Category Archives: City

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

New Students: The Struggle to Acclimate to SF State

After a cold San Francisco summer, San Francisco State is brought back to life at the end of August. Another semester begins as the campus welcomes a new set of faces. As many students rush from one building to another, using their wonted shortcuts to get to their common classrooms, some find themselves in unfamiliar territory. These new students face a new academic standard with new peers and new surroundings. Some settle in quickly while others never gain traction in the flurry of SF State and San Francisco.

SF State eagerly welcomes its new students, but the problems a new student encounters in a new school, and city, are overlooked by the administration and the students themselves.

Alexa Uekert started her freshman year in the fall of 2014. At the ripe age of eighteen, she moved from her home in Chino Hills, a small city found in San Bernardino County, to the 14 floor of the nearly overwhelming Towers at Centennial Square. Her excitement did not radiate like the other freshmen joining her. She toured a few schools during her spring break of her senior year of high school, but quickly had an aversion to SF State once she saw it in person.

“I started crying,” shared Uekert, laughing at her reaction to her first university.

“It wasn’t what I expected, but it was the only California school I got into.”

She already had a game plan in mind for her college career: move away to a school that she loved and graduate within four years.

CollegeBoard reported that from 2008 to 2011 only twelve percent of students graduated with a bachelor’s degree within four years. For Uekert, these statistics were not helping her plan become a reality.

Graphic by Kiana Fillius, via Infogram.com

Her experience at SF State’s orientation did not help calm her nerves either, although that is one of the goals for the event.

“I went to the orientation and was stressed about getting the schedule together. My friend Jake was there and I told him ‘I can’t do this. I’m going to have a panic attack,’” Uekert remembers.

With the help of her friend and another freshman she met at orientation, she started to relax and finish the taxing event on a happier note, although the feeling of uneasiness still lingered.

During her first semester at SF State, it became harder and harder to ignore her lack of a strong mental state. Laurene Domínguez, a clinical counselor at SF State’s Counseling and Psychological Center, encounters many students that struggle with transition to college life. The biggest issues she comes across in her office is anxiety and depression. She explained that the severity of these issues depend on how prepared people are when they start their college career. Without a solid support system, students find themselves struggling to balance their personal lives and their academics.

“It is hard to separate yourself from what’s going on and it can affect your ability to study,” Domínguez explains.

While her mental state weakened, Uekert’s disdain for the school grew stronger. She went into her first semester with an undeclared major, hoping she would eventually be accepted into the impacted nursing program. Her hopes were not high because of the small acceptance rate into the program, initiating a fear that she would not graduate in four years.

In high school, she was heavily active in school events and loved to show school spirit, but once at SF State she struggled to come by that type of atmosphere. She treasured dancing, but was unable to find a dancing team on campus, which pushed her to minor in dance so she would not lose touch with the art she treasured.

Half way through her first semester she visited her boyfriend at his school, Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, and immediately felt at ease.

“It was my ideal picture of college. The people didn’t seem as warm and welcoming at SF State as they did here,” Uekert says.

During her short visit, she experienced the school spirit she sought and found a dance team that reached her expectations. She felt that Grand Canyon University was where she was supposed to be and quickly began to plan her next three and half years at GCU. As the fall semester of 2014 ended, so did Uekert’s relationship with SF State. She moved back home and never returned to the busy campus.

Even though she was relieved to leave school, she went home with her head held low.

“I went through a really hard time when I went home,” shared Uekert.

“I was disappointed in myself.”

She spent her second semester of freshman year taking online classes through GCU and taking her mother to appointments for chemotherapy.

Three months later, Teresa Hernandez entered the SF State campus to begin her freshman year for the fall 2015 semester. After moving from wine and barbecue rich Santa Maria, California, the university’s environment overwhelmed eighteen-year-old Hernandez.

“I did not know what to expect and I had trouble making friends during my freshmen year,” Hernandez says.

Unlike her, Hernandez’s roommate attended SF State with her two best friends, causing Hernandez to feel lonelier.

Majoring in business, she struggled through her freshman year, but continued to push through with help of her family.

“I probably wouldn’t be here without my family’s support,” Hernandez says, who kept in constant contact with her family during her first year at SF State.

 

Teresa Hernandez (Right), with her friend Liliana Chavez

As her sophomore year rolled around, she finally found a sense of belonging in her new sorority. Phi Gamma Chi introduced her to a group of girls that quickly became her best friends and helped her grow more comfortable with the school. While Hernandez struggled with the campus, she never had any complaints about the city. San Francisco made it easier for her to make friends and invite people to different places for a fun day or night.  

Hernandez still attends SF State, finally enjoying her life on and off campus. The third-year considers the sisters in her sorority as her second family. Looking back on her freshmen year, she wishes SF State offered a few more welcome days that were not as intimidating as the ones they hold.

Now twenty-one-years-old, Uekert is excited to graduate from GCU in the spring of next year, allowing her to stay on schedule with her four-year-plan.

“I still love the city.” shared Uekert, explaining that San Francisco itself was not a reason she left.

Like Hernandez, she wishes SF State would offer ways for students who do not live in San Francisco to get connected on campus because that was her largest problem while she was there.

San Francisco solaced Uekert and Hernandez, but it did not affect every student in that way. The city is a distraction, causing some students to lose their academic focus. Jason Jacobson, the director of undergraduate advising center, calls San Francisco a double-edged sword.

“SF is an amazing city with a lot to do. It is really exciting and can pull students from their studies,” Jacobson explains.

Although he understands the distractions of the city, he also understands that the city offers several opportunities for students to supplement their academic learning. He urges students to find the balance of fun and responsibility through the help of resources available on SF State’s campus.

A feeling of disconnect can lead to loneliness for new students, which can also lead to more serious issues. While mental health plays a large role in a student’s decision to leave, struggling with the fast pace of college can discourage students from moving forward with their academics.

