Category Archives: Bay & Beyond

Letter from the Copy Editor: Cheers to the End

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.

Students Teaching Students: Experimental College at SF State

The halls of San Francisco State University’s Humanities building boast a vibrant, multicolored bulletin nested next to Room 302—a relic of the university’s rich history. The psychedelic tones of muted blues, pinks, and yellows call back to a different time; a time of social upheaval, free thought, challenging the status quo, and experimentation. The bulletin reads, in big letters: ‘Experimental College.’

“The students in the sixties were looking to understand themselves better,” says Kathy Emery, her small frame tucked into an office chair, legs crossed, intense eyes peering out from under silver tufts of hair and half-rimmed eyeglasses.

Room 302, her office, is almost vibrating behind her with the din of heated discourse between students. Somewhere mid-conversation she snaps back in her revolving chair—“when did this become a pub?” The room goes silent for a beat—“I guess so” one student chuckles, and the din resumes. Some of these students teach their own classes at San Francisco State. Some of them are in their early twenties.

She turns back and finishes, “it’s incredible. I’ve never seen it so busy,” she says, her slight grin betraying a sense of faux irritation. She enjoys it.   

“Students were reacting to the social movement [of the sixties].” Kathy, a political science lecturer, is referring to the San Francisco State University strike of 1968.

“One of the demands was to create the ethnic studies, and that came out of their experience with ExCo.”

In November of 1968, the Third World Liberation Front, an amalgam of various minority groups on campus (including the Black Students Union, the Latin American Students Organization, and the Filipino-American Students Union) made national news by staging a five-month long strike, marked by clashes with police and civil strife on both sides, to protest the lack of representation in the curriculum on the university campus. The battle established the campus’s College of Ethnic Studies as we know it today.

The Experimental College, or “ExCo,” in its original incarnation was created and funded by students of SF State in 1965 with one radical idea in mind: a free education designed by the students, for the students.  In what was a essentially a student-run micro-university within the university, students could design and teach other students anything they felt was lacking in the college’s curriculum. It was a platform for innovation and experimentation.

This past semester saw the revival of ExCO, a four-class pilot program designed by Kathy in tandem with SF State Sociology Professor Christopher Bettinger—who found an ad for the program put out by Kathy’s students on Craigslist—and Trevor Getz, the Chair of the History department on campus. The four classes being offered this semester included: a class on Noam Chomsky, a class analyzing the Syrian refugee crisis, a class on cybersecurity, and a class on social movements and digital technology. All classes grant an accredited unit to those who enroll, and were designed and taught by student teachers.

“What students need to learn about is not necessarily what teachers want to teach or what the academy thinks should be taught.” Kathy says.

“A lot of what’s being taught is taught in a way that’s inaccessible to the students in the class and the students can make it accessible.”

The idea is known as progressive pedagogy—that it is not what is being taught, but how it is being taught—or the idea that “student interest should drive the curriculum,” according to Kathy.

“You can use the platform for anything. You can teach funk music, math, etc. It’s a big experiment” says 32-year-old Political Science Major Raymond Larios.

Larios taught “Cybersecurity, World Affairs & Social Implications in the Digital World” this semester, a 1-unit class that he designed himself based on his research and reaction to the hacking of the 2016 American presidential election.

“The offerings here at SF State are very minimal. Since there weren’t a whole lot of offerings, I made this class [and] used the ExCo platform to offer students who were interested in [national security] studies.”

We’re sitting on wooden benches made out of tree stumps, outside of the Business building on campus, where Raymond teaches a class of five students, all minoring in international relations. Their ages range from 20 to 60 and over, according to Raymond.

Raymond explains the process of applying for your own class, from the inception of an idea, to the “on-boarding” process to prep and vet potential student professors. “I taught myself. I did my research, I read books, looked for media materials, teaching techniques…and brought this class to the platform.”

The application process begins in  Kathy Emery’s class, “The Politics of Pedagogy,” where students are required to teach other students and learn the ins and outs of teaching. After, the applicant submits a writing sample, syllabus, and a letter elaborating on the “why and how.” After a thorough vetting process, in adherence with the program’s mission statement, the class is accredited and given the green light.

“It looks like any other class and it doesn’t at the same time,” Raymond explains.

Anthony Drobnick, a 19-year-old international relations minor in Raymond’s class says it’s a different experience.

“For me the biggest change from a traditional class is that in ExCo students play a bigger role in shaping what we’re going to be learning about.”

He continues “I still feel like I can get a good education [from traditional classes] but here in ExCo I feel like I’m playing a more active role in driving the conversation and really participating in my own education in ways that I don’t get from a traditional classroom.”

Through the ExCo program Drobnick could theoretically apply for his own class next semester. “I could definitely see myself teaching in the Experimental College in the future. I really like the idea of just having those dialogues with students. I’ve done tutoring with students before and I just see this as a scaled-up version of that.”

Esvin Diaz, a 21-year-old international relations minor, is also in Raymond’s class. He shares a similar experience with Drobnick. “Both my experiences with community college and in SF State have been similar where teachers control what we’re going to be learning. In ExCo you are able to contribute more than you are in other classes.”

Other students are using the ExCo platform in different ways. Alisar Mustafa, a political science major in her early twenties, taught a class on the Syrian Refugee Crisis this semester. Mustafa lived the first fourteen years of her life in Syria and called the ExCo program the “perfect opportunity to educate people about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. She said “I believe education is the first step to combat ignorance and suggest solutions to the issue.”

