“They call it the death sound.”
The past tense of awake is woke, obviously. “I woke up,” is what someone could utter any given morning. The word has also been adopted as a slang word with a meaning that is ever expanding, but generally entails being in the know when it comes to social and political enlightenment. A word with such subjectivity allows people to feel a sense of “wokeness” when it comes to just about anything.
Has anyone ever told you to #staywoke? The term has existed for a while, and now got a brand-new make over with its existence on social media. Its social media presence is what caused many to refine or narrow down its meaning.
Many people have various interpretations of the word.
San Francisco State University biology student, Rosa Gutierrez, thinks “…it is when someone is enlightened, or trying to learn about something that is going on around them, and not ignoring the issues that are going on around them.”
American-Indian studies major, Shawnee Sample, believes that, “It’s about seeing different perspectives and different sides to everything, just being able to recognize what’s going down whether it’s political, educational, etc.”
“I think it means being aware of situations and problems that people aren’t aware of,” shares computer science major, David Harvey. “I feel like it’s being overused for now, but with time it will be used less.”
The great thing about social media is that it can get information to circulate on a broader scale. People all over the world can get a laugh from the same memes at the same time! And while that is amazing it’s important to realize that not just memes are being rapidly spread, so are these trends of activism.
We live in a time where big social movements involving hashtags can catapult through the likes of social media. Take #BlackLivesMatter for example, the entirety of that movement started on social media and without social media it would not have spread as widely as it did.
With that being said, even though a social movement as such holds much more value than a trend, it is treated the same when it comes to having a shelf life, which brings me to the topic of being or staying “Woke.”
Even though it has taken off on social media, the term has been around for decades in the Black community. Although not the most reputable source, The Urban Dictionary satirically describes it as “a state of perceived intellectual superiority one gains by reading The Huffington Post.”
“A lot of people think that because they were there first they get to delegate what the meaning is and how others should be regarded within that term,” says Ghila Andemeskel, former executive coordinator for the Black Student Union. “In general it does open doors for discussion.”
At the peak of its existence in the world of social media, “woke” seemed to bring a lot of awareness to issues. It also became something that people were striving to be a part of because it was highly looked down upon to be considered not “woke.”
With that popularity arose various problems. On one hand people were beginning to just start calling themselves “woke,” unjustly throwing around the word like Northern Californians throw around the word “hella.” On the other hand, people began to develop this unwarranted sense of intellectual superiority, and additionally it led to a lot of talk of issues, but no action.
“Media is a tool that can be used positively and negatively,” explains Hanna Wodaje, an Africana studies Alumna who currently works at the Black Unity Center. “The word can be like a double-edged sword obviously if it’s used inefficiently.”
The overuse and misuse of the word by people wanting fit in led to a lot of folks misconstruing the meaning. While it is great to care for these issues and give them more attention, the only thing this superiority does is create a divide between people, as opposed to spreading awareness which was the goal from the beginning, which in my opinion is the cause of this dwindling trend.
Often people think that a simple double tap on someone’s “woke” post or a simple retweet is enough and that is as far as their wokeness goes.
“Social media things like hashtags have been an amazing way for people of color and marginalized groups to reclaim their spaces and their platforms,” Wodaje points out.
Even singer and Bay Area native, Kehlani, sported the word as a tattoo in giant letters gracing the back of her hand, which she had covered up at the beginning of this year.
“When I got the ‘Woke’ tattoo at twenty-years-old I thought I was the smartest cookie in the jar,” shared the now twenty-two-year-old in an Instagram post. “I was so ready to declare my intelligence to the world.”
Someone who is truly about that life, lives it everyday. It shows in the company they keep, in them standing up for themselves and others, and it shows in their active activism—not including “Twitter activism”, which is not necessarily bad, but it is not enough to make an actual impact in the community and the lives of others.
We should stop looking at it like it is a finite state of being. There is no end to learning, growing, and becoming better versions of ourselves.
It is wonderful to spread awareness about social issues, the feeling that comes from doing such feels amazing, but anger or bashing should not stem from a difference in thoughts of opinions regarding various topics. I couldn’t decide whether something like this needed a different title like ‘socially conscious’ or maybe we should eradicate titles all together and let our actions speak louder than or words.
Let’s put the focus we have on the term to sleep and wake up our potential to be the catalyst for positive change in our communities. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
Another superhero movie came out this past month. That’s where we are at now. Marvel movies are becoming as essential to American culture as the Super Bowl or the Olympics; we all have to see them.
Except Black Panther was more than just another Marvel film.
Black Panther is a platform for black artists and creators to create a lens into their culture. This was a first for a large demographic of kids. They get to see themselves as the hero; the main event. Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as the titular Black Panther, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War, with Michael B. Jordan as the debut villain Erik Killmonger.
Michael B. Jordan played a heavy role in the film while also reuniting, for the third time, with writer and director Ryan Coogler—proving to be a match made in cinematic heaven. The two came together in 2013 for Fruitvale Station and again in 2015 for Creed.
I love Marvel films. I always look forward to seeing the Avengers come together and watch the solo films in between. To be fair though, the other day I overheard a group of girls talking in the cafe and one of them mentioned that she didn’t know that the Black Panther was a superhero. Most people didn’t. I am also fairly new to the club.
I am a marvel fanboy. There’s no use in me hiding it. While I don’t read the comics quite as much as I did back in the day, I have done everything I can to stay up to date on the Marvel cinematic universe.
Black Panther was always a superhero I liked, but not a character that I found incredibly enticing on his own. Often when I read his stories he was paired with the X-Men or Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. That being said, I was excited when I heard they were giving Black Panther his own film. I was even more excited when I heard Kendrick Lamar was going to be producing the album.
Once it was announced after Captain America: Civil War that the Black Panther would get a full length film, the most exciting part was seeing updates on the cast. Who would’ve thought we’d being seeing Angela Bassett in a Marvel film? On and off the screen, “blackness” was praised and proved to be something worth watching. The selection for costume designers, the “inspired by” soundtrack, and the director.
I will be honest and say that before Black Panther, I didn’t know who Angela Bassett was. Bassett put forth a stirring performance as the mother of T’challa, the Black Panther. It’s sad how long this movie has taken to get made.
Black Panther is another installment in a long line of Marvel films that pushes the envelope. Rather than serve up standard superheroes, Marvel has attempted to give us something unique. A talking raccoon and a giant tree voiced by Vin Diesel would never have gotten the green light when Iron Man and The Dark Knight were the pioneers.
Black Panther is culturally a more important film than Guardians of the Galaxy though. It is the story of a superhero who is also the king of a sovereign nation. In the comics Black Panther fights with politics almost as much as his claws. The story of Black Panther and his nation of Wakanda also carries a lot of racial and social commentary.
Rather than shy away from the issues, the movie leans into them and allows what made the story unique in the comic books to make it unique on screen. It’s a movie about representation, juggling the identity of a comic book flick with that of a film about black culture. How did it do?
