Meet a Nasty Woman Supporter: 5 Questions with Dan Seaver

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Meet Dan Seaver. Dan is a Nasty Woman Supporter, a former journalist and advertising copywriter and a champion for disadvantaged and incarcerated youth. We chose to feature our first male Nasty Woman for the work that he does to help those coming out of California's prison and foster care systems to break the cycle of institutionalization. He spent more than a decade as a volunteer in a Los Angeles youth incarceration facility, and is currently a Commissioner for the Los Angeles County Probation Department. He is also a founder of ManifestWorks, a workforce development organization geared toward de-marginalizing participants and giving them tools for success in film, television, and new media production. He is married and has a daughter. Learn more about Dan and what moved him to action here.

What makes you a Nasty Woman Supporter?

It’s really clear there is plenty that needs fixing in our world. In some ways, my life is all about doing my best to make that change, including the way I raise my daughter. I believe in working hard for things I believe in—and sharing love and respect with others. Its not a stretch to say this goes hand in hand with breaking bread and sharing wine with old friends and making new ones. 

Share an experience that shaped your views or helped get you involved in activism.

A while back, I took advantage of a space between jobs to volunteer at a juvenile hall, basically a jail for kids. It was a revelation, and not in a good way. I was shocked at how many kids behind bars were foster kids who had been abandoned. And many kids were paying epic prices for transgressions—fights on the playground, even skipping school—that didn’t result in jail time where I grew up. Kids that were locked up were uniformly poor and came from real disadvantage. It incensed me that my tax dollars were being spent to house children in such profoundly unsafe and destructive places. 
What advice do you have for people who want to help enact change and push progress but don’t know how to get involved?

For me, it was a simple as seeing something that needed my response. I knew the kids I met in jail didn’t have people fighting for them, and often didn’t have parents. It seemed society had failed them in an epic way, in ways that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. It didn’t feel like this could be happening in my country.

We can all agree there are many troubling things in the world; it can be overwhelming. And I have averted my gaze many times from things needing my help in the past. But here, I had no choice.

In the last two decades, I have really sunk my teeth in trying to build a model of reform. Getting involved with the justice system has really focused my life and connected me to my community. Five years ago, I started ManifestWorks, a non-profit that provides job training for those impacted by foster care, homelessness and incarceration. People come to us never having had a job, and after a few months and a gentle nudge, they have living wage jobs and look forward with hope they never experienced before. I feel very lucky to do work that is meaningful to me.

If you could look into the future, 10 years from now, and see that real progress has been made, what does that look like to you?

Let’s make it possible for every child born in this country to have a chance. Let’s not condemn poor kids to insurmountable obstacles. And lets let every kid—even those buried deep inside adult bodies—have a chance to contribute something of value that allows for feelings of engagement and satisfaction.

And maybe after 11 years, in my vision of the future, that progress could be global.

Share with us a wine favorite. It could be your favorite wine, a favorite moment or memory with wine, or a favorite pairing.  

I have had more than my share of good wine in my life, and I would consider myself, historically, a red-wine lover. But eating fresh seafood—fresh sardines or oysters at the beach—with a bracing white wine and great friends has been one of my best memories. 

Tell us more about ManifestWorks.

People tend to fixate on ManifestWorks serving those impacted by incarceration, and last year, those in our program made a short film that tells the organization’s story. It is excellent; they did an amazing job. If you have two minutes, check it out:

Emily Davis