Mustafa opened up about the challenges of teaching her own class. “The hardest part was that my topic was very dense and complicated. Many times I did not know the answer to very intricate questions. However, I found myself learning so much more in depth about the topic because I had to find answers to all these questions which further illustrates how ExCo serves both the learning of the educator and the students.”

She finished “ExCo destroys the imaginary wall we, as students, have between us and the education system. The wall of the ‘can’t dos,’ the ‘I’m not qualified,’ and the ‘I don’t have the credentials.’”

Kathy has made a career based on the shortcomings of the educational system and alternative methods of teaching. With a BA in History from Mt. Holyoke College, an all-female liberal arts college in Massachusetts, and a PhD in Education from UC Davis, Kathy came to SF State in 2007, inspired by the idea of the Mississippi Freedom Schools, whose goal was to “create active agents of social change”. She created a class called “The Politics of Pedagogy” based on the university’s archives of the Experimental College of the sixties and the California Labor School’s archives. Students in her class wanted to design their own freedom schools, but the program never formally gained “traction” she explains, as it “wasn’t the right time.”

Until now.

However, there are certain issues the ExCo platform may have to deal with in the future.

“I was thinking the other day, what if i wanted to teach a class on growing cannabis? It would be problematic.” Raymond says.

Schools funded through federal money would have to grapple with that, but Kathy rejected the notion, saying that it would be up to the university to decide, as with any other issue.

Raymond also explained that some professors had been “a little negative in their approach [to ExCo],” but clarified “I have no accreditation to teach, so I don’t purport to do what teachers here who got a PhD or a Masters do. On the contrary, I’m just using everything I’ve learned and facilitating it to others.”

Kathy responded “it challenges the idea of what a teacher is.” She continued “I see it as supplementary. The way teachers teach here is very different form the way students will teach. It’s not competition. It’s different. The university, by its nature doesn’t respond quickly to what’s going on in society. That’s the problem with getting a PhD: by the time you get it the world has changed.”

Kathy explained her process and the potential pitfalls of the ExCo program. “I embed students teaching other students in my class in a small way. I’m there in the classroom teaching them how to teach each other and not just throwing someone into a classroom and saying ‘teach’ without having any experience.”

She concluded “they need structural support while they teach. They’re going to have problems in their classes and they need someone experienced to talk to. it remains to be seen if I can get enough structural support set up for them next semester so that it’ll be successful.”

Raymond summed up the program by saying “here the students have come and taught themselves something but at the same time have made a change to the institution.”

Some of the ExCo classes—among the twenty-four— being offered next semester include “Antifascist History and Tactics,” “Conspiracies! Overtly Covert,” “Funk! A Revolutionary State of Mind,” “A History of Activism in Sports: From Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick,” and “How to Relationship 101: Love and Intersectionality.”

The Festival of Light Brightens San Francisco for the Fifth Time

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.

 

Website: http://www.illuminatesf.com/home-page

 

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

Seeing Hope Through the Smoke

The air smells like a mix of chemicals and about a thousand bonfires. It feels as if there’s a cloud of sadness floating above the town and neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, California.  Thousands have lost everything.

 

“Did you hear the story about the ring?” asks Ian Derammelaere, a firefighter from San Francisco’s Fire Department.

 

“One woman was searching for a wedding ring,” adds Eli Thomas, another San Francisco firefighter, dressed head to toe in fire gear.

 

The two firefighters, exhausted and worn out, are covered in ash and dirt. Ian  and Eli, along with other members of their strike team, had been sent to Sonoma County in order to fight the North Bay Fires.

 

“There was a big slab of stucco, as long as a driveway,” says Eli, while using his arms to mimic just how large the slab was.

 

“A lady called me over to help her move it. She goes ‘hey, can you come help me lift this up? I want to look under it.”

 

He begins to smirk as he continues the story.

 

“I was like, ‘I am so flattered you think that I’m that strong!”

 

 

Eli, with the help of other firefighters, decided to break the stucco up into pieces, making it easier for them to peel back. The woman explained to the men in yellow, that she was looking for a wedding ring. The area where the slab of stucco remained used to be her bathroom. There, she had an amour full of jewelry, which held the missing wedding ring. The woman continued to look through the rubble as Eli and the rest of the crew continued through the neighborhoods, searching for hot spots.

 

“I told my cousin the story about the woman who was looking for a ring,” explains Eli.

 

“Later he called me and was like, ‘Dude! Some lady is on the news talking about how some fireman helped find her ring!’”

 

“And that was me,” the exhausted firefighter says while grinning from ear to ear.

 

“It was a trip, I’m glad she found it.”

 

Ash, toasted Hondas, and charred ceramic angel figurines are all that’s left in the eerie neighborhood of Fountain Grove in Santa Rosa. Coffey Park, along with other neighborhoods in Sonoma County, mimic similar scenery.  The county, known for its wine and natural beauty, looks like a scene from The Walking Dead.

 

The wildfires ripped through 107,407 acres of land, destroying thousands of structures, many of them being the homes. Town landmarks, like a local Applebee’s and Arby’s, are now unrecognizable piles of metal. Those who wander the damaged town of Santa Rosa wear white surgical masks in order to protect themselves from the smoke and chemicals within the air.