Black Panther was a very different combination of excitement. You have so many new and unusual factors going in one mainstream film. The idea that a blockbuster depicts Africa as beautiful, self-sufficient, and most importantly superior to its surroundings is an anomaly. The excitement that black kids can look up to a superhero that looks like them, play with action figures that have the same features. This film supports an identity that was well overdue.
There’s so much to rave about. You have Kendrick Lamar, an activist through his rap, producing the soundtrack for the film. Ryan Coogler’s $200 million budget for a film he was allowed to make his own. Ruth E. Carter, known for her repeated work with director Spike Lee, and more recently her costume design for Selma.
Names that resonate in the black community are now widely known due the weight that Marvel films hold. The excitement comes from the shift in a community finally being able to show how profitable it truly is.
It comes at a fortuitous time in Hollywood as well. Black Panther as a movie is poignant. Opening on Oakland, California in 1992, the film makes its goals clear while still entertaining us the entire way. Stunning visuals and an incredible soundtrack composed by Swedish visionary Ludwig Goransson never distract from the climax.
Black Panther is about a hero and a villain who both want what is best for their people. They both see the suffering and persecution endured at the hands of the privileged and the powerful. The crux of their characters fall on what the answer is. How do we as people fight against hundreds of years of systematic and institutionalized racism? Black Panther director Coogler answers as best as he can: we get involved, and we point a spotlight at the beautiful.
A wide jaw, stocky build, and short thick hair in an array of colors. The defining features of a pit bull aren’t up for debate when it comes to this dog breed. Behavior on the other hand, never seems to stop being a controversy. Extreme efforts go into painting the picture of a vicious beast, rabid and uncontrollable in any situation. The other side reveals a loyal and loving dog, reacting the way any dog would if put in a bad situation raised by unfit owners. But what depiction holds truth in reality?
When approaching any controversy, education is key. First and foremost, what is a pit bull? Ariana Luchsinger, from San Francisco Animal Care & Control, thinks most people identify a pit bull as just a “well-muscled with a blocky head” dog, but that doesn’t always add up to a pit bull-type breed.
“‘Pit bull’ is really an umbrella term for multiple breeds of dog – Staffies [Staffordshire Terriers], American Bulldogs, Pit Bull Terrier – and as a term is overused and in shelters is overidentified,” said Ariana. “Unfortunately, people get a lot of misinformation about dogs in general, and pit bull-type dogs are the biggest victim of these mythologies.”
The generalization of pit bulls is based around decades of bad-breeders and their actions; over-breeding, improper training, or training to specifically make them aggressive.
“The public often views pitties as aggressive killing machines with a higher likelihood of biting,” Ariana declared. “In truth, they are like any dog; a product of their genetics, their socialization, and their environment.”
Jennifer Rosen, founder of the dog rescue Bullies and Buddies in Redondo Beach, California, agrees that it’s all about the breeders and owners, and that these dogs are a product of bad-nurture rather than the nature in their genetics.
“What’s happening is people are using them as guard dogs and chaining them up,” Jennifer preached as she boomed about a breed she’s loved since she first rescued a pit bull in 2004. “You have a working breed that has a lot of energy and they are sitting there tied up or in a backyard, that’s a problem. It’s really on us as the owners; how we raise our dogs. If we exercise them, socialize them, give them some boundaries, there should be no issues.”
A complicated process is implemented at Bullies and Buddies in making sure an owner is the right fit and ready for owning a pit bull including applications, home visits, and visits with their trainer at the rescue. Jennifer understands what can happen if a pit bull is given into the wrong hands, and does everything she can to prevent that.
“When they come to me, you know they fill out an application and I see what their lifestyle is, I’ll tell people this is not the breed for you,” Jennifer said with conviction, and added that her answer sometimes turns people off, but she’d rather turn away an applicant than have a pittie end up in a non ideal situation and continue to perpetuate myths.
Environment and caregiving is everything in this circumstance. Not just for the individual dog itself, but also for the public. Every pit bull that gets treated wrong becomes another statistic for those wishing to ban the breed entirely.
“Your dog has to be an exemplary ambassador because the breed itself can’t afford him not to be – and that’s a huge and unfair responsibility,” insisted Ariana as she spoke about a time a woman had to cancel her adoption because her mom threatened to literally disown her if she owned a pit bull.
“In addition to being a baseline good dog-owner, you have to be willing to demystify your dog to everyone from passers-by to your neighbor, to your family. The public will forgive and forget the trespasses of a Goldendoodle, [but] they will never forgive the same behaviors in a pit bull.”
The American Temperament Test Society is a national organization designed to test the various temperaments of dog breeds.
“The test takes about 12 minutes to complete,” according to the organization’s official website. “The dog is on a loose six-foot lead and three ATTS trained evaluators score the dog. Majority rules. Failure on any part of the test is recognized when a dog shows panic, strong avoidance without recovery or unprovoked aggression.”
An average pass rate for a breed is 83.4 percent. For pit bull-type dogs the average pass rates are: Pit Bull Terrier with 87.4 percent, Staffordshire Terrier with 85.2 percent, and American Bulldogs with 86.7 percent. All well above the average.
But their stocky and muscular demeanor is threatening to those in fear of pitties. Before ever even coming into contact with one, most people on this side of the argument have their mind made up that pit bulls are not to be trusted. Ruth Matias, a junior at San Francisco State University, said she isn’t very fearful of the breed. Her mom on the other hand, is terrified.
“My mom is scared of pit bulls because back in Ethiopia, dogs are guard-dogs, not domesticated house pets,” Ruth explained, elaborating that her mother emigrated to America from Ethiopia. “So whenever she sees [pit bulls] they still instill fear in her. They’re not animals she’d want to go up and pet.”
Pit bulls are at the top of the list for dog-bites in California at 29 percent, right above German Shepherds and Chihuahuas according to the California Department of Public Health. These bites are reported and recorded. The breed of the dog is either claimed to be a pit bull by the victim or by a visual identification from veterinarians and staff at a shelter. In 2015, The Veterinary Journal studied the identifications of pit bulls by shelter staff versus DNA testing of the dog confirming the breed.
Staff shelters identified the attack dogs as pit bulls 52 percent of the time whereas the DNA testing confirmed the dogs as pit bulls only 21 percent of the time. Ariana agrees that shelters are huge on misidentification of pit bulls, a huge problem when it comes to statistics. She points out that the San Francisco Animal Care & Control shelter constantly has pit bull-type dogs in house.
“At any given time, SFACC’s dog population is roughly 30 percent pit bull-type dogs, the majority of which are found as unaltered strays,” she said, emphasizing that unaltered means not spayed or neutered, which is the other huge problem that involves the breed.
“Despite a ton of progress in the realms of public awareness and spay / neuter, pitties are a population that is favored for illegitimate backyard breeding,” Ariana declared, revealing the reason why there are so many pit bulls in shelters and rescues: greedy breeders not spaying or neutering pitties in an attempt to make more money. There are many laws throughout the country that specifically require pit bull-type dogs to be neutered or spayed in order to stop this problem.