If SF State students are struggling with their mental health, they can reach out to the Counseling and Psychological Services in room 208 of the Student Services Building. Students who are facing difficulties with their studies can seek help at the Undergraduate Advising Center in room 211 of the Administration building.

Not Your N***a

Featured Illustration by: Kevin Catalan

 

Hip hop; it’s more than just a genre of music, it’s a culture, it’s a way of life, it’s what some people see when they look out of their window every morning, or when they are walking down their streets.

“C-O-M-P-T-O-N!”

We scream the lyrics along with Kendrick as though we have lived life through his eyes, but we haven’t. We enjoy his art, what he is doing with the experience he has had, and his story-telling capabilities, but most hip-hop consumers haven’t lived it. When people who aren’t Black use the hip hop genre as the glue between them and an experience they could never understand that’s when problems begin to arise – a problem that involves the controversial usage of a particular word.

Let’s play a game: what widely used word can mean friend and homie, but can simultaneously be grossly offensive if used in a certain way against a certain group of people?

“I don’t like it, I don’t approve of it,” uttered Zemaye Jacobs, communication major and member of the Black Student Union here at San Francisco State University.

This was a popular reaction to the question ‘how do you feel about people who aren’t Black using the word?’.

If a particular word is coming to mind, ask yourself this: Do you use it, do you stop other people from using it, do you know its history, what in your life has contributed to your desensitization of the word? And yes, it’s that one that starts with an ‘N’.

Do you scream those Drake lyrics at the top of your lungs without a care in the world, or does your social consciousness help you refrain?

N***a, it holds a unique and even confusing duality; it’s safe and it’s not, it’s fun, even hip, yet withholds an immense ignorance if used in the wrong way. There is a less problematic solution, which entails not using it at all. However, there is no magic potion to eradicate the damn thing. Its roots lie in racism, anti-Blackness, and colorism, to name a few, all actively perpetuating systemic issues in this country.

Blair Thomas, an art major and member of BSU at SF State says, “It does not matter if it is a part of pop culture or not. It’s not a word for non-Black people, especially if you cannot respect actual Black people.”

“The attempts over the years to take that word and turn it into something else, have been failed attempts,” explained Professor Davey D. Cook, as he walked to his bus stop.

Cook is a professor in the Africana studies department, who teaches a hip hop course at SF State.

“It’s still a pejorative and people use it as such even when they try to claim that they have somehow sanitized it.”

Let’s talk phonetics.

Most are aware that the original form of the word is Negro, which refers to the color Black, and is used in many languages besides English. To make a VERY long story short, during slavery it became popularly said as n***er, and now it’s popularly said as n***a. Oh how we have progressed.

Connotation aside, this is an example of tense vowels transforming into lax vowels, explained by linguistics Professor Chris Wen-Chao Li. Like ‘player’ being pronounced ‘playa’ to ‘fit in with the cool kids,’ so to speak.

“This is a pretty typical example of phonological reduction as part of grammaticalization,” Wen-Chao Li says.

Phonological reduction, or simplifying how words are said, happens all time and a lot of the time we don’t even realize. Wen-Chao Li provided this example: ‘Jesus’ turned into the expression ‘Jeez’, which then turned into ‘Gee’ as in “Gee, thanks.”

With that being said, the usage of n**** has been normalized immensely. Imagine being a fly on the wall at your favorite rap concert in the Bay Area, at the Oracle Arena, which holds about 19,000 people. Thousands of people are yelling n****s around left and right.

“I don’t give them [non-Blacks] a pass, but what am I gonna do, fight 50,000 people?,” Bryce Page, a local, commented.

It often becomes a matter of picking your battles, because so many people say it.

Many non-Black students feel the same way about the controversial word.

“I have some hispanic friends who use the word and there’s this controversy of whether it’s accepted for any person of color to use because we [hispanics] have suffered too,” said Rosa Gutierrez a biology major at SF State.

“…but I don’t think it’s right for us to use a word that doesn’t belong to us, so I don’t agree with my friends use of the word.”

When political science major, Alex Ayala, was asked what his response is when people around him are using it he said that he always stops it.

“Even if I’m that one person who maybe is ‘overreacting’, it’s just disrespectful,” Ayala states.

But does using it when rapping to your favorite rap lyric change the hundreds of years of history? As Black people gained more rights post-slavery, the word remained and still does. Consumers have allowed the word to have derivative qualities, which as a result gave many reasons to grant themselves access to the word.

“If I hear them say the word in a joking way or like playing around with friends, I won’t confront them about it,” says theater major and African American student, Alissa Harris.

“I don’t like the word period, even when other Black people use it,” marketing major and African American student Donna Tate says.

The Black response to its usage is of the varietal form. Ranging from not minding at all, to being fine with it as long as it’s not of a serious racial attack, to some not wanting to hear the word from anyone. Regardless of confrontation, it tends to make people feel some type of way.

“I think in the face of the type challenges many of us face as Black folks and the type of oppression people are dealing with daily… that’s the ultimate micro-aggression especially in spaces where you are not the majority,” Davey concludes as his bus nears.

I can only wonder that if we as Black people were united in how we feel about ‘n***a’, then would society, or non-Black peoples, also be on the same page when it comes to the usage of the word. OR if racism died with slavery instead of manifesting itself into a systemic form, would the word usage still be as impactful. Black people are about three times more likely to be killed by police force than any other race still today. The original meaning continues to exist and shows its ugly head with every pull of the trigger.

In Their Shoes: Challenging Gender Norms Through Androgynous Apparel

Once upon a time there was a world where any gender could walk into a clothing store and not have to worry what sex they were shopping for. As amazing as that may sound, for now it can only remain a dream that can one day hopefully become a reality. Don’t give up yet, there are still options!