 

Since the start of the fires on October 8, more than 2,900 fire personnel from around the country have been called to California’s North Bay region. Those numbers don’t include the hundreds of police officers responsible for protecting the areas of destruction or the thousands of volunteers helping those affected.

 

“This is a once in career type of fire,” says SFFDs Jesse Bautista as he stares at the remains of a brick fireplace.

 

The four San Francisco firefighters, Lieutenant Jason Simmons, Jesse Bautista, Ian Derammelaere, and Eli Thomas begin to reflect on their week as they sit amongst the incredible amount of rubble.

 

“I turned on the news and they were talking about the Atlas Fire. It was just before 11 o’clock,” Lieutenant Simmons recalls as he begins to realize what was going on.

 

“As I’m watching, I pulled up one of the scanner apps. The next thing I hear is ‘second alarm on a structure fire in Santa Rosa, vegetation fire in Santa Rosa, Sonoma vegetation fire, Glen Ellen vegetation fire, Kenwood vegetation fire.”

 

He counts the numbers of fires with his fingers as he talks.

 

“It went to hell in about 20 minutes.”

 

The fires in the Sonoma county region spread, like they say, ‘like wildfire’. Up to 70 mph winds were the cause of the rapid spread. An estimated 90,000 people have been evacuated from areas surrounding the fires. Simmons, being one of them.

 

“I grabbed a computer and two leather firefighter helmets,” Lieutenant Simmons explains.

 

“My wife was like ‘why the hell did you bring the leather helmets?’,” says Simmons as the group of four laugh in agreement with his decision.

 

He explains that the two leather helmets were the first helmets he received when starting his career. They symbolize a lot more than just helmets for the San Francisco firefighter.

 

Thankfully, the Lieutenant’s home remains standing. For other Santa Rosa Natives, that is not the case.

 

“The biggest thing, the thing I keep reflecting on, is just download all your pictures,” says Eli Thomas when discussing the amount of photos families have lost in the fires.

 

“That’s huge,” adds Ian Derammelaere.

 

“Those are the things that you can’t get back. Those are frozen moments in time,” concludes Thomas.

 

Sophia Lassen, a senior at San Francisco State University was born and raised in Santa Rosa. Lassen’s family evacuated their home located in the neighborhood of Larkfield around 2 a.m.. Her family was woken by the sounds of honking horns coming from neighbors.

 

The fire absorbed Sophia’s neighborhood. With little time to grab valuables, her mom was able to grab a few photo albums before the fire destroyed parts of the home.

 

“Where I had grown up was virtually gone overnight,” recounts Sophia, as she looks down at her interlaced hands that lie on her lap.

 

Police have now begun to leading homeowners into the areas where the fires have destroyed their homes. Many have already begun rummaging through what’s left of their burnt belongings. Some homeowners, like the woman who found her ring, have found some valuables thanks to the help of fire personnel. Others, remain empty handed as their belongings have been reduced to nothing but ash.

 

What remains standing in these neighborhoods are dozens of a brick fireplaces that once warmed rooms.

 

The destroyed neighborhoods aren’t expected to make building progress anytime soon. However, PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, already have crews reconstructing and replacing power lines. When the time comes to rebuild, Bay Area construction companies will be busy.

 

“Eventually there will be a positive side, it’s just going to take a couple years to see,” Lieutenant Simmons explains.

 

And Lieutenant Simmons is right.

 

The Bay Area has already come together to provide incredible amounts of support for the friends and families that have lost their homes. Thousands of donations poured into Sonoma County, causing donation centers to stop accepting further donated items.

 

Thanks to the incredible amounts of fire personnel, police, volunteers, and the support of the Bay Area, Sonoma County, along with the other areas of destruction, will flourish again.

 

Like Lieutenant Simmons said, it’ll just take some time.

We are a Culture, Not a Costume

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:

  1. If it represents a certain culture, don’t wear it.
  2. Ask yourself, is this appropriate?
  3. Do your research.

Day of the Dead

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.’”

Dream On.

Whether it’s reading our article about using the N-word, listening to our End-Of-The-World podcast, or reporting fashion trends on campus, and learning workout routines on Instagram; we want you to know that we’re hustling for you, our multifaceted readers. Enjoy what we have to offer this semester.

Click on the link below to view the beautiful, first Issue of this semester.

 

XPRESS Magazine, October 2017

 

Letter From the Editor

When I first started my journalism journey back in 2012, many wondered what the hell I was going to be doing with the path I was on.

This field made no money, print was going extinct, and it seemed to be a dying industry.

But then, good ol’ Mr. Trump came along.

And now whenever I mention I’m a journalism major, it’s followed with a, “Good! We need more people like you, now more than ever.”

The thing is though, there’s always been people like me. Well reported information has always been there for people to absorb. Unfortunately ,it took a rude wake up call for the majority of people to realize how important we are, but hey, we’re here, and there’s no point of putting the blame on anyone now.

What matters is where we go from here.

How we document the truth and how it is delivered is something I’ve been thinking heavily on since I came into this position. So when I gathered my editorial team, I made sure to make it clear to them: we need a voice that’s personable, trustworthy, and relatable.

We’re millennials and so are our readers. We poke fun at how hard it is to find affordable housing while having good paying jobs with benefits, and yet, somehow turn up for march after march, fighting to make a change for future generations. We’re being accused of killing a different failing industry at least once a week, but making everyday changes within ourselves, hoping to positively influence society.

With this in mind, I wanted this issue to be strictly online.