San Francisco code 43 section 1 states: “no person may own, keep, or harbor any dog within the City and County of San Francisco that the person in possession knew, or should have known, was a pit bull that has not been spayed or neutered.”
Ignorant breeders break the law, which leads to pit bulls without homes, being found on the street, and hopefully being found by a shelter or rescue before it’s too late for them.
“People are breeding them and trying to make a profit,” Jennifer added, agreeing that the biggest issue here is overpopulation. “Now it’s like they’re a dime a dozen. They are getting euthanized left and right in shelters. Spay and neuter. That’s the problem.”
With more pitties starting out with bad breeders or incapable owners and without proper altering, the stigma behind them just continues. Jennifer finds passion in educating the public on the “other-side of the pit bull story,” knowing that the future for these pups will be bright one day if people are willing to learn what is fact and what is fiction.
“The bottom line is, each dog is an individual,” Jennifer stated, still knowing that some people’s minds may never change. “You know, what I’ve learned is that you can’t fix stupid. It is a privilege to own this breed. I am so proud everyday.”
The streets were a perfect balance of calm and chaotic, the air was cold, and the sound of a new apartment complex being built echoed throughout the shaded street. Sia Amma’s hair salon, Best Hair Braiding Salon, is in the middle of it all.
Amma was a feminist to say the least; in every sense of the word and in every facet of her passions.
“You are questioned for everything as a Black woman for everything we’re fighting to survive, fighting to claim ourselves,” Amma explains. “I’ve learned a lot, women of color are born feminist, the stigma on those feminine issues has always been there but it is much more difficult for women of color.”
White feminism and Black feminism are two different realities that can be explained by intersectionality, but on the other hand Women Gender Studies professor Brooke Lober states, “Not all women are born feminists, feminism is a set of theories and politics –not a condition of birth.”
To say that she does it all would be an understatement. Amma acts, is a playwright, writes books, and is a comedian, just to name a few of her passions. But braiding hair has always been a constant in her life, and her main source of income.
In response to what kind of comedy she does, she says a lot of her jokes are racially based. “People always say things like ‘go back to Africa!’ I am like, ‘Do you know how much the tickets cost?!’” she shares as an example of one of her popular jokes.
“I just try to balance with trying to make a living and trying to survive,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone.
Outsiders cannot walk into the shop with ease, a protective gate served as a barrier in front of the door. It is a quaint salon with three chairs and two washing stations. The wall directly to the right had a plethora of rows full of braiding hair packs hanging on the wall, ranging from straight hair to kinky hair, and black and brown colors to green and blue. The brown walls gave it a warm feel that one gets from being in a living room at home.
She talks over the score of a PBS podcast playing the background. Her hands move vigorously as she and an associate micro braid a client, occasionally speaking in her native tongue to her braiding counterpart to comment on the podcast, which happened to be discussing the topic of gun control in America. She would take a little pause when resting her hands or to shake her head with disapproval.
A hairstyle of micro-braids can have a person in the salon for hours, nothing that Black women are not used to already, so two hands are definitely necessary. Amma does all sorts of braiding styles at her Tenderloin salon and has been for decades while in and out of school.
Amma left her home on the coast of Liberia during the civil war that took place in the 1990s and came straight to San Francisco with her family.
According to Peace Building Data, the civil war in Liberia, which was from 1989-2003, left hundreds of thousands of people dead, included an ethnic divide, elites who abused power, a corrupt political system, and economic disparity. All of that violence caused many to flee to the States.
In San Francisco she eventually went to community college before transferring from City College of San Francisco to San Francisco State University in 2008. At the university she double majored in communications and drama. But her true passion lay with performing.
No relationships are stirring for Amma at the moment. “I think I’m much more married to my performances, nothing makes me happier than making people laugh or performing, I think that my biggest fear is losing myself,” she elaborates.
She even has a space for a theater around the corner from the salon, literally. She has had the space since 2003, but she put that theater dream on hold as the area was getting heckled by people who had intent to gentrify. “I braided all day then I would go over there and perform,” she recounts the past.
She still has it, but instead uses it as a storage space for the products that she sells at her salon.
“With gentrification comes a lot of stalking and harassment,” Amma continues. “I was getting stalked and followed so I shut it down for my safety.”
She explains how San Francisco was very different when she first came here. “I remember there was more black people and more black neighborhoods,” Amma explains.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, Black people made up 7.5 percent of San Francisco’s population, by 2016 that number went down to 6.5 percent.
“The first African braiding shop in the Bay Area was in the Fillmore!” Amma exclaims excitedly. That is where she met Satta, her fellow braider and colleague at the salon.
“I known her for over 20 years, we met at the first braiding salon in the Bay Area ever called African Safari, everyone that came from Africa worked there. I worked at this shop with her for 5 years,” says Satta.
In her most recent one woman show—titled Uncle Sam’s Children in Africa—she tells of her life in Liberia and what brought her to America, accompanied by a crash course on Liberian history.
She has a voice made for performing, the same booming voice that emerges in between laughs at the hair salon, it finally gets to take the main stage. She paints pictures with her hand gestures, giving the audience a virtual tour of her village in Liberia.
“It was really inspiring, with lots of drama, history, and a beautiful song,” commented a spectator Elizabeth Loyola.
Amma has a book that she says is finished, but she just cannot seem to put down the pen, she explains while continuing to laugh. When she gets to the topic of her love for performing that her eyes light up, and the volume of her voice grows with excitement. With her laugh booming throughout the small salon, she gets into some of the topics that she covers in her book, which is a feminist bible, so to speak, and based entirely on interviews and conversations that she has had with various women.
“One of the things that I learned from those interviews is the tremendous amounts of silence about these kind of topics, these interviews would happen after I performed or just people would tell me things while I did their hair.”
She touches on first dates, to women discovering sexuality, the difference between infatuation and love, vaginas and more.
“I will finish, then I’ll be like ‘okay maybe just one more, how about a first date? Or teenage pregnancy?’”
Her goal is to increase the dialogue for all of these topics that women feel the need to be silent about, through interviews with various women. “For a lot of us the separation between us and our parents comes from discovering ourselves and our sexuality,” she explains.
Her salon, and many like it, become a sanctuary for women, a safe space where your hair in its natural form is not judged and such a comfort then becomes a catalyst for open conversation and if you are lucky… a little gossip.
“It’s getting way too expensive, I wanna go far away from here,” she says, her voice trailing off into silence.
One reason she wants to go back to Liberia eventually is because she finds it harder to be Black here. “I never questioned my Blackness it was just there, but then you come here and everywhere you go, you have to prove yourself,” she admits.
She hopes to go back to teach children or to be an ambassador for women’s health.
According to a well known saying, “______ is the new black.” Black is the standard of fashion. Clothing trends come and go, but recently pressure is being put on the fashion industry to let more go then just last season’s wardrobe go.
The lack of diversity in the fashion world goes far beyond the runway. Without cultural representation in major studios there are a great number of problems looming.
