Erik is Looking for a Fair Chance

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As Erik sits down for his interview, there is a genuine and earnest look in his eyes. It’s clear from the outset that he is grateful for this moment in time. After all, learning about his history left little to be imagined about a future in audio production. He grew up in an abusive household, and like so many kids in that position, he ran away from home at the age 15. His grandmother intervened, finding him on the streets; this is when Erik got his first chance to follow his passion. At 17, Erik became involved with San Francisco’s music industry. Although the music scene, in part, led a young and impressionable Erik down a troubled road, his passion for sound has stuck with him for over 30 years of incarceration. Now, as a graduate of the Audio and Video Production Program (AVP) and a teaching assistant in the program, Erik is building on his previous knowledge and gaining experience in audio production for a brighter future.

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His face lights up when he talks about what’s next. “I would really like to be able to take my skill set and apply that outside,” he says, as he adds that he is now suitable for parole. When we spoke with Erik, he emphasized the skills he learned in AVP, things such as mixing, editing, and using time-based processors. He is deeply emotional when talking about the work and wants to apply what he’s learned to a career upon release. Taking a moment to pause before speaking, he says he’s most excited to share, “[his] love of sound, [his] love of music, [his] love of spoken word.” He and his fiance shared a passion for podcasting, and after her passing a year and a half ago, he hopes to be able to carry that passion forward in her memory.

Erik not only emphasized the importance of what he learned in the classroom, but also the importance of the work left to be done by society and communities when it comes to justice-impacted people. Erik advocates for fair chance hiring practices in the workplace, saying that he and others with similar experiences “suffer a stigma” upon parole. And while Erik is continuing his education and advancing his love of sound, his only hope to navigate these stigmas is with the help of fair chance hiring employers. “I want to be able to share my skills. I want to be able to share my passions, I want to be able to share my joys,” he tells us, but this is only possible if employers focus on his aptitudes and skills, rather than his past. While there is still more work to be done, TLM has been partnering with fair chance employers in web development and audio and video production to help bridge the gap in employment opportunities for alumni upon their release.

With TLM, Erik is excited for the future, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to get involved with the audio industry again.” He deeply wants to give back to the community and be a participating citizen. Eventually, he would even like to start his own podcast and share his stories with the world.