie, Keith Murray, Rah Digga, Ziggy Marley, Alanis Morissette, The Indigo Girls, Vieux Farka Toure, Dead Prez, Rebelution, Cormega, Goapele, Canibus, The Hieroglyphics, Pharoahe Monch, Lyrics Born, Martin Luther, Mac Mall, Ray Luv, The Jacka, Planet Asia, and Zion I among hundreds of Independent greats.

“I want to be in the History books, Not the Pop Charts”

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DCND Screening in Florida!

DCND will be screened at the Movieville Film Festival this weekend in Sarasota, Florida, and has again been nominated for “Best Documentary.” Come check out the film on Sunday, September 23rd at 3pm at Burns Court Cinema in Sarasota, Florida.

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DCND Wins Awards & Nominations at the Action on Film Festival

The Don’t Cost team just learned that the film has won “Best Documentary-Political” at the Action on Film Festival! We also received first runner-up status for “Best Editing-Documentary,” and were nominated for a “Best Political Statement in a Film” award.

Kudos to the entire DCND dream team! Kathy Bisbee, Emery Hudson, Angela Juanita Bunch, Jeremy Cajas Bunch, Daniel James Howell, DJ RADIOACTIVE, DJ Leydis, Lucio, Sellassie, Kali Boom, Miss Gay Sterling, Gina Gallo, Nial Anderson, Alec Vanderwoude, Peter Leahey, Patricio Pace, Tres Americas Foundation, and SO many others who have contributed towards this achievement! Thank you for all of your efforts! Let’s get into more film festivals and share with the world the powerful message of hope and change from the artists in Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream!

Several more upcoming film festivals to be announced soon. Stay tuned!

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TONIGHT: DCND Screening at the Action on Film Festival

Join the filmmakers at the screening of Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream at the Action on Film Festival in Monrovia, CA just ten mins from Pasadena. Don’t Cost has been nominated for three awards at this festival: Best Editing for Documentary, Best Political Statement in a Film, and Best Documentary- Political!

Screening is at 8pm TONIGHT, 8/20/12, at the Kirkovian Theatre at the corner of Lemon and Myrtle street at 410 South Myrtle Avenue Monrovia, CA 91016.

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Don’t Cost showing at the Reel Change Film Festival

If you weren’t able to catch Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream at the Santa Cruz International Film Festival, you’re in luck! Our next screening will be May 26th at the 1st annual Reel Change Film Festival taking place on the picturesque UCSC campus. We hope to see you there!

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Don’t Cost Premiering at the Santa Cruz International Film Festival!

Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream will premiere at the Santa Cruz International Film Festival on Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at 3pm at the Nickelodeon Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz.

The final cut is a 38-minutes, character-based documentary about youth in Cuba, Nicaragua and Guatemala who are using music as an instrument of hope and change in their communities.

The film takes a look at the struggles of expressive street youth in Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the U.S. using a mix of hip hop, self-determination, and traditional music as instruments of hope. These youth use the power of music to create both small and powerful changes in themselves and their communities. They write, sing and perform their lyrics using music to make sense of their personal and collective histories, cultural heritage, and their day-to-day struggle against police repression, racism, and poverty.

Prepare to be inspired to create change in your life and community!

To purchase tickets, please visit the Santa Cruz Film Festival web site here.
Please help us spread the word of the screening, and we hope to see you there!

We will be having a fundraiser after party following the screening. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find out where it will be held and to receive all updates about the film.

Artists from the film will be in attendance at the film screening, for Q&A, and will be performing at the after party in Santa Cruz. Hope to see you there!

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Film Update: Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream

Artists in Cuba with the DCND International Crew

Artists in Cuba with the DCND International Crew

Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream is in the final stages of post-production! Stay in Touch on
Facebook and on Twitter @BisbeeFilms.

Be inspired by the characters in Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream, a documentary about youth in Latin America who are using hip hop and traditional music as an instrument of hope, self-determination and change in their lives and their communities.


MC RADIOACTIVE & his son Voice

Also features CA Bay Area artists; MC RADIOACTIVE, Sellassie and DJ Leydis.


Please consider making a donation to support the film; we are 100% independent with a goal of getting these youth’s voices out to the word!

Stay tuned as we finish the final cut and submit it to film festivals. Let us know if there’s a film festival near you where you’d like to see the film screened!

Watch the trailer here or below.

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