“They call it the death sound.”
“Murderers” and “puppets” are just a few of the insults student veterans at San Francisco State University have received from their fellow students and faculty.
Veteran Services Coordinator, Benjamin Yang said that most of these insults are made out of misconceptions and stereotypes of the military. He stated that although most student veterans are taught to be thick-skinned and ignore criticism, he worries for the veterans that are still struggling to transition to regular civilian life. He believes that not all veterans can cope with the discomfort of being outed in class, especially those with PTSD.
To address this issue, Yang has partnered with Swords to Plowshares, to conduct classes, “Combat to Community”, that teach professors and faculty how to avoid situations that might trigger student veterans past trauma. These classes have been curated twice now and not a single faculty member has taken them, despite the classes being made especially for them.
“Staff members, psych counselors, the register’s office, admissions, and even UPD have all attended but, still no faculty, said Yang. “These classes are important to begin conversations that some veterans are too afraid to talk to their professors about.”
Later Yang explained that there was actually one faculty member, a dean, but still no participation by professors to attend these courses.
Yang believes that these classes are necessary because triggers to PTSD are everywhere.
“It can be anything not just words that trigger these episodes,” explained Yang. “When I was a student here, the weekly tsunami alarm was always off-putting to me, it was hard for me to focus after. We witness and experience events differently than most people and though we veterans are resilient we still have trouble talking about these vulnerabilities.”
On the afternoon of February 28, students protesting Immigration and Customs Enforcement banged on classroom doors and yelled “walk out!” to encourage other students to participate. However, student veterans at Burk Hall misheard and thought students were yelling “lock down,” and according student veteran, Gabriel Flesher, this alarmed him to think they should look for the perpetrators that, in his mind, was the cause of all the yelling.
“Yelling and banging on doors is terrifying for anyone,” said Flesher. “I went outside and immediately thought something dangerous was happening. The recent campus shootings didn’t help either. It was like I switched to survival mode and that’s one of the differences between veterans and other students, we’re always scanning our surroundings to be assured of our safety.”
Forty-year-old Flesher, who was in the coast guard for fourteen and a half years, did one tour in Iraq, and thirteen three-month patrols to the Bering Sea, and has served in Africa, South and Central America, as well as Thailand, Singapore, and the Continental US. He believes that student veterans are not typical students.
“As vets, we have had huge responsibilities and tasks that we have completed, some of us have been to war and experience death at a level that people in regular society, simply cannot identify with, especially in a class environment.” said Flesher.
To Flesher, the “Combat to Community” classes have created an opportunity for staff and faculty to hear and ask questions to therapist and psychologist that work with Veteran Affairs and the veterans themselves
Another issue that the classes address is the student veterans’ misconceptions. Many student veterans have come to Yang to complain that certain professors single them out, make them feel uncomfortable, and even criticize them for their involvement with the military.
Jason Chittavong, a thirty-six-year-old history major, says that he’s heard from other veterans that a lot of their classmates, and even professors, have called him a “murderer” when they realize that he is a veteran.
“I refrain from giving my insight when war is a topic in class, even though I might have some in first-hand experience with it,” said Chittavong. “It leaves you kind of open, everyone turns for you for the answers and sometimes it becomes an uncomfortable situation.”
Jerry Cabilatazan, who did four years in the Marine Corp and did two back to back tours in Afghanistan, says that in class some people have asked intrusive questions, like if he has ever killed anyone. There were many times when he was called a murderer and not given the chance to explain the context to his actions.
Cabilatazan said that he was providing security for an all-girl school in South Afghanistan when the Taliban came and started shooting the school.
“Do I let these kids die or stop one individual?” Cabilatazan commented.“It can get really dark and often you get [put] in a situation and get asked ‘how I can make that decision’ and I don’t know. All I know is that, that girl (children) have nothing to do with this, she’s just trying to do the best she can in her age and we know better than her, so it’s our job to protect her.”
Christopher Ramirez, another student veteran, says that these invasive questions get asked a lot in class with faculty supervision present, who often also have their own bias with his involvement with the military. Flesher believes in order to counter these biases, there should be more awareness to everything else that veterans do other than combat.
“So many veteran contributions are lost in translation,” said Flesher. “There are medics, engineers, search and rescue groups that a lot people gloss over and never really given credit, some of our medic veterans actually helped student protestors how to aid themselves during the protest in Berkeley.
Ramirez, now thirty-four-years-old and served for sixteen years as a medic in combat, shares that he helped people protesting because he feels that his primary principles revolve around serving people in need, something he says has been with him even after returning from the military.
The past patterns of protest and school shootings, have inspired Ramirez to want to do trainings and teach other people how to prepare for injuries done in protest or potentially heal other wounds.
“Student veterans are untapped resources, that given the chance can bring so many contributions to this campus,” said Ramirez.
More than anything, student veterans, according to Ramirez, just want to be have the same opportunity to succeed in academia like their peers, but want teachers to be conscious of the other factors that might prevent them from doing so.
Last year Ramirez had to seek military withdrawal because he was summoned and deployed to another state. He got incompletes in most of his classes except for one. The sole professor who gave him a withdrawal unauthorized, accused Ramirez of not being communicative. However, Ramirez said he sent emails to all his professors.
Ramirez says that what really infuriated him was not having to pay back Veteran Affairs for not passing the class, but how unwilling the professor was to even understand his situation meet to have a conversation to fix the problem.
“The thing is I didn’t have a choice, I was literally at Fort Knox Kentucky and then Fort Bragg Carolina,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez says that not doing well in class in not only detrimental to his grades, but it could have affected his assistance from the VA, and at the moment in his life right now, the VA that is the economical and emotional support he has.
Cabilatazan also believes that because his education is so dependent on the VA, that student veterans are held to higher standards.
“We are ten times harder on ourselves than the most of the students,” said Cabilatazan. “This is my life, if I don’t do better than this I don’t know what my future is gonna be like, I sacrificed four years of my life for this opportunity and I’m shitting it away because of this low score, most people don’t think like that.”
Cabilatazan explains that school is his only option and if he fails then his sacrifices in the military would be taken in vain.
“Some people when they fall have a little bit of support left , someone to hold onto just in case you fall,” said Cabilatazan. “But if I fall I fall deeper and I don’t’ have any other choice I have to dig myself that.”
Ramirez and Cabilatazan both agree that if faculty members and professors take the “Combat to Community” classes they would be more aware of the situations that student veterans face and more understanding to the external hardships they have no control over. But again the problem that the Veterans Affairs Office has is convincing faculty members to participate.
“For me, I’m cellular molecular biology major,” shared Ramirez. “Our STEM professors say they don’t have time, or that’s what the common statement would be, but they have time to have keynote speakers to come in, these seminars and all that is great, don’t get me wrong, but these classes aren’t long either. It’s a little disheartening and frustrating.”
The next combat class will be held in the summer for the next Fall semester. For more information on the Combat to Community classes, please contact Benjamin Yang at his email firstname.lastname@example.org.
|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.
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.”
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.”
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 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.
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.’”
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.
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.
“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.
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