I want to test our readers.

I want to take social media strategies, apply them, and see exactly what we get when our main goal is to not only inform, but to engage with them.

Gathering inspiration from Teen Vogue’s Editor in Chief Elaine Welteroth and Digital Director Phillip Picardi, I’m offering our readers more, too. Our students here at San Francisco State are so diverse.

You deserve more.

Whether it’s reading our article about using the N-word, listening to our End-Of-The-World podcast, or reporting fashion trends on campus, and learning workout routines on Instagram; we want you to know that we’re hustling for you, our multifaceted readers.

 

Enjoy what we have to offer this semester.

Dreaming, Still.

“This is why I think this is bullshit,” 19-year-old Vanessa R. Cuevas exclaims. “How can they threaten to deport people when this is the only country we’ve ever known?”

After President Trump’s recent order on September 5, 2017 to end DACA within six months, hundreds of thousands of DREAMers are scrambling to see what they can do to prevent deportation.

DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program which allows undocumented, young adults – who originally came to the U.S. as kids – to receive benefits such as safety from deportation and work permits. However, the fee that these DREAMers pay is roughly five hundred dollars out of pocket for every two years when their renewal is due. With that being said, there is a large misconception that U.S. taxpayers are paying for this program, but little do people know that DACA is actually a self-sustaining program, hence the large fee that they must pay.

In order to qualify for DACA, one must have/do the following: be younger than 31-years-old, came to the United States before your sixteenth birthday, lived continuously in the U.S. from June 2007 to the present, were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time of applying, came to the U.S. without documents or their lawful status expired as of June 15, 2012, are currently studying or graduated from high school, and have not been convicted of a felony or any misdemeanors.

San Francisco State University students and sisters Vanessa R. Cuevas and Jessica D. Cuevas came to the United States from Mexico alone when they were only three- and four-years-old. Since they are originally from Michoacán, they were put on an airplane to get closer to the border. There they were picked up by two ladies that would eventually take them across the border in their car. They reunited with their dad somewhere in Los Angeles and he brought them to the Bay Area. About a week later, their mom was brought over and they were all together. They settled in a home in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and have been there ever since. They both currently work at a Cheesecake Factory near their home.

Vanessa is a third-year student with an undeclared major but plans to declare as a Political Science major. Jessica is a fourth-year Latina/o Studies major with minors in Education and Philosophy.

It was decided that Jessica, now 21-years-old, would wait for Vanessa so they could apply for DACA together. The process took around four to five months – they needed to have various documents on hand. Luckily, their mother saved all their childhood award certificates so that they were able to prove that they have been here since they were very young. When it was time for Jessica to start applying for college, she realized her options were very limited. Since she isn’t allowed to apply for FAFSA, she could not accept going to Sonoma State University. Instead, she waited until the very last day to accept her state-issued financial aid (CA Dream Act) because she didn’t get her acceptance to San Francisco State University earlier.

The two recently noticed that the program is taking longer than usual to send them their paperwork to renew everything.

“It’s making us nervous,” Vanessa explains.

“Usually they send us the letter by now.”

They explained their frustration with not knowing what will happen in the near future.

“We don’t know if we’ll we be working for four more months or two more years,” Jessica says. “My only options would be to not work or to work illegally.”

The girl’s’ parents have told them that no matter what happens they will just have to move forward.

Jesus Peraza, 20, Psychology Student at SFSU

“I hope ICE gets us,” 20-year-old Jesus Peraza says. “I don’t like living here.”

This is what Jesus once told his parents after living in the U.S. for a short while. He was originally born in Sonora, Mexico and came to the U.S. about twelve years ago. He lived alone with his mother and aunt until he was about five-years-old, when his mother married his now stepfather. They traveled to the U.S. with a tourist visa.

Jesus was told by his mother and stepfather that they were coming to the U.S. for about three months,and would eventually return to Mexico. However, once they got there, he realized that wasn’t true because his mother enrolled him in an elementary school in Paramount, California. It was there that he was able to learn English; his teachers took extra time to help him which made it easier for him to pick it up.

“Kids would bully me and call me names,” Jesus laughed, “but I didn’t know what they meant.”

Though the name-calling didn’t phase him, he still felt like an outcast therefore he devoted himself to school. The language barrier was just one reason for Jesus’ culture shock, along with food and the way people communicated. Christmas in the U.S. wasn’t the same and even until this day, Jesus despises Christmas because in Mexico he was able to celebrate with his large family.

Jesus, now 20-years-old and a third-year psychology major at SF State University, is currently a DACA recipient. He hopes to continue school after his bachelors degree in order to receive his masters degree.

After hearing about Trump’s decision, Jesus did not go to school that day because he realized that this decision not only affects him and others just like him, but also his parents. Luckily, he just recently renewed his DACA paperwork.

Since Jesus is undocumented and is under DACA, he is prohibited from leaving the country at any time. This has prevented him from studying abroad and traveling the world.  

“Even though I have this program that somewhat protects me, I still feel restricted. I feel chained up to a system that doesn’t allow me to be completely free.”

He has friends that travel and it makes him feel stuck, or as he says “frozen.”

“I stopped picturing my life in Mexico a long time ago… so it’s scary to think that I may not have the ability to work, get married, have kids,” Jesus continues.

“It’s daunting.”

