Daniel Becton is a man on a mission. He’s halfway into a yearlong journey that will take him across all 50 states and Washington, DC, in an independent project to honor worthy community organizations across the country.
This week, Becton is in Santa Fe to support the local chapter of Breakthrough Collaborative, a college preparatory program serving low-income students with academic tutoring, college counseling, scholarships and more. This weekend marks another “Super Saturday”—one of 10 annual workshops offering rigorous math and English courses to Breakthrough students who, according to executive director Talia Winokur, will be the first in their family to attend college.
SFR recently caught up with Becton to talk about this weekend’s Breakthrough event and his larger project. The following interview has been condensed.
SFR: What’s the name of the project?
Daniel Becton: The project is called “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu means, “My humanity is tied to yours”—so, the idea that I am because we are, the interconnected nature of humanity. Not only do I suffer when you suffer, but I feel joy when others feel joy.
It’s not money and votes that we need, it’s people. Relationships. It’s not arguing about teacher unions or teacher salaries or state funding or federal funding; it’s about people who are sitting in schools like we are now. Meeting people at a place of being human, meeting other people at a place when they aren’t defined by their age or socioeconomic condition.
So it’s a perfect fit this week, because I’m obsessed with—and they’re really all embodied at—Breakthrough.
Are you giving them an award?
Well, each week I’m doing two things: celebrating and supporting. There is a lot of overlap. The celebrating piece is written, primarily. I do a lot of social media and writing each week about “us and them,” this paradox about “us and them.”
But the celebrating is me being here, getting to talk to Talia, learning what they do. And the supporting varies depending on the need of the organizations. I do a lot of workshops. A few weeks ago, in San Antonio, I went up to a place called Georgetown and did some leadership workshops at a youth detention facility with 100 young people. And that’s just a snapshot of a day.
How far along are you?
This is week 25 of 51. I’ve gone 25 weeks. 13,300 miles. Stayed with 31 people. I raised the money for the project before I did it. I raised $17,000. Which was [all] private [donations], no government money. That pays for my meals and insurance and the basics. And then I’m staying with people along the way.
In the end, what do you hope to achieve?
A book. That will be the good thing, output-wise. I’ve been making films along the way of all the organizations I’ve been working with. And a lot of connecting. Meeting a lot of people that can benefit from knowing someone else.