For too long designers have not had someone push back on styles and looks that disrespect various cultures. The fight for plus size models, for example, is a story within itself.
Skin, body type, sexuality, and culture are all being put into a senior fashion line produced by Chrysalyn Morehead-Tucker. Chrysalyn is a 24-year-old fashion student at San Francisco State University. It was her plan to study fashion at SF State.
“If I was gonna progress in the idea of bringing communities that aren’t represented in the fashion industry to the forefront, it would make more sense to come to a school that has those same views,” she shared.
Chrysalyn’s goal in the fashion industry is to change “the norm.” She explained that giving credit where it is due is the first priority on her list.
“Understanding some of the things that black culture has brought to the fashion industry but has not been given credit. I would love to say that this is something a black person did, this came from the black community,” Chrysalyn shared.
Changing how fashion is interpreted is an important aspect for designers like Chrysalyn, who use their talents to create a dialogue that shifts thinking. She explains that “being a fashion student at SF State kind of opened my eyes to more of what the fashion industry needs rather than what the fashion industry is asking for. I think the program here definitely emphasizes more on being able to change the industry for what it is.”
Chrysalyn is working on various projects that reflect her goals of including communities often overlooked by the fashion industry, such as her senior line that focuses on Afrofuturism. Chrysalyn describes Afrofuturism as “the idea of having black bodies in a futuristic setting and futuristic places.”
Inspired by Star Trek at a young age, Chrysalyn explains, “I’ve always been fascinated with the art form of Afrofuturism… ”
Chrysalyn’s idea is to concoct a combination of sustainability, futuristic settings, and Afrocentricity. She walks through the process and explains that she is “taking traditional African garments like Dashiki and repurposing them for my fashion show.”
She explains why sustainability is an important portion of her work by adding, “consumers are understanding that we need to be more mindful and conscious of what not only our clothes are made out of but what we do with our clothing once we feel like they reached the end of their cycle.”
Chrysalyn explained that sustainability was a process in Africa that was almost second nature to textile producers.
“There’s so much spiritual connection between African weaving, and African dying, and African printing, that means more than just aesthetics. There’s spiritual connections to it and I want to do it justice by showing the prints and the colors that makes Africa stand out from everyone else,” she expresses.
The fashion show put on at the end of year by fashion students is no small project because it pushes students to take everything they have learned and incorporate it into three to six pieces to display in front of their immediate community.
Dr. Dorie, the instructor and an alumna of the program, gave insight on what designers face for the fashion show.
Dr. Dorie explained, “We’re really trying to prepare them to go into the fashion industry and have a strong design aesthetic, so they leave understanding the elements of design and how to execute them,” Dr. Dorie explained
She jokingly added, “[The designers] won’t sleep all semester.”
She gave the timeline of the tireless semester and narrowed it down.
“If you think about a look for one model, that’s about three garments for one model it’s a lot of work.”
Even though the sleepless nights and the ever-changing fashion world, Chrysalyn sets her sights on creating a space in fashion for all people who do not feel like fashion is for them.
What filter will it be this time around? What is trying to be “corrected” today? Skin texture? Skin tone complexion? Eyes? Nose? Jawline? Face structure? Double chin?
Today, anyone has the power to alter what they look like on social media. Some use apps and filters for fun without thinking twice about why they use or post them. Others, however, overthink how they look and need apps and filters to enhance their appearance because of deep-rooted insecurities. Many of these insecurities stem from the unrealistic Eurocentric beauty standards that are portrayed in the media, but also through apps and filters.
San Francisco State University ethnic studies professor Wei Ming Dariotis, who is also the Associate Professor for Asian American Studies, is not surprised that filters and apps are geared towards Eurocentric beauty standards. In fact, Dariotis is disappointed.
“We might say it’s not overtly racist because they weren’t necessarily trying to exclude people of color,” Dariotis expressed. “But it ends up being racist because it’s so Eurocentrically focused that people of color are excluded by default.”
Filters are notorious for lightening people’s skin tones and smoothing the skin. Many filters tend to lighten skin, slim the face, enlarge the eyes, and even create a bridged nose. But are those who claim that filters are pushing Eurocentric beauty standards looking too deep into it?
Dariotis brings up the start of beauty pageants for Japanese-American women. Growing up, she considered herself a feminist and would think of beauty pageants as sexist, oppressive, and overall a waste of time. But with time, she realized that it was a way for ethnic communities to express and showcase their own beauty standards and values. She thinks it’s a beautiful thing to have a group of people embrace their culture, after being told by society that they are not good enough and “ugly.”
The ethnic studies professor does not think Eurocentric beauty standards just stop at filters and apps. She points out that surgeries are also done to live up to these unrealistic standards. From eyelid surgery, to nose jobs, breast implants, the list continues. Dariotis believes it is deeply damaging to not only an individual’s psyche, but also for everyone collectively. In a way, she believes people’s minds are “colonized.”
“Colonial mentality is: you’ve been colonized, and instead of fighting back, you kind of believe what your colonizer believes,” Dariotis explained. “As other ethnic groups in the U.S., there’s a strong tendency to succumb to that mindset, and that allows us to look at ourselves as ugly when we’re really not.”
SF State student Trysha Luu admits she uses filters often. She thinks they are fun and she feels generally positive about them. However, she does see the deep-rooted issues in their features and the impact it can have on the youth.
“I don’t think that filters themselves are racist, but they do strengthen the negative stigma around dark skin and people of color in general,” Luu said. “It simultaneously reinforces a Eurocentric vision of beauty already instilled in adults and teaches this vision to younger generations.”
But what if this idea of “white” beauty standards in photos and media never crossed your mind? This is true for Mimi Sheiner, an SF State design professor. She admits that her being Caucasian is probably why it has never been in her consciousness, and she says that in itself is an issue.
Sheiner edits photos to make meaning clearer. She has never altered anyone’s skin tone, body type, or facial features. She enhances photos and only removes blemishes when they are distracting to the point she is trying to get across. For example, she may remove dust or a crease on an old photo, or add some trees to the background of a photo where the main focus is the person.
But other than that, Sheiner thinks its “creepy” to alter images to the point where they are unnatural. She believes that it damages people’s minds.
“The whole super manipulated beauty thing is damaging,” Sheiner explained while cooking her dinner. “People have terrible self-image because no one can live up to it. Not even those models live up to it. It’s so manipulated. It poses a standard of beauty that makes everyone feel bad about themselves and makes everyone envious. And I think that in a way it’s the theme of our culture.”
Even though Sheiner never really thought of Eurocentric beauty standards being pushed on people through filters and apps, she does believe that people need to look deeper. She thinks users should not think it’s “all fun and games,” because it is not, and altering skin tones is a serious issue.
Skyline College graduate Armani Fuller has noticed how filters lighten the skin, but he never thought about it from a racial aspect. In fact, Fuller thinks it’s a long shot to say that filters and apps are being “racist.” He is confident that it has more to do with people being insecure, which is why they turn to filters and apps to “fix” what they want.