When it comes to apparel now-a-days, I can say that I’ve seen it all. Women dressed in tailored suits, men in chiffon skirts, and kids in non-gender clothing. I grew up as a tomboy, so wearing my brothers big shirts and oversized pants were easy to obtain. This memory led me to question what it would’ve been like for me as a young boy trying to fit into my sisters clothes. The truth is, I probably wouldn’t of been able to fit any of it due to the way my body was built. Is this what goes through the minds of men who prefer to wear women’s clothes?

After interviewing some students from San Francisco State University, along with faculty and people from the San Francisco community, they said yes. The three main issues that were brought up the most when asked were the main audience being focused on women and femininity, the lack of sizes, and clothing stores sticking to the regular boy/girl sections.

 

Monét Panza, 19, Poses in Vans and
baggy windbreakers. (Left and Right)
Photos: Jazmine Sanchez

What really defines androgynous apparel?

For people like Aaron Steinfeld, 25-year-old graduate student at Sf State, and LGBTQ youth advocate at the Family Violence Law Center, androgyny means an ambiguous gender identity or gender representation, which can deal with either someone’s internal sense of how they think of themselves and or how they present that to the world.

“There definitely seems to be more gender/queer presentation in fashion, but I think that there’s a difference between gender identity and gender presentation, and someone who might have an ambiguous or androgynous gender presentation, and might as a cisgender person,” Steinfeld says.

“I’m trans and I like presenting feminine in society to lure the rest of the world, and how putting on clothes everyday feels very important to me to display an accurate representation of myself to the world.”

In fashion, androgyny has been seen more and more on the catwalk by designers like Gucci, Kanye West (and many more), and most recently at New York Fashion Week, Maison the Faux. So it’s no surprise that non-gender clothing has been making itself a big debut. According to 44-year-old Health Education Professor at SF State, Ivy Chen, a lot has been driven by the acceptance of it through Millennials and the new Generation Z.

“Millennials and Generation Z are much more open and accepting of all different kinds of identities, and therefore those types of attitudes about discriminating and feeling like you only can be this and that, those attitudes will die out,” she says.

Students like 18-year-old Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts major, Karla Orozco, feels that androgynous apparel is in fact favoring the female sex – that it is easier for women to find male clothing than for men to find female clothing.

“If it’s going to be something that’s for everyone then it should be for everyone you know? I think that’s definitely something that has to change in the industry,” Orozco says.  Another student like Rosa Gutierrez, 20-year-old Biology Major also agrees. “I do agree that it’s harder for men to find clothes which usually leaves them without a section to look into,” Gutierrez says.

Aaron Steinfeld, 25, in pink velvet mini-dress.

The facts are that the “rules to fashion” have continued to change throughout the years and we’ve seen this through many advertisements, and also, on the fashion runway. But the real question here is has the industry limited itself to a certain audience?

“Millennials and Generation Z are much more open and accepting of all different kinds of identities, and therefore those types of attitudes about discriminating and feeling like you only can be this and that, those attitudes will die out.”

Of the bigger community, when seeing sizes range from only small to large, it shows that these clothing companies are limiting themselves and not serving the whole audience.

28-year-old graphic design professor at California College of the Arts, Juan Carlos, feels that fashion has always been portrayed for the skinny community.

Juan Carlos, 28, Graphic Design Professor at California College of the Arts

“A lot of the clothes that androgynous apparel companies make, and I’m happy it’s being made, fits mostly models that are super skinny, and when you’re bigger you have more restriction on what to wear, and it’s a lot harder to find clothes that fit,” Carlos says.

When shopping in the women’s section he is usually a size 10 or 12, and because of his size, he feels that thrift shopping offers a wider variety of things for everyone.

I find myself doing the same thing. As a hip-hop dancer, I’ve always enjoyed wearing slouchy clothes because of its comfort. I hate wearing tight clothes that don’t let me breathe, and because of my figure, I find myself making my own clothes. The same thing goes for Juan Carlos and many others.

Drag queen Jordan Isaac, also known as “Kiki Krazier,” finds himself making his own women-inspired clothes for his performances due to the lack of sizes being offered to him.  

“Most of my clothes are made, but if I do have to buy something, it is a bit unflattering on me,” he explains.

“For example, I have to make a dress out of an oversized shirt because I can’t fit a store bought dress. They don’t have that for men, they do not sell dresses for men. Most companies who say they want to offer androgynous clothing mostly focus on women. The truth is, if you want something that is tailored to your body, you either make it yourself or get it made for you.”

Companies like Target have already jumped on the no-gender apparel bandwagon by switching up their Boy and Girl sections to just Kids. Is this what is going to pave the way for families to open up their mind on allowing their children to wear whatever clothes they feel comfortable with?

Chen explains that companies like Target are being very inclusive.

“For example, in the past you had a kid who would identify as a girl and you would only stay in this one section, and you’ve never even seen the boys section, that’s a whole half that you actually don’t browse and don’t have the opportunity to buy from.”

As a company, Chen feels that it is a smart financial move that will allow customers to see everything the company has to offer rather than just a single section.

Clothing companies like Kipper Clothiers in San Francisco have made a statement by offering women tailored suits to those who want it. Other companies like Sixty-Nine, based in Los Angeles, offer clothing that doesn’t fall under labels, simply clothes for anyone to wear. And there are many more following suit – the only thing is that although it is such a great movement, there are people that feel companies are still lacking on the aspects of gender, sizes, and clothing stores conforming to boy/girl sections.

The more we open up, have more visibility, and mainstream non-gender clothing, could possibly change what these companies are lacking to serve all sexes. An array of clothing items being displayed, ranging from multiple colors and sizes that anyone can pick up and take home, is a dream, for some, waiting to be seen in retail stores. The fashion industry has a lot to offer, and hopefully through time, it will be capable to offer this as well.