Now when walking around campus, he starts to worry if he’ll even be able to continue studying at SF State. He also describes that his immigrant and queer identities have been attacked since now President Trump began campaigning. “They might take DACA away from me, but they will never take away my education,” Jesus says confidently.

Although there are several ways to get approved for citizenship here in the U.S., marriage was not an option for 18-year-old, Maya F. Ochoa. Soon after President Trump announced the want to repeal the DACA program, Maya’s lawyer emailed her with the recommendation of getting married soon so she can apply for citizenship.

“I couldn’t believe she told me that because I’m only 18… I shouldn’t be having to think about that,” she says, still stunned.

Maya, a first-year Chinese language major at SF State University, came to the U.S. when she was only five-years-old. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Maya, her brother, and mother also came with a visa on an airplane. They first established themselves in Whittier, California and her family continues to live there.

She is the first in her family to go to college.

In a non-marital attempt to get her U.S. citizenship, her father’s sister and her husband have offered to adopt her. However, she refuses because she would then have to change her last name and live with her new legal guardians.

Maya F. Ochoa, 18, Chinese Language Major, SFSU

At times, Maya questions if it is worth it to stay here and she sometimes considers going back but resents the idea of having to start her life over.

“I appreciate that my parents brought us here to have a better life,” Maya says slowly.

“And I’m not going to lie, we are more financially stable here than if we were to stay in Guadalajara, but I still feel trapped.”

Maya, just like Jesus, wishes she could travel and study abroad. With pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language, one part of learning a foreign language is the ability to use it in its country of origin, but Maya cannot leave the country.

Maya explains the reasons why people from all over the world, not just Latin America, come to the U.S. to escape horrible conditions in their own countries, such as war in the Middle East, government corruption in Venezuela, gangs in El Salvador, and drug cartels in Mexico.

“The government does not understand [these situations],” she said firmly.

“But if the script was flipped, they wouldn’t like to be treated the way they are treating us.”

One idea that Vanessa, Jessica, Jesus, and Maya came up with was the idea of not continuing school. This consideration did not come to their heads because they simply do not want to continue fulfilling the “American Dream,” but because they are not sure that they will be able to. Sure, they can continue and finish school but the same questions these four ask themselves is similar to “what will I be able to do with my degree?” and “will I even be able to find a job because I am an immigrant?”

Though the future of these young dreamers is currently in the state of unknown, they continue to study with the hopes of prospering and growing in this country because the U.S. is the country they call home.

Robert Arriaga, 26, Sociology Major SFSU

Tinder – The Social Currency for International Students

We live in a time where most services are just a click away, and love is no exception. Well, that depends on how you define love. Over the years several dating apps have hit the market, and amongst the most popular ones is Tinder.

Since 2012 Tinders’ users, now over 50 million in more than 190 countries according to The New York Times, have been swiping left or right with the goal of a so-called ‘match’, or a mutual like. You basically go shopping for a potential partner, friend, or hook-up based on their looks and a short description known as a bio.

Tinder as a City Guide

Students at San Francisco State University, where over 1500 international students call home, use apps like Tinder to meet people even if just for a casual hook-up, but that’s not the only reason students are drawn to Tinder. Surprisingly, a lot of international students use the app for more than just a quick way to get laid.

25-year-old Hanna Grimsborn, a marketing major from Sweden, has found Tinder helpful but not in the way you think.

“I actually never meet someone from Tinder for a date, and I think it’s mostly boring to chat with people I don’t know,” she explains.  “Recently I realized I could use the men I matched with to get recommendations on good bars, night clubs, restaurants etc.”

 

 

While Grimsborn’s method has resulted in various tips on stuff to do in the city, a lot of men still want to get something more out of a match.

“They usually respond friendly to my questions about recommendations and suggest me to go there with them. I never do, I just take away our match instead.”

Apps like Tinder can be somewhat of a meat market, and Grimsborn is very clear on why she has issues with this modern form of dating. In her experience men write stuff they would never have the guts to say in real life, which has led to both compliments and sexist comments. Men she has been matched with also seem a lot more interested in talking about themselves rather than getting to know new people.

“I’ll avoid those guys,” she says.

Fallon Salomon, a 23-year-old history major from SF State, went out to explore the world with Tinder as her companion. During her semester abroad in Amsterdam, she was introduced to the notion that dating apps can indeed improve the quality of her social life. Even though Salomon only lived in the Netherlands for six months, she had a four month-long relationship thanks to Tinder. She also got to learn more about the Dutch culture through people she met on the app.

While the relationship didn’t last, Salomon says she has had great experiences through Tinder, meeting people she wouldn’t have met otherwise.

When you move to a different country there are so many new impressions. The language is different, the culture is different, the food is different, even the traffic is different. Typically you will use every opportunity to get to know people so you don’t have to be alone. According to Salomon, it’s easier to make friends on Tinder abroad than at home.

“I think people are much more outgoing abroad. There’s a certain kind of curiosity there, that I just have not experienced here at home. I’m not sure why that is!”

 

The Culture Shock

Social culture variates throughout the world, and therefore people from different parts of the world will use Tinder in different ways. Today, the app has users in more than 190 countries, so using Tinder as a traveling tool can actually serve as a cultural journey.

“Some of my most important memories from studying abroad were born from the people I met on Tinder. I talked politics with all of them, and appreciated, and gained from their perspective,” Rebecca explains.

Rebecca, a 26-year-old international relations major from SF State, reminisces of her semester abroad in Israel, and the friends she made through Tinder.

