Students receive a ‘Golden Opportunity’ to film it forward

by Kelly Callas

Courtesy of TGO
Courtesy of TGO

Stars aligned last fall above Melrose Trading Post in Los Angeles when human rights professor Danusia Garrison encountered The Golden Opportunity.

TGO is a low-profit company focused on a particular type of social experimentation: initiating individuals with thoughtful ideas to go out and digitally record meaningful acts of good will, or “micro-acts,” while creating and sharing a unique ripple effect that can be tracked through the TGO online community.

By some fateful intervention, Garrison stumbled upon the TGO crew amid recording their “Film it Forward” pilot episode and was asked one simple question: “What would you do with $250 and a flip camera?”

She immediately wanted to know the catch. Having assigned a similar, theoretical prompt to her students as a fast-approaching final project, this question seemed too ideal. However, Garrison was soon to learn, there was no catch. In fact, this chance encounter was about to become a defining moment of her career and an opportune catalyst for student activism to take root at San Diego State.

Almost simultaneously after parting ways, Garrison e-mailed TGO and TGO called her. Both had an idea: bring TGO into the classroom and give 100 students the opportunity to create their own, studied ripple effects throughout the San Diego community and, ultimately, the world.

“I was looking for something and they were looking,” Garrison said. “We had the perfect storm.”

Now, to understand the essence of this endeavor, it’s crucial to understand something about Garrison. From an initial meeting, it becomes clear this is a woman with an innate awareness of the world around her. Her frequent use of the words “they” and “you” is telltale of a selfless life approach where human rights come to the forefront of her consciousness.

A first generation American, Garrison’s parents underwent extreme abuse as survivors in Poland during World War II. However, despite suffering unthinkable hardship, their consequent and remarkable generosity instilled Garrison with the deeply woven social consciousness she carries today.

“I feel that I owe something to people less fortunate than me,” Garrison said. “I was always the one who voted for the underdog.”

For this reason, it becomes clear this professor is not afraid to speak her mind. Even more so, she is not afraid to motivate students to do the same and “speak truth to power.” An avid fan of rock music, Garrison finds inspiration in the name of one of her favorite bands: One Day as a Lion.

“Be a lion for a day,” she said. “What do you want to do? Just do it.”

With this understanding, Garrison’s collaboration with TGO seems to be nothing less than a perfect match. She colors outside the lines and finds excitement in handing the hypothetical microphone to those in need, those who don’t have a voice, so they may speak out and be heard. Through her classes at SDSU, Garrison is making this happen.

Students have already begun their projects and must initiate their own funding for proposed ideas that range from assisting the small business of three formerly homeless siblings to buying toys for hospitalized children with life-threatening illnesses.  These acts will be recorded and, once finished, students must pass on their cameras to someone they’ve helped.

The next person’s “golden opportunity” will subsequently be recorded and tracked via serial number so the chain may be followed on the TGO website. Eventually, the students’ footage will be turned in to Garrison and compiled by TGO into a single film that will be screened, hopefully on campus, sometime in April.

These acts may seem small, but there is no doubt TGO and SDSU have set great waves in the activist community in motion. After all, in the words of another Garrison favorite, Rage Against the Machine: “What better place than here, what better time than now?”

Those interested in learning more or inspired to make a donation (as little as $1) to these SDSU projects may do so at tgo.tv/sdsu.