“Filters are like a temporary high to make someone feel good about themselves,” Fuller explained.
He knows that filters can be fun, but if someone is relying on them to feel and look better, the real issue is that they don’t accept themselves for who they are. Fuller stresses that there were “filters” even before the filters. He uses the example of people saying “get my good side” when taking a photo.
Even though our technology is advancing, there has always been a standard and look that people try to achieve.
Of course everyone wants to look their best when they are in control of what images get uploaded. Most people will not upload a photo of themselves where they believe it makes them look unflattering. Social media sites are just a curation of one’s life, and just because someone posts photos of themselves all dolled up and snazzy, doesn’t mean they look like that every day.
Alaysia “Frankie” Brown, a student at SF State, admits that filters give her confidence. She sees nothing wrong with using filters, editing, or adding things to give her photo the look she wants.
“I guess it’s just a way of seeing myself in a different way,” Brown said casually. “I’m okay with it. I like editing photos, putting cool stuff on my photos, so it’s fun for me.”
Brown does not think it is an issue of her being insecure, but does see an issue with the people who have comments about her usage. Brown questions why people are so judgmental towards her when they find out that she looks different in person than what her social media pictures show. To her, “a picture is a picture,” and should not be taken so seriously.
It has gotten to the point where Brown had to disable her comments on Instagram because people would comment about her appearance. She has people leave comments like, “But you don’t look like that in real life,” and the only fix is to restrict the option to comment on her picture all together.
Brown says it’s very common for people to get rejected in real life when they finally meet someone they met online. She explains how a friend of hers recently went out with a guy she met online. When they met in person, the guy told her friend that she did not look the same as she did in her pictures and he did not like the way she really looked. So he left.
Brown is convinced that people who regularly use filters and apps get cyberbullied more. She is disappointed that something that originally came from a positive fun place, turned into something negative.
“If you decide to post what you post, and if you feel beautiful with what you post, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone says,” Brown said.
However, she knows it is easier said than done. It has crossed Brown’s mind on why she uses filters. And she confesses that she has seen it from the race and insecurity point of view, but chooses to embrace filters and apps because they make her feel beautiful.
The “white beauty standard” is part of our history of colonialism. It tells us that white is the default, and what everyone should strive to be. Dariotis suggests that we do not wait for Hollywood to make these more diverse images, and that we make them ourselves. Whether that be making custom filters, or embracing one’s own culture and beauty.
“Filters are not in and of themselves evil or racist,” Dariotis said. “But the way the technology is focused right now, and the people that are making it, they need to be conscious of the fact that it can be used in a way that is harmful.”
|TRIGGER WARNING This article or section mentions suicide, which may be triggering to survivors.|
Cocktails, laughter, friends and movies. Everything about the night was typical and telling of a girls night in. However, there was something hidden from the light-hearted fun. What the ladies did not know was that one of their friends had been very certain about one thing at that point in time: that she was going to take her own life.
On the topic of suicide most people, who generally have no clue what it is like to have to have a mental illness, believe the easy answer is asking for help. An accusing, “Why didn’t you say anything?” commonly follows, and is often easier said than answered. The truth is that most people do not even know where to begin asking for help.
During the winter break, this is what San Francisco State University student, Farley Moore, experienced after attempting to take her own life.
Let’s just be honest here, college is hard, life is hard… and sometimes things become too much. It’s nice to get things off your chest and vent to a close friend or family member. That was a normal occurrence for Farley and roommate Ashley Nerland.
“There was definitely talks about wanting to end things, from my point of view and from hers… I didn’t really think ‘she’s more serious than she is putting off’, no one realized that it was that serious,” Ashley explains.
To those who are unfamiliar with mental illness, who have not personally struggled or known a friend or family member who dealt with this daily, often wonder what it takes to get to this point. And truthfully, there is no concrete answer. It depends on the person.
According to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among twenty to twenty-four-year-olds. And more than sixty percent of people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. However, that was not Farley’s case.
“It was more like giving up as opposed to depression building up over time,” Farley elaborates, while sitting comfortably on her bed with her legs crossed.
Farley, like many, experiences intense anxiety. Things began to take a turn when an ex-boyfriend reached out to her, saying that he wasn’t going to speak to her again, after making it seem like they were on the road to getting back together at the beginning of December.
“When I have anxiety I don’t eat, I feel like I can’t breathe and my stomach hurts,” Farley explains. “I get panic attacks, my palms are sweaty and I just can’t focus on anything else.”
A study by the American Psychological Association says that anxiety is a top concern among college students with forty-one percent affected, and depression is second in line with thirty-six percent.
“When it comes to anxiety there is more to it than people realize; it stems back to the earliest stages when we’re beginning to make different attachment bonds,” explains Nadine Agosta, a Childhood Development professor.
Her earliest memories of anxiousness began as early as eight-years-old, and involved traveling with her mom, who had a tendency to get upset when things did not go right or if given a wrong direction by mistake.
“…if your caregiver doesn’t make you feel good, it can lead to an insecure attachment, thus leaving a child to question ‘what’s wrong with me?’” Agosta continues.
“From there… it just spiraled,” Farley says looking off into the distance.
The anxiety resulted in four consecutive days of no food, eventually just over thirty pounds lost in two weeks, and a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness.
“I didn’t really know how to ask for help, so this was sort of my cry for help,” Farley takes a deep breath.
Ashley eventually contacted 911 after Farley admitted that she had been continually throwing up all night not from going too hard with the drinking, but from mixing numerous pills, such as hydrocodone and Prozac, with alcohol.
Fast forward and Farley is in the company of many adults who suffer from extreme mental illness that keep them from interacting with society at Mills Peninsula Health Center in Burlingame.
“Farley did not belong there, was my first thought,” Ashley recalls.
Being just one year over the age limit meant that she could not be in the youth area, which she felt would have been more her speed.
Fast forward a couple of days and Farley is out of psychiatric care and is set to have therapy meetings that would determine if she would need long or short-term care.
Following her being able to leave the hospital, both Farley and her friend Ashley got matching tattoos of a semicolon, which represents suicide awareness through a message that conveys life continuing.
Semicolon tattoos began in 2013 with a movement called Project Semicolon, started by a woman named Amy Bleuel. The project offers a platform for people to share their stories and aims to reduce instances of suicide all around the world. The semicolon is a symbol that illustrates where a sentence could have ended, but instead the author chose to have it continue.
Whether by finding people who relate to how you feel, seeking mental refuge in close family and friends, or professional help, the resources to help people create their own theoretical semicolons are out there.
On campus, counseling is offered Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and till 5 p.m. on Fridays. There are also various groups offered that are geared toward more specific topics: Feel Better workshops, and Self-Empowerment to name a few.
“They [social workers, and therapists at the hospital] didn’t seem understand properly and asked a lot of surface level questions,” Farley describes what it was like in the psychiatric center.
After having gone through this experience Farley is considering being an advocate for mental health, or someone who works at a psychiatric hospital instead of going to law school with her eventual Political Science degree.
