In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.
Jennifer Seman was driving to class one day last summer. She stopped for coffee. She sat in a Denton Starbucks, sipping on her regular injection -- hot black coffee with two shots of espresso -- and read the Denton Record-Chronicle. A fact whizzed past: Forty-one percent of the Denton Independent School District's more than 25,000 students are considered "economically disadvantaged," the paper informed her highly alert brain.
Seman is a Ph.D. candidate in the American history department at SMU and is working on a dissertation about the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. She also plays, with her husband, in a three-piece experimental and instrumental group called Shiny Around the Edges, banging on piano keys and percussion instruments. Neither of those pursuits has anything to do with what she was reading. But she was fascinated anyway, especially by the part about The Apple Tree Project, which provides backpacks full of school supplies to poor kids in Denton.
Ever since 2003, when Seman moved from Los Angeles to Texas to be closer to family, she has been a woman who has to get involved, no matter how thin it stretches her time.
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"I love the DIY spirit of Denton," says Seman, who spends summers working at Recycled Books and Records. "So many folks here start bands, film projects, businesses, writing collectives. There is a feeling that the community will support you no matter what you try."
Knowing the support was there (even before it was), she got to work. Just about every year since moving to Denton, Seman and her band had organized a benefit for the community, she says, raising funds for Spirit Horse Ranch, Denton Free Clinic, Denton Community Food Bank and Dogs and Cats Humane Society. Now it was the Apple Tree Project's turn.
With her bookstore co-workers at her side, Seman created a one-night event called Recycledpalooza, which was part concert, part raffle, part bake sale. Seven bands played, including her own, and the group raised $1,500, which in turn bought a lot of school supplies and shoes. She's already at work on another benefit concert for 2013. "The important thing is anyone can help," Seman says. "All of these organizations are well-run and are in need year-round. Give them a call, stop by, offer your time or resources. Denton is a city where anything is possible if you put your mind to it and collaborate with your friends."