“They were never really tour guides, but spending time with their friends and participating in their traditions was an invaluable experience of cultural immersion.”

For Rebecca, the dating app served as both a way to improve her language skills and to meet potential hook-ups. However, she says that American and Israeli women were treated very differently. For example, men would assume that American women are easier to get than Israeli women, and would experience more sexual comments, while Israeli women who were considered harder to get, were treated with more respect.

“They think because we are on a date, hooking up is expected or guaranteed, regardless of if there is chemistry.”

 

A New Dating Era

By now you might think that women are the only ones using Tinder for things other than sex. While research shows that men use Tinder more as a hook-up app, there are still some using it to make friends.

When Fabi Rausch, a 22-year-old electrical engineering major from Germany, traveled through Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, he found Tinder helpful for getting in touch with locals. However, he wouldn’t want to get a girlfriend through the app.

“Apps like Tinder can be very objectifying because you judge people based on their looks. I made some friends when I was traveling, but I prefer meeting people in real life” Rausch explains.

Dating apps like Tinder are being used for much more than one-night-stands. Instead modern technology can, and is, helping young people connect with new cultures and languages, especially while being abroad. Imagine being placed on the other side of the world without your main form of communication. It can be nerve wrecking to not know anything or anyone, and for a lot of young people dating apps take some of this pressure away. It’s an informal platform that helps you enter a new society. Bottom line here is that dating apps can be used for so much more than dating. Perhaps your new perspective on life is just a swipe away.

Urban Exploration: Discovering the Underground Bay

By: Tessa Murphy

The voice on the phone wasn’t dark or mysterious like you’d expect from the man giving the where and when for an illicit activity we knew very little about.  John Law sounds like a somewhat distractible old-time hippie, a rough quality working its way into his California accent.  We were meeting at Oakland’s Tribune Tower, where Law keeps an office, but he wouldn’t give any specifics about where we were heading.  All we knew is that we’d be on one of Law’s urban exploration expeditions.

Urban exploration is the act of venturing into abandoned or uninhabited man-made structures like houses, factories, or – in our case – tunnels.  Law calls it “looking for negative spaces and finding out how to get into them.”  He’s conducted these expeditions all over the Bay Area and joined others throughout the world.

The day arrives.  We climb past the modernized lower floors of the Tribune Tower into the unrenovated top, untouched since the building’s origins in the 1920s.  Old school rock music plays faintly from above, gathering the weirdness of this transition in its notes.

John Law’s name is on his office door.  It looks very professional – opaque, lined glass, a deep-colored wood frame, tall and thin and altogether stately.  Bold, black, capital letters: John Law.
The door itself is under a peeling metal ladder and next to a small USPS box marked “soft porn :)” and a picket sign with a picture of an angry man holding a glass of whiskey-colored liquid and no words.  The wooden floorboards are scuffed like a well-loved dance floor.

John Law’s office is mostly purple, and what isn’t purple is lined with a motely conglomerate of books.  To accommodate the sloped copper roof of these highest floors of the Tribune Tower, the whole office seems to slump in on itself.  Photos and newspaper clippings and a bullet-riddled California license plate “CAR HUNT” bear down from the walls.  Bookshelves and filing cabinets tuck into the spaces between sloping square pillars, and a ragged black Wild West-style “San Francisco Suicide Club” pillow slouches on a spare chair.

Law sits among it all, tucked into the clamor like the filing cabinets.  His hair is long and grey, thoroughly adjusted to his age but not to his demographic.  He wears a salmon pink hoodie and reading glasses, and looks up from his large-screened iMac to greet us as we stand in the doorway.

Law recommends we get breakfast and talk about our plans while we wait for the tide to recede from our tunnel.  We all climb into one of the cars, following Law’s directions to a spot he knows in the area.

We arrive at a little diner in another city and park out back.  It’s a local joint, homey with green vinyl booths and framed photographs of old movie stars on the wall.  Families eat here, friends get together for a mid-week chat.  Our group is neither of these.

Over French toast and omelets, we took in anecdotes of Law’s life.

John Law walks inside a tunnel that he occasionally uses to explore for its graffiti art, somewhere in the Bay Area  on Thursday April 14, 2016. Law asked not to use the name of the destination due to his urban exploring morals and ethics of keeping the places he explores, a secret. (Aleah Fajardo/ Xpress)
John Law walks inside a tunnel that he occasionally uses to explore for its graffiti art, somewhere in the Bay Area on Thursday April 14, 2016. Law asked not to use the name of the destination due to his urban exploring morals and ethics of keeping the places he explores, a secret. (Aleah Fajardo/ Xpress)

He had been an early member of the Suicide Club, an underground society in San Francisco in the 1970s.  Despite having membership cards, statuses, and official t-shirts, the Suicide Club was not an organization.  It was a thriving animal: a leaderless confederate that rearranged its shape with an unspoken, human-centric flow, a bridge between the personal freedom of the Summer of Love and the dark countercultures of the 1980s.  It explored the intersection between illegality and morality, challenging the boundaries society sets upon itself.  It took the prime of high society and forced it into the shape of the scraps, the wanderers, the ruleless.  It upset prim tourists on cable cars with the brazen form of the human body, it held evening gowns above damp sewer floors, it crowded groups of hippies into a Nazi bar.