 

Featured Photo: Aaron Steinfeld, 25, dons eye-catching lipstick and
eyeshadow. Aaron is a LGBTQ youth advocate at Family Violence Law Center 

All photography by Jazmine Sanchez

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.

Kava: A Legal Drug Taking San Francisco by Storm

Featured Image by: Laila Rashada

Kava is a legal drug currently gaining popularity in San Francisco due to its sedative and relaxing qualities.

Whenever the words “drug” and “legal” are used in the same sentence, proverbial red flags are raised to the sky, all with the same question: “does it even do anything?” The short answer is yes, but the more important question to answer is: “Is kava right for me?”

Marijuana isn’t for everyone, and neither are psychedelics or dissociatives, but everyone’s reasons are different. It could be because someone doesn’t enjoy the act of smoking, they think being high is too intense, they’re scared of the effects on their health, it gives them anxiety or simply any of the other countless reasons to not partake in certain drugs. Yet, particular aspects of various drugs are appealing to people that are normally against drug use, such as euphoria and clarity. Kava is a one-ingredient plant that is advertised to have amazing health benefits.

Video by: Mike Massaro

We often lose scope of the potential healing and nourishing effects of Earth’s natural gifts. Just the mere label “drug” is enough to deter people from even considering it as a way to treat their day-to-day stress, insomnia, and ill-feelings via a boost to their immune system.

“I’ve been drinking kava for about two weeks and have noticed benefits already,” says Katherine McCarty, who is a new employee at the Kava Lounge in San Francisco.

“My awareness, innate ability to heal and sleeping patterns have all improved. The more I drink, the more I feel the effects, almost like a reverse tolerance.”

Before being appropriated in San Francisco, kava was commonly grown and used in places like Hawaii, Melanesia, and Fiji. Kava is a plant grown in the Western Pacific, but its roots are what’s harvested for its sedative effects. Natives hold ancient knowledge for the applications of kava, which include its power to mend ailments such as urogenital conditions, respiratory ailments, and skin diseases.

The roots themselves are usually prepared into kava by being chewed, ground or pounded, depending on the culture. In San Francisco, kava can be easily purchased either as a powder or as a liquid at a kava cafe. Kava has existed longer in the city as a powder, but its easy accessibility and novelty, which comes from drinking the potion from a cut-across coconut shell, has jettisoned its popularity.

“We get our roots imported from Fiji,” says Priscilla Hill, manager at the Kava Lounge. “There are two main parts to the root: the top root lowena, which feels heavy and relaxing, and the lateral root waka, which is lighter and more energetic. The only other ingredient is reverse osmosis water.”

As a rule of thumb, drug experiences are unique to the person taking them, but kava’s functions are routine, specialized, and minimal; it doesn’t leave much up to personal differences. Kava is similar to the experience of consuming cannabis, which includes being somnifacient, but absent of any effects that stem from a stereotypical high.

Kava isn’t only for stressed out insomniacs looking for a natural cure, it can also be for a group of friends with nothing to do on a Saturday night; the alternative to going to a bar or a café. In fact, many people who have adopted kava into their lifestyle have also pushed out alcohol and caffeine altogether.

Alva Caple owns the Kava Lounge, but he first owned a bar in Topeka, Kansas. He gave up serving alcohol so he could serve kava, which resulted in him opening a kava bar in Hollywood, Florida. After some years of being successful, and also some careful deliberation and planning, Caple decided that he wanted to leave Florida to start a kava bar in California. He was shocked with the amount of bars in California, or lack thereof.

“I wanted to go to California because it was a progressive state, although initially I wanted to start my bar in Berkeley,” Caple explains.

“Six or seven years ago, there weren’t very many kava bars; there were none in the city and only one in Berkeley, San Bruno, and Davis up here.”

The kava business has been going well for Caple ever since opening day and he now has plans to expand into also serving raw vegan food. Not a lot of people know about kava, despite its boasting about a positive lifestyle and health changes, which is also a reason for skepticism.

So, why would a miracle root be so unknown if it really worked? One aspect of kava that is widely agreed upon, by haters and lovers alike, is that it’s an acquired taste.

Drinking kava leaves a trail of numbness across your tongue and down your throat. Imagine what it feels like to halt blood flow to the tongue: numb yet sensitive, with a slight sting and shiver.

The flavor is also hard for some people to forgive. Essentially, there is nothing but kava root and water. Kava translates to English as literally meaning “bitter,” which, if anything, is an understatement. It’s an experience oddly nostalgic to those mud pies in elementary school. The liquid itself is clear with chunks of earth surfacing to and buoying at the rim of the cup, bowl or hollowed-out coconut shell until stirred back to the bottom to become saturated.

That being said, some people really enjoy the taste. David Soutter, a travel writer and chiropractor, actively looks for kava bars when he’s assigned articles around the world.

“I just flew into San Francisco this morning, but I wanted to come to this kava bar,” Soutter says.

“I drink it because it helps me with jet lag.”

While the kava community raves about its effects on sleep, perhaps the most common piece of kava-praise is its effects on short-term anxiety. Cannabidiol, one of the most active cannabinoids in marijuana, serves a similar function in that it is responsible for the couch-locked and calm sensation one gains from cannabis, which come with feelings of physical comfort and mental peace.

Despite all the positive effects, there are some negative ones. For example, kava dermopathy is a fully reversible skin condition that causes incredibly dry skin. This, along with other commonly accepted side effects of kava, is only contracted with excessive use.

Kava is a great way to experiment with natural remedies for conditions such as insomnia and anxiety, meaning there’s no need to place trust in a pharmaceutical company to provide non-poisonous help. It’s an easily accessible drug with ancient knowledge of curing ailments and soothing anxiety, which unsurprisingly is the reason for its mass appeal to the population of San Francisco.