“I can relate personally so I would be able to ask the right questions, ones that get to the root of the problem, whereas they are just checking for your state of mind right now.”
Some of those surface level questions included ‘rate your anxiety on a scale of one to ten?’
“Well what is a one to you, if you yourself have never experienced anxiety or mental illness?” Farley questions.
As painful as the experience was for not only her, but the people in her life, she believes that it was necessary in order to get the help that she needed.
Photography by Adelyna Tirado/Xpress Magazine
As the year comes to a close, it’s the perfect time for a little reflection. As all but those who were born in it will know, this year has been one hell of a ride.
So to help deal with the aforementioned reflection, as well as the required amount of nostalgia, I think it’s only natural to recommend an adult beverage that goes hand in hand with this particular trip ‘round the sun.
For this trip, I’ve decided the Chateau de Passavant Crémant de Loire will do just fine. After all, it does drink like a mini champagne and while there’s always an occasion to drink sparkling wine – this one really gets the juices flowing, if you know what I mean.
And as a Sommelier, I will do you one better. I shall walk you through this entire experience.
As with all proper reflection and sips of wine, you start with where you are now. And where I am now, is finishing the last legs of my last year at school. Scrambling to get the last pieces of homework turned in, the final touches on projects, and beginning to realize this is the last time of enduring the headaches and all-nighters. It’s strange to wonder what I’ll be doing this time next year… let alone two months from now.
Let’s take a moment, enjoy a sip or two of wine just to help digest that thought – I’m finally done with that cycle.
Sure, I’ll probably still be at the same job that I have a serious love/hate relationship with. I’ll probably have the same roommates, the same repetitive conversations about whose dirty dishes are in the sink or who didn’t clean out the shower drain, and if I’m being honest, I probably won’t have touched a book, written a story, or started studying for the Certified Sommelier exam.
And unfortunately, Trump will probably still be our President – although hopefully on his way out.
Make sure you take a longer sip after that one, really savouring the stress and Tweets we have had to deal with this year. After such a bold political bouquet, feel free to polish off the glass. Really, you’ve earned it.
When I began my journalism journey, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with it or where it would take me. Looking back, it feels like I’ve struggled my whole way through. The only areas I feel I excelled in are copy editing and procrastination. I still grapple to find my voice. I bargain with Premiere Pro, strive to remember which angle the camera needs to be when interviewing a subject, and I still get nervous when approaching someone just to ask them a simple question about whatever subject it is I’m trying to find the right angle for the right story just to make sure I get that A on the assignment.
And with all that being said, to even think that there isn’t a part of me that is excited and enthusiastic about graduating and having the ability pursue stories or topics that I want to write about would be false. I am.
Ah, time to add some more wine to that glass for another sip. This time for the uncertainty and unpredictability of the finish that life leaves on your palate.
I’m unsure where my place in the journalism world is, or my place in the world in general is.
All I know is the same thing I knew when I started my degree – I want to make a difference in someone’s life with what I write. I think that’s a large part of why I chose to minor in criminal justice. Understanding how to read Supreme court cases enthralled me, and breaking down what the latest ration of Tweets from POTUS really mean, or what the changes proposed by Betsy DeVos to Title IX means for college students. The ability to understand the gravity of each word, to be able to convey the complete and total meaning – and to be able to put it down on paper in a way that others can understand; it gave me a purpose.
I want you to sit back in your chair, and admire the glass in front of you. Realize that even though you have been drinking from it, it is still half full.
Because looking back on the past year, specifically, gives me hope. The multitude of events that have happened in the last year that break my heart – and leave me terrified for the future – from Trump being elected, Betsy DeVos revoking and replacing the Title IX guidelines, to threats of nuclear war with North Korea and building a wall on the Mexican border, and the seemingly endless wave of sexual allegations that are dominating almost every industry – not to mention how pissed off Mother Nature is at us – it’s no wonder there is this overwhelming feeling ‘what do I do now?’
Our glass is still half full – even with a few sips taken.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time in college, it’s that being vulnerable is scary, it’s not always supported as much as we think it is, and that trying to fight the continual struggle of balancing life, work, and school is a real challenge.
So as I embrace the final weeks of my college career and start a new path… life… adventure… whatever you want to call it, I am left with a fear of the future looking a lot like the past I’ve read about, but holding on to hope that change is upon us and it can and will be great. But I’ve got a strong grip, holding on to whatever I can to help me get through whatever is thrown my way.
With the rest of the bottle filling our glass, I hold this toast to you.
To the students pushing their way through the system to get that piece of paper that open doors to new opportunities. Keep doing what you have to do until you can do what you really want to do. Keep climbing the stairs, step by step until you reach your goal. I promise you it’s worth it in the end.
To all the #metoo’s… I hear you and I am sorry. I am sorry for every experience, every emotion, every ounce of pain, fear, anger, and doubt that you have once felt, but I am so proud to be a part of a community that is as strong as you are. Keep speaking up, keep voicing the wrongs that have been done, keep fighting for a change in behavior and in our culture.
Hold those accountable for the wrongs they have done regardless of their power, let yourself be heard.
To all the DREAMERS out there in the world. To say that I understand what you are going through would be unfair and untrue. I can only begin to imagine the fear you face on a day-to-day basis with the trigger, I mean Twitter-happy POTUS that we are so unfortunately stuck with for now. But keep fighting, keep telling your stories because America would truly not be what it is today without you, your family, and your heritage.
And lastly to all the journo’s and future journo’s… keep kicking ass and taking names. Call out the Fake News, call out the faulty, sketchy, unproven, unfounded, and ridiculous things that are said in the media and by those in power. Keep telling the stories of those untold, keep pushing for the marketplace of ideas that was so deeply ingrained in us in the early years of our degrees. Keep fighting for ethical and fair journalism and keep fighting for long, in-depth, eye-opening stories that show the true meaning of what journalism is and can be.
San Francisco is shining bright now until New Year’s day with 37 eco-friendly light art installations located in 17 different neighborhoods throughout the city. This is San Francisco’s fifth year hosting Illuminate SF’s, The Festival of Light, which features artists from around the globe. All 37 pieces range in variety and type, making the festival even more unique.
Illuminate, a non-profit founded by Ben Davis, focuses on bringing public art to the masses. They’re mission statement reads:
“Our highly aspirational mission of changing humanity’s future for the better via public art—some would call it impossible—is a reflection of our core beliefs. The best of our projects will always be radically accessible, free to experience and widely viewable.”
Davis and his team began their journey with the first Illuminate piece, The Bay Lights, back in 2013. The Bay Lights is a light sculpture made of 25,000 white LED lights that creates a magnificent light show on the north side of The Bay Bridge. The display was set to run March 2013 to March of 2015 but has now become a permanent piece in the city. For many, this has become an iconic landmark in San Francisco. Since The Bay City Lights, Davis and the rest of Illuminate have helped multiple artists bring their public art to life.