Its membership card read:
“The Bearer: has agreed to get all worldly affairs in order, to enter into the world of chaos, cacophony & dark saturnalia, to live each day as if it were the last, and is a member in good standing of the Suicide Club”

The Suicide Club has been credited as the first modern urban exploration society.

But its events were never intentionally destructive.  In fact, Burning Man’s “leave no trace” adage comes directly from one of the Suicide Club’s unofficial mantras.  The club left its mark in other ways: it imprinted the unusual and obscene on the minds of outsiders, tasking those around it to question which boundaries in their lives were artificial.  While many of its events were illegal, Suicide Club members upheld a strict moral code that guided them through their activities.

“There’s always that thrill of doing something you’re not supposed to do,” Law says later.  “But it’s not immoral.  Who the fuck cares?  I’m in a tunnel.”

We have another short drive after breakfast, parking behind a single other car on the side of the road.  We walk a little ways, climbing down a use-worn path to the wide entrance of a concrete tunnel.

Inside, the tunnel flows with ankle-deep mountain water, chilling our feet to a numb buzz.  Art reclaims the inhuman concrete walls, and we turn our flashlights on to see as we pass through the sunlight of the tunnel’s entrance.  We soon round a bend and our path falls away into darkness and the rushing sound of the water.

Timelessness overtakes us.  The tunnel’s bend seals it from the day outside, and our own darting lights recreate the world underground.  We step carefully at first, unsure where algae would find life and slide us to our knees in the icy water, or where the tunnel’s floor would leap up or fall away.  This world feels separate from our own, and to navigate its sanctuary we grant it our cautious respect.

John Law goes inside a tunnel that he occasionally uses to explore for its graffiti art, somewhere in the Bay Area  on Thursday April 14, 2016. Law asked not to use the name of the destination due to his urban exploring morals and ethics of keeping the places he explores, a secret. (Aleah Fajardo/ Xpress)
John Law goes inside a tunnel that he occasionally uses to explore for its graffiti art, somewhere in the Bay Area on Thursday April 14, 2016. Law asked not to use the name of the destination due to his urban exploring morals and ethics of keeping the places he explores, a secret. (Aleah Fajardo/ Xpress)

We stop frequently, Law pointing out the paintings on the walls that he likes.  He hasn’t been through this tunnel in about six months, and he’s hoping there will be new canvases, adorned with a stylized “2016.”  But the painting of this tunnel seems to have trickled this rainy winter, and we don’t find any.

Some stretches of wall bear the weight of thoughtless graffiti, first-time spray painters who scream their presence to this silent world.  Deeper in the tunnel the art is slower, beautiful sweeps forming words and pictures that whisper in the circles of our lights.

It seems remarkable that so many artists chose this hidden place for hours of creation.  The art down here belongs to these people alone: the ones who duck into city secrets and find themselves in this lost, unseen underground.

“That’s the great thing about the world,” Law says over the static of the water and our throbbing echoes.  “There’s all kinds of shit you don’t see.”

The tunnel morphs through the years as new pieces are pasted haphazardly to the old.  Sometimes it stands tall, proud, its floor flattened like our own anonymous runway.  Other times it broadens, its base rounding to cup its running flow of water and force us down to the stronger current.

It doesn’t feel like day or night.  I have no sense for how long ago we’d entered the tunnel, and the unbroken darkness ahead suggests nothing of its end.  The pressures of the world above fall away, and this endless tunnel becomes heart, head, and home.

“It’s like a different world,” Law rumbles over the echoes.  His tone is soft, almost affectionate.  “The feel is different.  The air is different.”  While he had fit into his cluttered purple office at the top of the Tribune Tower like a Jenga piece in a neatly stacked game, Law widens here.  He strides, taking the tunnel with him, perusing its walls like a rich man in an art gallery.
Law stops, stands back to face one of the walls, and shines his flashlight over the painting on it.  “Please reincarnate me as poison oak,” a creature begs from under the beam, pierced by arrows in its slow crawl to death.  The artist who painted this was skilled, creating shadings and textures from spray paint on these rugged concrete walls.  Law takes it in for a moment, silent.  His face is serious but not guarded, a contemplative understanding in his eyes.  After a while he picks up his conversation again and we move on.

After an hour or so, sunlight appears ahead and Law hushes us.  The timelessness of the underground falls away and we stride back out into the day, the whole world glittering green around us.  Children laugh nearby, and a rocky stream runs towards us, beyond us, becoming the water we’d marinated in through the darkness.  It’s like waking up from a dream, the world still surreal from the depths of sleep.

We stand silently on the other side. It is still only late morning, and the people in the houses around us are just getting out for the day.

Law retreats into himself again out here.  He doesn’t seem uncomfortable, but neither is he the jovial purveyor of unseen places that he was in the tunnel.

Soon we step back to the muted comfort of our underground world.

The way back feels shorter. Our shoes slurp at the tunnel’s edge, but we’ve forgotten how to feel our feet.  Law speaks to each of us as we walk, one at a time.

I ask about the modern day Suicide Club-types, explorers who run silently around the Bay, uncovering its secrets or exposing its wrongness.

“They’re out there,” Law tells me. The serious will find them, or make something new. “The people who are rewarded are the ones who take the risk.”

All too soon, we round the bend back into the sunlight at the tunnel’s entrance. We stand outside for a moment, the end of our adventure abrupt, anti-climactic in a way.