 

Following the Money

By: Kristen Struckmeyer

When I got out of class, a small white envelope was waiting for me on the windshield of my car. I could feel my lungs fill with dread and my face glow red as I read the parking citation, issued at 12:42 pm. I checked my phone: it was 12:46. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. But for the time being I did neither.
This overwhelming sense of crisis came from the eight parking tickets I had already received this month. In fact, the large sum of racked up costs from the tickets had prevented me from paying my pricey San Francisco rent on time; I knew that the last thing I needed was another ticket.
 
In the heat of my frustration I jumped in my car and chased down the parking enforcement officer in a most ungraceful fashion. After a few minutes of begging and justifying my way out of the $78 parking ticket, I stood in front of the officer feeling bare and helpless, palms shaking, with a look of desperation in my watery eyes.
“Just don’t cry!” the agitated parking attendant said as he ripped the parking ticket from my shaking hands. “I already had someone cry this morning and I can’t do it anymore.” He appeared to me as a weary worker, an afflicted professional, and — most importantly — a forgiving gentleman.
 
“Thank you, thank you! You don’t know how much this means to me,” I gasped as I fought the urge to give him a friendly and appreciative hug. From our brief encounter that sunny afternoon I never got his name, but I surely did not forget his simple act of kindness.
 
If you’ve ever had a car in San Francisco, chances are you’ve shared a strikingly similar experience and probably received your fair share of little white envelopes underneath your wipers. And if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ve been left wondering where that hard earned money went. After not being able to pay my rent that month, I decided it was imperative for me to find out exactly where the city is spending the revenue from parking and meter citations and how it was — supposedly — coming back to me. The first thing I discovered is that San Francisco has the highest ticket and meter prices in the United States. For example, a parking ticket in Boston — a city of similar size and geography as San Francisco but with a slightly smaller population — will run at $25 for an unpaid meter and $40 for street cleaning. In San Francisco that same ticket will run you $78, a rate that has shown steady increases over the last several years in order to pay for increased enforcement and maintenance. These exorbitant prices tower even in comparison to an urban hub such as New York, where a street cleaning ticket begins at $45 and, in some areas of pricey Manhattan, can go up to $65.
 
Information provided by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) spokesman Paul Rose shows that the projected outcome in parking fees and citations will be over $311 million dollars this year. This money will go back to the SFMTA and City of San Francisco, and a large percentage of it will go toward public transportation maintenance and paying SFMTA employees.
“There’s operations and there’s capital,” said San Francisco State University Geography and Environment professor Jason Henderson, who specializes in urban politics and transportation.
 
“Operations is often the trickier part of transportation funding. There are a lot of restrictions. Like the federal government; when they allocate money to the Bay Area, the federal government will not pay for operations. They expect local government to pay for operations. So we can buy buses and build railways and things like that, but we can’t pay for our operations from the federal money.”
 
Because the local government has to find a way to pay for operations, they have used parking revenue as part of the budget since 1999, with the vote on Proposition E giving wind to a new Municipal Transportation Agency that would have greater power and control over standards and budget. However, the use of parking revenue only covers about 35% of the operations budget on average.
 
Reports provided by the City and County of San Francisco show that public works, transportation, and commerce is the largest area of spending and revenue for the city of San Francisco. The SFMTA is both the greatest source of expense at $1,067,863,751 dollars, with a revenue of $1,075,713,302. These numbers are almost impossible for most to fathom, simply put they mean that the city has generated a revenue of almost $8 million dollars from the public transportation agency within the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
 
After having a greater understanding of where and how the parking citation revenue is used, I wanted to hear from parking enforcement officers on the ground about the labor of their job and the significance of parking tickets. I sat down with Bill Kettle, a SFMTA parking control supervisor, while he and his team caravanned through the streets writing citations as a street sweeper followed behind us.
 
“That whole thing with, ‘Oh you guys have a quota’… Look, we don’t have a quota,” exclaimed Kettle as he broke down the myths of the job. “Trust me, I’d far rather not have to ticket anyone at all. But that has never happened.”
 
Considering that street cleaning is by far the biggest source of ticketing in the city, many have come to believe that street cleaning is useless and essentially a conspiracy to make the city money. Although it is fact that street cleaning tickets wind up generating a pretty penny for the city, there is some important value to be recognized in why we should have to move our cars every week for a truck to blow past as it moves around dirt and trash. According to the San Francisco Public Works office, the city’s street cleaning team covers 150,000 curb miles and removes 25,000 tons of litter and debris every year, which would otherwise wind up polluting the Bay.
 
But preserving the environment isn’t the only reason we should have to feel obligated to abide to street cleaning. Supervisor Kettle stands by the benefits of street cleaning when he explained that, “the good thing about street cleaning is that if we don’t come by the streets will fill up with abandoned and stolen vehicles. Actually we find the most stolen vehicles, because we are out here consistently.”
 
Despite my initial outrage and shock after enduring a month long ticket hail storm, I have come to some surprising conclusions about parking tickets in San Francisco. What I found is that the tickets in San Francisco, although overpriced, are not entirely unsound and in fact they may be necessary in shaping our cities local environment. That being said, I’ve found that the best way to prevent these pesky penalties is relatively obvious: be observant and cautious when parking in the city, and hold our local government accountable as part of the process to create fairer and more feasible pricing and policies.
 
And as for now, my days of parking in the city are long gone. I traded in my car keys for a clipper card and bicycle, which, I’ve found, is even more effective to avoid parking tickets than chasing down meter maids.

 

Threatened Sanctuary or National Insecurity?

By: Brandy Miceli

People from around the world gathered under the trees of Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland to share their stories of brutal violence, sexual assault, and yearning hunger during their journey to the United States from their homelands — the hot spring day complementing their zeal to be heard.

With mouths full of homemade tamales rojos y verdes, folks chanted, “Undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid!”