“It’s hard to choose a favorite,” says Jordan Guerrero, a former student at San Francisco State University and now an employee at SoulCycle Castro.
“One of my favorites has to be the “Hope Will Never Be Silent” sign that’s recently been installed outside my work.”
Guerrero is referring to one of six new art light installations that has been installed for this years Festival of Light. The white neon sign reads “Hope will never be silent” and rests above the doors of Soul Cycle, which is located in The Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro district. The sign is meant to pay tribute to the late Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California.
“It makes you smile when you see it. It’s a nice little reminder of how far we’ve come. It just goes to show what type of community lives within the Castro,” says Guerrero while smiling.
Another favorite, the Bayview Rise by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan, towers over the Bayview District standing at 187 feet tall. The mural located at Port Pier 92 symbolizes change but also honors the rich history of the neighborhood.
“We wanted to honor the neighborhood,” says Haddad while talking about the process of creating the piece.
“We decided to ask the community to come up with words to describe the district. We thought that it was a nice way to get the neighborhoods input. The words they came up with were so empowering. The one that really stood out to us was ‘rise’.”
Haddad goes on to explain other inspirations for their piece, including one special lady, Essie Webb.
Webb, one of five women a part of “The Big Five”, a group of black women who advocated for better housing and health clinics in their neighborhood, made a quote that brought the whole piece together.
“All the air came out of the balloon, and it just came to the ground and it’s still there, and it’s just waiting for someone to put some more air in and blow it up.”
Webb’s quote inspired Haddad and Drugan to incorporate balloons into their piece. The balloons are the most prominent on the mural. With the use of light, Haddad and Drugan showcase different elements of their piece.
“At night, the art extends this visual metaphor of transformation through a dynamic interaction of light and color. The light fixtures at the base of the building cycle through different colors that each highlight a unique combination of images within the painted mural. As the light colors shift, images appear to float in and out of the scene. This striking effect of “illumination animation” results in a kinetic image abstractly representing a neighborhood in flux, or Bayview Rising.” (Laura Haddad, Inimitable Glitter)
The incorporation of the lights creates a story for art-goers to interpret. Without them, some elements of the mural would go unnoticed.
Matthew Passmore, the creator of Handsignals, located in the Mission District, explains the importance of light in his piece.
“It’s (the light) critical. It was a little bit of a challenge to get the Arts Commission to go along with a lit piece. The lighting is so critical to it. If the lights don’t work, ya got nothing,” says Passmore.
“Light is the essence of the piece. It comes to life at night.”
Passmore is right when saying these pieces come to life at night, some more than others. One of this year’s new most-raved about exhibits is the Photosynthesis Love for All Seasons, a vibrant imagery show that is projected on the exterior of The Conservatory of Flowers. More events occurring during The Festival of Light include Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade, Parol Light Festival, and After Hours at the Conservatory-Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden.
Illuminate SF’s website provides maps of free self-guided walking tours along with detailed information about each piece and the artist behind the work. The festival along with its events will last until New Years Day. The final celebration will go off with a bang on the Moonlight New Year’s Eve Fireworks Party Cruise.
Upcoming Festival of Light Events:
SF Holiday Lights Tour
When: 5:00PM or 7:30PM Friday, November 25, 2017 – December 30, 2017
Where Fisherman’s Wharf: 2899 Hyde Street
SF Neon Light Tours
When: 5:00PM – 7:00PM Friday, December 15, 2017
Where: Union Square
When: 4:30PM – 6:30PM Friday, December 29, 2017
Where: Tender Nob
Night at the Jewseum: Light, Analog Edition
When: 6:00PM – 9:00PM Thursday, December 14, 2017
Where Contemporary Jewish Museum
de Young | Light Art Docent tour/activation
When: Saturdays, December 16, 23, 30, 2017
Where: de Young Museum
After Hours at the Conservatory – Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden
When: 6:30PM – 11:30PM Friday, December 15, 2017
Where: Golden Gate Park – Conservancy of Flowers
Moonlight New Year’s Eve Fireworks Party Cruise
When: 9:00PM – 1:00PM Sunday, December 31, 2017
Where: Pier 3 – Hornblower Landings
The time has come where society once again shows us how absurd their choice in costumes can be. Sadly, it hasn’t gotten any better throughout the years. We’ve seen things from misinterpretation of the Native American culture, to blackface costumes, to your “typical” Mexican in a sombrero.
Let’s get one thing straight, none of these things are okay to ever wear. Speaking for all races and cultures, we are not a costume.
Every culture has its own unique history, and with that, a lot of it is carried on through what they wear. Fashion has been a part of our lives for centuries, and not only does it distinguish one culture from another, it also offers a cultural background for others to learn about.
When it comes to Halloween, dating back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, it used to be a day where the Celts believed this was the day the dead would return. Through time, it has become a day where people dress up in their choice of costume and collect candy. The biggest problem here though is the choices of what to dress up as.
More and more costumes continue to pop up each Halloween that ultimately bring up questions like ‘do people not think about the statements they are making?’ ‘why would this ever be put out on the market?’, and ‘what, if any, cultural research has been done?’
Where does someone draw the line between whether they are misrepresenting a culture? Does wearing a slutty version of a geisha make you culturally smarter? Does wearing an Anne Frank costume labeled as Child’s 1940s Girl Costume make it OK to represent a historic figure? According to 21-year-old Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts major Hannah Pack, no.
“I don’t understand how or why someone would want to dress up as something that symbolizes a sad part of the world’s history?” Pack questions.
“Maybe the thought process of this costume was to commemorate Anne Frank and those affected by the Holocaust. However a child’s Halloween costume is not the right way to do so. To me, Halloween is about dressing up as something fun that you like. The Holocaust does not match this description.”
This isn’t the first time companies have put out costumes aimed for children that in the end show a lack of cultural education. Among these costumes we can find such things as the popular Disney film Moana, Maui costume which sparked up a controversy among islanders. The costume was featured on Disney.com and according to the Huffington Post was removed. The costume featured a brown-skin body suit covered in traditional Polynesian tattoos.
“Let’s face it, our symbols and our emblems, who we are as a people have been used by western society for their pleasure, not for ours,” says Paul Kevin, a hula instructor from Hawaii.
“These companies should really ask themselves, what are we trying to do? I’m not saying don’t be funny, but you have great license to pick and choose things and deal with it. If they can’t be more creative than that, then they can’t be creative at all.”
With all the commotion cause by our current President, it’s no surprise that many costumes this year are showing a wide range of racism seen in our day-to-day lives — like dressing up as a border control officer.
Yes, you read that right, this year Spirit Halloween thought it would be ok to advertise this costume as “fun.”
According to Gothamist, the costume was being sold next to Donald Trump masks. However, just last month, it was officially banned. The only problem is that the “sexy” border babe female version of this costume still exists, and it has sold out online at Spirit Halloween.
Recently, the LA City Council replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, according to the LA Times they were “siding with activists who view the explorer as a symbol of genocide for Native Peoples in North America and elsewhere.” A tremendous step forward for the Native American culture indeed.
