It’s a question that kept coming up in his mind for several years. He remembers a conversation with Tom Frost Sr. in which Mr. Frost told him an anecdote about a Houston preacher who came to San Antonio. Shokare recounts what the preacher said: “In San Antonio we have a way of resolving our conflict with a lot less drama than other cities this size.”
It was at this point a thought occurred to him. “The idea is that we create an environment where we invite people to come together to attempt to resolve conflict,” he explains. The nonprofit DreamVoice was born, leading to a series of events concurrent with the MLK Commission’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. March. These events, fostering the free exchange of ideas on universal issues affecting the human race, make up DreamWeek.
Dreamweek Organizer Shokare Nakpodia stands for a portrait at the Might Group office balcony. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“We encourage people to host events that celebrate tolerance, diversity and equality,” Shokare elaborates. Since DreamWeek’s inception in 2013, 200+ organizations have held 700+ events with 100,000+ attendees.
“Ultimately DreamWeek is successful when we have thousands of events where people are trying to showcase their uniqueness as human beings,” continues Shokare. He hopes that more and more companies come in to support DreamWeek events. Ideally, he explains, multinational companies will help fund events for local people who relate to their industries (e.g. Nikon hosting an event for a photographer). “We’re trying to make it really local.”
“I want to look for people that hold us together,” he continues, “That’s what DreamWeek is about: How do we resolve our conflict?” Shokare is quick to emphasize that DreamWeek is not about any one voice or person. He hopes that it will continue growing, and that the San Antonio community will take ownership of it. DreamVoice works with its partners to better the human condition, and Shokare knows that reaching its eventual goals may be far off: “Dream Week may not be something I see the fruits of.”
The progress DreamWeek has made so far, however, is easy to see. In the first year, there was tremendous community buy-in. “I wasn’t prepared for nobody to say no to hosting an event,” laughs Shokare. The outpouring of interest in the concept was overwhelming. “Truly, it grew too quickly for us to put our arms around.”
Many events during DreamWeek highlight what Shokare calls “Common Spaces.” These public gathering places facilitate the conversations DreamWeek is all about. They also reflect Shokare’s drive to “make people appreciate all of the wonderful things in the Downtown core and near the Downtown core.”
DreamWeek supporters stand for group photo at the MLK March in 2016. Photo courtesy of DreamWeek.
One DreamWeek experience that touched Shokare was a partnership between Frost Bank and the San Antonio Housing Authority. They identified 50 young people who were educationally at-risk and invited them and their families to dinner at the Plaza Club. “Just that intentional way of saying ‘hey, we value you.’ It changed quite a few of them,” he observes.
Maybe the most visually impactful project to come out of DreamWeek was inspired in part by Shokare’s own experiences. When he was in his home country of Nigeria, shortly after the death of his father, Shokare had a strange dream.
He saw a dollar bill turn into a 1005 dollar bill. Shokare took this to mean that he would end up in America. His spiritual advisor told him that it meant he would be blessed more than he thought. “The 1000 dollar bill is a treasury bill, it’s not public tender,” says Shokare, “But even then, you get a little more than that,” he laughs.
Photographer Sarah Brooke Lyons incorporated Shokare’s dream into her mission to capture the faces of San Antonio. The result was the 1005 Faces Project. “It bottled a portion of San Antonio for keeps,” states Shokare. The exhibition premiered during DreamWeek in 2014. The project embodies the spirit of the event, allowing subjects to hold up a piece of paper with words of their choosing.
This visual choir of voices represents the central theme of DreamWeek. As Shokare says, “The people who unite us, those are the ones we want to celebrate.”
For a list of DreamWeek events, click here.