This event, put on by the Immigrant Youth Coalition, Coming Out Of The Shadows (COOTS), was a place where they could express themselves in the streets of Oakland, one of over three hundred sanctuary cities across the country.

“Folks are eager to tell their stories,” Yadira Sanchez, an activist with the Immigrant Youth Coalition, said.

Sanctuary cities erupted into recent headlines following the death of Kathryn “Kate” Steinle, a thirty-two-year-old San Francisco woman, at the hands of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant. He had been deported five times, and served over twenty years in jails and federal prisons for felony drug charges and re-entry since 1991. In 2009, less than three months after his fifth deportation, Lopez-Sanchez was charged with another felony re-entry, and served five years in prison.

On March 26, 2015, the United States Bureau of Prisons turned Lopez-Sanchez over to San Francisco authorities for an outstanding marijuana charge. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested to detain him until they could pick him up. The marijuana charge was ultimately dropped, and due to San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, the Sheriff’s department did not honor ICE’s detainer request and released him on April 15, 2015. Three months later, he was taken into custody for shooting Steinle.

Sanctuary city policy limits cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE. They’re designed to build trust between local police and immigrant communities by allowing them to report crime without fear of being deported. This policy is an aberration with completely divided views; some abhor and some support.

Steinle’s death led to a political standoff. Republicans quickly proposed a bill that would cut federal funding to cities with sanctuary status, and require a mandatory five-year minimum sentence for any undocumented immigrant who was deported and is caught upon re-entry, as part of “Kate’s Law.” Democrats swiftly blocked the bill. All republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election have vowed to end sanctuary cities, and this stance has gained support through numerous conservative outlets.

Ericka Sanchez takes part in immigrant family day at San Francisco City Hall on Thursday, April 28, 2016. Legislation has been proposed to enhance the protection for undocumented immigrants in San Francisco, making it harder for sheriffs to turn people over the the federal government. ( Ryan McNulty / Xpress )
Ericka Sanchez takes part in immigrant family day at San Francisco City Hall on Thursday, April 28, 2016. Legislation has been proposed to enhance the protection for undocumented immigrants in San Francisco, making it harder for sheriffs to turn people over the the federal government. ( Ryan McNulty / Xpress )

“When you start talking about sanctuary cities that harbor criminal aliens, then that’s just indefensible on any level,” said Joe Guzzardi, National Media Director and Senior Writer for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). CAPS is an anti-immigration organization that works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California, the U.S., and the world, according to its website. The organization is involved with a campaign that would eliminate sanctuary cities, blaming the policy for loss of life beyond Steinle.

“There have been hundreds of similar cases over the years that don’t merit a mention in any papers or newspapers other than perhaps the local ones,” Guzzardi said, suggesting this incident gained coverage because it happened at a popular tourist destination in San Francisco to a “ridiculously attractive” young woman. “What happened to Kate Steinle is not in any way out of the ordinary,” he said.

Francisco Ugarte, Attorney for the San Francisco Public Defender and immigration expert, suggested it’s no wonder why the event gained so much attention considering the timeliness of Donald Trump’s candidacy annunciation.

“Trump talked about them [undocumented immigrants] as rapists, as criminals, that when they come here they don’t bring their best, they bring their worst,” Ugarte said, “And I think that this case nicely fits into a hysterical xenophobic narrative.”

So much so that the court has been so far unwilling to consider the fact that Steinle’s death was unintentional. Lopez-Sanchez’s case is being charged as a murder, when the bullet fired was accidental and ricocheted off the cement.

“He handled a gun that discharged and unfortunately killed Kate Steinle,” said Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender and Lopez-Sanchez’s attorney. “If he were a caucasian college kid, if he were a U.S. citizen, if he had been eighteen years old, if he had been seventy-five years old, I don’t think he gets charged with a crime… We don’t know of there ever being a case in San Francisco of a ricochet being charged as a murder.”

Although that is seemingly critical to the case, it gained less attention than the topic of sanctuary cities. Even though sanctuary cities have plenty of democratic supporters, former San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was publicly lambasted for not honoring ICE’s detainer request and releasing Lopez-Sanchez from custody, even by Mayor Ed Lee. Justifiably, San Francisco’s new Sheriff Vicki Hennessy is necessitating reform while recognizing the benefits that sanctuary cities have on all citizens.

Demonstrators carry a sign made with chalk towards San Francisco City Hall during immigrant family day on Thursday, April 28, 2016. ( Ryan McNulty / Xpress )
Demonstrators carry a sign made with chalk towards San Francisco City Hall during immigrant family day on Thursday, April 28, 2016. ( Ryan McNulty / Xpress )

During San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Meeting, Hennessy proposed not to eliminate sanctuary policy, but to create guidelines by which she would communicate with ICE.

“What I am trying to do,” she said at the meeting, “is target the few violent criminals that may not be part of the community, not be working toward rehabilitation.”

The question quickly became one that Americans on both wings share: are sanctuary cities safe for the American population?

The American Immigration Council found that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than people born in the United States. Between 1990 and 2013 the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of undocumented immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

During the same period, FBI data indicated that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent — which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary. This demonstrates that higher immigration is associated with lower crime rates, including both documented and undocumented immigrants.

According to Mother Jones, since San Francisco enacted its sanctuary city laws 26 years ago, homicides have fallen to their lowest level in decades.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that in California, a state with a large population of undocumented immigrants, the incarceration rate for foreign-born adults is 297 per 100,000 adults, while the incarceration rate for people born in the U.S. is 813 per 100,000 adults.

It’s difficult to conclusively say the impact that sanctuary cities have on the United States, when skewed views on sanctuary cities have muffled the truth about them. It’s true that sanctuary policy has inadvertently caused loss of life. But the complexity of this issue requires looking at the proportion of undocumented immigrants who commit murder, before threatening to deport even non-criminals as some politicians have, claiming that a disproportionate amount are criminals.