With all these changes going on, why is it that people still choose to dress up in what they believe is Native American attire? If you look at any online Halloween store and search “indian costume” you’re guaranteed to find things that, if you’ve done your research, has nothing to do with the Native American culture.
Sherri Chiappone, 46, is Native American and originates from the tribes of Karuk, Yurok, and Shasta in California. She states that what her culture wears includes tons of necklaces, usually abalone, shells, accompanied by deerskin leather apron skirts filled with shells. What Halloween stores display as “Indian” is simply a slap in the face to their culture.
“I do not appreciate people not understanding cultures and thinking that it’s ok to dress and imitate what they think is another culture’s look,” Chiappone says.
“It hurts, as a Native American, to see that and I feel that kids and parents aren’t taking the time to understand or learn about our culture. That’s not who we are, that’s not what we look like.”
What is “blackface?” It refers to a non-black performer using character makeup to make themselves look black. This dates back to the seventeenth century when usually whites were entertained by those of dark skin. One famous performance in 1830 is that of Jim Crow, where a performer by the name “Thomas “Daddy” Rice, blackened his face with burnt cork and danced a jig while singing the lyrics to the song, “Jump Jim Crow.”
One recent show that targets this issue of blackface costumes is the hit Netflix series “Dear White People,” which all begins with the story of a group of white students at an Ivy League college putting together an offensive blackface party. The story then follows four black students on their journey to change these offensive acts.
Emenet Geleta, a 21-year-old student at San Francisco State University and a member of the Black Student Union feels that these companies are selling cultures in the most stereotypical ways.
“They get away with it due to the lack of cultural awareness. People get ridiculed for showing pride in their own cultures yet others want to turn around and dress up like them for a day. And that’s my problem with culture appropriation,” Geleta elaborates.
“Others want to wear braids and bindi’s, for example, to look “cute” or “trendy,” and those who are actually from those cultures get judged for it by going against the social norms of dress, or get stigmatized for showing their cultural pride.”
The main point is for everyone to have the decency to respect cultural appropriation on different races and cultural backgrounds, this especially includes Halloween stores. Here are some tips on how not to get yourself jumbled in the mess of offensive costumes:
- If it represents a certain culture, don’t wear it.
- Ask yourself, is this appropriate?
- Do your research.
The sight of white painted faces and indigenous attire. The smell of freshly-picked marigolds and burning incense. The taste of freshly-baked pan de muerto and the favorite foods of our loved ones. The touch of the warm, melting candles and cold, paper maché calacas. The sound of the Aztec drums and modern mariachi music. These are the things that ignite the five senses of the living as they celebrate the dead on every November 2nd in the Mission District in San Francisco.
When a family member passes away, their loved ones usually grieve in sorrow. However, in Mexico and some parts in the United States, the death of a loved one is seen as a cause for celebration. Dia de los Muertos, commonly known as Day of the Dead, is a celebration that occurs the first and second of the month of November every year. Originating in Mexico, the tradition has spread all over the Americas, including north and central, throughout the years. It is a celebration that combines indigenous Aztec rituals with Catholicism.
“[The Aztecs] had advanced belief systems that were eventually imposed by eurocentric beliefs,” said Juan Pablo.
To the Aztecs, death was not seen as a negative part of life, but instead, death was an opportunity for the soul to be reborn. The Mesoamerican religion was divided into three parts: world making, world centering and world renewal. They believed the human body contained three different forces in three different body parts: the head, the heart and the liver. The head was filled with tonalli, a “Shadow Soul” that was associated with the heavens which provided energy for growth and development. The heart was deposited with teyolia, a soul associated with earth that gives life to people and provided emotion, memory, knowledge and a sense of identity. The liver received ihoyotl, a luminous gas that was associated with the underworld and provided humans with bravery, desire, hatred, love, and happiness.
Every year for the last 35 years, Colectivo del Rescate Cultural, also known as The Rescue Culture Collective, has hosted its annual San Francisco Day of the Dead Ritual Procession. The Colectivo, which includes the processions’ Founding Director Juan Pablo Gutierrez, has a group of organizers, artists, cooks, publicists, and more that come together as a community to create what is necessary for the procession to be successful. Juan Pablo came up with the idea of creating a procession when he was a part of the League of United Chicano Artists (LUCHA) while in Austin, Texas.
During the procession, a wide spectrum of the dead are celebrated; from their old ancestors to the victims of recent events such as natural disasters and terror attacks. The Marigold Project is a collective that organizes and creates the colorful altars that are seen during the procession. They ask the community to participate by making their own altars. They ask that the altars are made according to the direction/element that is associated with each deceased person. The directions are North, East, South, West, and the center. The North is associated with earth and the elders. The East is associated with air and children. The South with fire and young adults. The West with water and adults. Lastly, the center is associated with the ether and ancestors.
Aside from making an actual altar, people are also encouraged to take a framed photo, an article of clothing, or anything else that was previously owned by a deceased, loved one in order to carry them alongside as they walk through the Mission.
Though originally born in Mexico, Juan Pablo was brought to Texas when he was just eight years old. He grew up in the 60s and 70s within the Chicano environment and has embraced it ever since. After attending the University of Texas, he wrote in San Antonio, worked with Catholic Charities of San Antonio, worked with the Mexican American Cultural Center, and more. In 1982, he came to San Francisco and eventually started working with El Tecolote.
When Juan Pablo came to the Bay Area, there was already a procession that was organized by a different organization but he knew his would be different. Juan Pablo wanted the new procession to focus on the Aztec calendar. Every year, the theme of the procession follows the topic that is depicted on the calendar.
According to Juan Pablo, the San Francisco Day of the Dead Ritual Procession is the largest in the nation. The procession brought in a total of half a million people in total last year, according to the SFPD. However, the large crowd eventually led to people wanting to make a profit off the free event. Juan Pablo never fails to shut down offers of company’s selling beer or shops setting up a pop-up store on the side of the street. As he stated, the commercial-free zone is open to the community and it creates a “safe zone” therefore it is a “good time to come and experience the Mission.”
“Our dead are not for sale,” Juan Pablo said without any hesitation.
Along the lines of commercialism, Dia de los Muertos has also faced other problems and misrepresentations. In 2013, Disney had requested to copyright the term “Day of the Dead,” however, it wasn’t long until they received backlash. People also often refer to Dia de los Muertos as the “Mexican Halloween” (which should be noted at this very moment, that it is not).
“If you want to be respected,” said Juan Pablo, “you have to respond to these kinds of things with consistency, not aggression.” Consistency in the sense that despite what people think or say, one must stay true to one’s culture. “People have to be educated,” Juan Pablo concluded.
Dia de los Muertos is about celebrating those that have passed away by remembering the life they once lived. It’s a time to look at their photos, remember what their voice sounded like, cook their favorite foods and listen to their favorite songs, and to think about all the memories they created whether they be good or bad. As my grandfather once told me before passing away, “Death is not a ‘goodbye’ but instead a ‘see you later.’”