The week after our expedition, I ran into Law at an unusual robotic art event in San Francisco. Police waited on motorcycles at the entrance to a roped-off parking lot tucked into an office complex in Hunter’s Point.  Members handed out earplugs and safety waivers on the way in. The crowd was dressed mostly in black, faux fur or bright leggings showing through the throng here and there.  This was not a normal Sunday night crowd.

Here Law strode, vested in neon, through the roped-off lot among the artists and their work. With him were more than a dozen others, similarly-clad, all waiting for nightfall to begin the show.  People knew him here.  Friends in the crowd leaned over the caution tape to hug him ‘hello,’ and the event’s organizers stood with him to talk.

Law is a particular kind of unusual. San Francisco is known for its weirdos, and a middle aged man in reading glasses doesn’t stand out.  But the Suicide Club spent five years zealously disrupting the Bay, and in many ways that energy is still fostered in this city’s thirst for the unconventional.

Law’s kind isn’t really going anywhere. Like the hidden spaces that creep silently around the Bay, the spirit of the Suicide Club is here, unseen.

 

Love Trolls

By: Minerva Razo

“We both know why we’re here,” reads a message from a stranger, “just come over.” Not sure what warranted that from a match but a new message from another stranger pops up before it’s given another thought. “To keep it light, I got a female but I think you’re cute af.” This is from a person who is supposed to be looking for a love connection.

These are just some of the messages that people on dating apps receive on a daily basis, and the messages become even more persistent from there. Whether people are looking for a hook-up or true love, there’s an app for that. Dating apps have become extremely popular among San Franciscans- there are even some apps that cater to The City alone.

According to the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of young adults aged 18 to 35 are involved in online dating. A survey conducted by Consumer Research in March 2016 showed that 57 percent of women surveyed have experienced some form of harassment. Twenty-one percent of men also revealed they have experienced harassment. The ever-popular Tinder and OkCupid apps had the highest number of reported harassment at 39 and 38 percent, respectively.

“Guys are like, ‘Oh, you know why we’re both here, just come over,” said Jera Reichert, a current Bay Area Tinder user.  “I feel like that’s super sexually harassing and a lot of people say ‘Oh, that’s what you get for going on a dating app.’”

Women recieve a wide range of message with matches going as far as calling them “bitches” or “cunts” when they don’t respond or say no to a date.

“I think it has something to do with how quick it all is: you swipe left or right and there’s hardly any profile so it’s practically designed with only hooking up in mind,” said Tatiana Laurent, a former Tinder user in the Bay Area. “I got off Tinder a long time ago. It was just always messaging at late hours and saying, ‘Wanna hang out?’ Then they invite you to their place instead of a coffee shop.”

If agreeing to meet an online match, most women tend to take extra precautions in case the worst happens.

“I do feel kind of different when I go on dates with someone I don’t know because I have that paranoid thought in my mind,” Reichert said. “I might just be paranoid because I watch a lot of criminal shows but no one really knows who that person is. I would be super careful and tell my friends ‘Oh, I’m going out with this guy,’ and send a screenshot of him and tell them this is where we’re going.”

There are now numerous personal accounts on social media that are shedding light on harassment on dating apps as a way of taking control and spreading the message that harassment isn’t ok.
At 410 thousand followers since its creation back in 2014, the Instagram account Bye Felipe is dedicated to exposing the harassment people – mostly women – experience on dating apps.

“My main reasons for creating the account [Bye Felipe] were: A, Commiserating with other women (you can’t be a woman online and not get creepy messages from men); B, Letting men know what it’s like to be a woman online (it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows!); and C, To expose the problematic entitlement some men feel they need to exert over women in general,” wrote Alexandra Tweten, creator of Bye Felipe, for Ms. Magazine. The page currently has 377 posts, almost all from the encounters women face when on dating apps. The encounters are usually pleasant until the woman stops responding or rejects the match in some way.

“This is a problem I have always experienced,” said Sarah, a repeating commenter on the Ms. Magazine blog. “A guy who was old enough to be my dad messaged me on a dating site (Plenty of Fish to be exact), and I told him I’m not into older guys. He then proceeded to lash out at me, calling me names such as bitch and cunt and said I was too fat for him anyways.”
Many other women commented on their experiences too, revealing their experiences to be similar to those of the original commenter.

“When I first discovered that other women were receiving the exact same messages I was getting, it made me feel more at ease,” said Tweten. “It made me feel solidarity with them, and like it wasn’t such a big deal, as I had thought before. I get a lot of thank you letters saying, ‘I didn’t know other women got these messages too!’ It makes me feel better.”

More and more companies are dedicating themselves to making women feel better about online dating as well. The Grade titles itself as “the female friendly dating app.” Though based out of New York, the app has gained popularity among young San Franciscans. The Grade’s mission is to make every user accountable for their actions by actually giving them a letter grade from A+ to F based on their behavior in three categories: message responsiveness, profile popularity, and peer reviews. People who receive an F are automatically disbarred from the site.

According to Tweten, the best way to prevent harassment on dating apps is for the companies to actually take the time to listen to the victims on their sites, to find more efficient ways to block frequent harassers so they aren’t just free to create another profile, and to have some sort of censor in their messaging system.

“Censoring these messages may help in the short term, but the messages featured on Bye Felipe are like an immortalized version of the catcalls and threats women receive on the street every day, just walking around and existing,” said Tweten. “Until we change the cultural atmosphere, women will continue to receive these hurtful messages online and in real life.”