The Department of Homeland Security figures state that between 2010 and 2015, 124 undocumented immigrants were released from immigration custody and were later charged with murder. CNN Politics found that is only a thousandth of a percent of the total number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, estimated at 11.2 million, making up four percent of the United States population.

Most undocumented immigrants do not have a criminal record. They come here to seek better lives. They raise families and are contributing members to society who want to feel like part of the community.

Folks munched on pan dulce and sipped coffee under the morning sun as the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN) celebrated their tenth anniversary with Immigrant Family Day, a day of community building activities, a press conference, and sharing of testimonies on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. SFILEN is a network of thirteen nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing immigrants with legal services to better their lives.
“In today’s political climate, it is more important than ever to celebrate the achievements of the ten years of work of SFILEN,” said Omar Ali of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “It is indicative of the power of grassroots organizations. It is a testament of all the ways we can work together to ensure that the people feel dignified, even for some of the most undignified groups.”

San Francisco Board of Supervisors member John Avalos spoke about his proposed measure that would ban local law enforcement from notifying ICE when an individual will be released from local custody, except in very limited circumstances. San Francisco’s Sanctuary City and Due Process for All ordinance currently does not specifically forbid pre-release notifications.

“We’ve created this network of people from all over the world who are unified in protecting immigrants,” Supervisor John Avalos said, “…We’re now looking at how we can protect our sanctuary city policy and make sure we can keep people out of immigration proceedings. That’s before us at the Board of Supervisors on May 10.”

The Board of Supervisors will vote whether to implement Avalos’ proposal or to accept Sheriff Hennessy’s new guidelines. Considering that vote, in addition to Lopez-Sanchez’s trial on May 12, the future of San Francisco as a sanctuary city is unknown. What is known, is that immigrants will relentlessly fight to keep their home as it is now — a sanctuary.

 

A Change Is Gonna Come

By: Arash Malekzadeh

Riot gear hung from the tense hands of three rows of San Francisco Police Department officers, positioned austerely on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to fortify the entrance against the crowd assembling out front. The protesters facing them raised their hands high in the air – some with their fists fiercely clenched, others holding signs emblazoned with the face of Mario Woods, the 26-year-old Bayview resident who was gunned down by five SFPD officers in December of last year.

The tense atmosphere was interrupted by feedback from the loudspeaker fastened to a wheelchair laden with nothing but audio equipment. A young protester grabbed the microphone and began singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song recounting the racism Cooke endured during the Civil Rights Era. She glared into the eyes of a black officer, unintimidated by the army of riot police standing in her way. Singling him out amidst his white counterparts, she forced him to question which side he truly stood on. “You in the middle!” she exclaimed just before she broke into the song’s chorus, “It’s been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change gon’ come!”

Phyllis Bowie, a tenant of Mercy Housing, speaks out against the injustices against African Americans during a demonstration held by Black Homes Matter on Wednesday February 10, 2016.
Phyllis Bowie, a tenant of Mercy Housing, speaks out against the injustices against African Americans during a demonstration held by Black Homes Matter on Wednesday February 10, 2016.

In these early months of 2016, San Francisco has experienced a resurgence of activism that initially gave this city its progressive reputation. With the shutdown of the Bay Bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and with the recent protests over the fatal SFPD shooting of Woods, it is clear that wounds are still fresh for San Francisco’s black community.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, San Francisco’s black population decreased by nearly 54 percent since 1970, falling to 5.2 percent in 2014. Along with the population, black homeownership is concurrently in decline. While the killing of Woods catapulted this wake of civil unrest, the outrage in the black community stems from decades of policies – from urban renewal and gang injunction lists to gentrification and violent policing  – that, according to Reverend Arnold Townsend, have targeted black people in San Francisco and perpetuated their exodus.

“Racism is in the political DNA of San Francisco,” Rev. Townsend, a local NAACP board member, said. “They [San Franciscans] never talk about or admit it, which means you can never eradicate it. You can’t fix it unless you first acknowledge that it exists.”

Minister Christopher Muhammad of the Nation of Islam speaks during a press confrence held by the Justice for Mario Woods Coaltion on the steps of CIty Hall on February 8, 2015.
Minister Christopher Muhammad of the Nation of Islam speaks during a press confrence held by the Justice for Mario Woods Coaltion on the steps of CIty Hall on February 8, 2015.

Though the black community has called San Francisco home since its inception, the city saw its largest in-migration of black people during World War II. Black families were relocating to metropolitan areas from the South to work in shipyards, taking advantage of the profitable wartime industry. The black community flourished until 1970; thereafter, the population decreased as San Francisco policy disproportionately affected black people.

“I think the most difficult thing for people to grasp when they look at the black community in San Francisco today is that we have not always been a poor community to the degree we are now,” Rev. Townsend said. “The economic downturn for blacks is the most devastating thing there is.”

The economic downturn Rev. Townsend speaks of began in the 1960s with urban renewal, the federally funded demolition of primarily poor, non-white neighborhoods in the interest of revitalizing those areas. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency claimed eminent domain on the Western Addition, eventually leveling 60 square blocks, displacing thousands of residents, and refusing to redress the community they forced out.

Thursday February 4th, Police stand against protestors seeking justice for Mario Woods outside a VIP dinner for Super Bowl 50 atheletes at San Francisco City Hall Photo by Taylor Reyes
Thursday February 4th, Police stand against protestors seeking justice for Mario Woods outside a VIP dinner for Super Bowl 50 atheletes at San Francisco City Hall Photo by Taylor Reyes

The redevelopment project destroyed the prospering black community that had established itself in the Western Addition only two decades prior, following the internment of the preceding Japanese American residents.

“There is a plan that has been in place, that began … when the redevelopment agency came up with urban renewal … which turned out to be Negro removal,” Archbishop Franzo King of the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church and Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition said. “It’s beyond a trend but a plan that the enemy of the people has put in motion. This is where the redevelopment agency began its mayhem and its attack on the black community in San Francisco.”

Decades ago, the Western Addition was known as “The Harlem of the West” and acted as the beating pulse of San Francisco, fostering a vibrant community and stimulating black culture. Hundreds of black-owned businesses – restaurants, salons, book stores, hotels, and jazz clubs – lined the neighborhood blocks. But as black people were pushed out of the city, their culture and institutions left with them.

Local artist Agentstriknine holds up a flyer outside San Francisco City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 in a demonstration seeking justice for Mario Woods, a San Francisco man who was murdered by police. Photo by Taylor Reyes
Local artist Agentstriknine holds up a flyer outside San Francisco City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 in a demonstration seeking justice for Mario Woods, a San Francisco man who was murdered by police. Photo by Taylor Reyes

“The places that give you a sense of community are gone, the places that give you a sense of being and belonging are gone,” Rev. Townsend said in a disapproving tone. “We do not own our own homes. We do not own our own neighborhoods. Having no sense of ownership and control … leads to a general sense of unhealthiness and instability.”

City policy ushered in displacement and uprooted people from their homes, which extracted power from the people and ultimately disenfranchised the black community as a whole. As the black population diminished, those that remained struggled to identify with their transforming neighborhoods. The black population was stripped of its autonomy; consequently, turbulence befell the community and gave way for crime to transpire.

“When I was in high school, my neighborhood … had one of the highest murder rates in the Bay Area,” said Etecia Brown, community organizer for The Last 3% of Black SF. “And so what you saw was a gang injunction list being implemented. If you’re put on the gang injunction list then you’re automatically barred from having public housing. What you saw then was a rampant rise of gentrification and displacement.”

To address the high crime rates in communities of color, San Francisco implemented gang injunction lists and divided the city by alleged gang territories. The repercussions of being on the gang injunction list extend beyond the presumed gang member; whether it be their grandmother, their sibling or their spouse, anyone directly associated with a person on the list forfeits their right to affordable housing.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, these lists inaccurately mark young people of color as gang members with no evidence or indictments to justify their claim. Those on the list are legally restricted from returning to their neighborhoods, and if they commit a crime, they face an additional seven years on top of their sentence for their presumed gang affiliation.

Thursday February 4th, Police encroach outside a VIP dinner for Super Bowl 50 atheletes at San Francisco City Hall to control a group of protestors seeking justice for Mario Woods, a San Francisco man who was brutally murdered by SFPD. Photo by Taylor Reyes
Thursday February 4th, Police encroach outside a VIP dinner for Super Bowl 50 atheletes at San Francisco City Hall to control a group of protestors seeking justice for Mario Woods, a San Francisco man who was brutally murdered by SFPD. Photo by Taylor Reyes

“Really, when you look at our community and see how much we’ve been impacted by arrests and mass incarceration, more specifically gang injunction lists that target black and brown people living in public housing, that really feeds into freeing up housing and land and property for these gentrifiers and these redevelopment agencies,” Brown said.
As black people overcrowd jail cells and policies forcibly remove them from their communities, the black population in San Francisco diminishes and space becomes available for the wealthy – for those who desire the urban areas currently occupied by the poor.

“African Americans have been dealing with involuntary relocation and displacement well before today,” said Thea Matthews of Black.Seed, the black queer liberation collective responsible for the Bay Bridge shutdown. “It is reaching a climax because of the residual, blatant disregard for black life.”
While the black population in San Francisco is nearly five percent, black people account for more than half of the county jail’s population, according to a city report issued in 2013. At times, as in the case of Woods, they do not even make it to the jail cell before they are killed.

“There was a point in which the executions of Black and Brown lives became again completely intolerable for a new generational wave of Black Americans,” Matthews said. “From Trayvon to Oscar, Alex to Mario, and countless others, these martyrs for the movement remind us of a failed U.S. criminal justice system; and the time to respond, act, and dismantle is now!”
City policy has historically debilitated the foundation of the black community; the killing of Woods was just the last straw. San Francisco’s black community is mobilizing to reclaim the power taken from its people and is refusing to let racism dwindle its population anymore than it already has.

“The sacred blood that was spilled out on the streets of San Francisco at the hands of these killer police … provided an opportunity for the community to lift their voice and for the community to unite,” Archbishop King said.

The Age of Tech : While Tech Companies Create Younger Environments, The “Not-So-Young” Struggle

By: Eric Nyulassy

All you can eat food around the clock. Beautifully landscaped grass as far as the eye can see. Basketball and volleyball courts for the active crowd, and video games with big screen TVs for everyone else—there is even a laundromat. This is not your run-of-the-mill, high-priced country club. This is the environment of new-aged employment campuses in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley provides the luxury of living in an area that has a plethora of jobs that pay an average of 79,108 dollars per capita personal income, compared to the United States average of 46,049 dollars. The job growth rate is the highest, it’s been since 2000 according to the 2016 Silicon Valley Index report. However, middle-aged men and women are finding it increasingly difficult to land a job in the tech field.

In years past, issues of race and gender were prevalent in the hiring process. According to the United States Department of Labor, women are now projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force from 2008 to 2018. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36.4 percent of the Silicon Valley community is foreign born, significantly higher than the average in California or the United States due to outsourcing firms and companies bringing in skilled workers from overseas.  The new concern for candidates actively seeking employment in Silicon Valley is age.

According to research done by Economic Synopses,  the long-term unemployment rate after the great recession has more than doubled in most cases for individuals aged 30 to 65. Long-term unemployment is described as an individual being out of work for over six months.

“A very good friend of mine was in the tech industry for many years,” Deborah Borlase, a middle-aged employee for MagnaChip Semiconductor said. “He got laid off and struggled to find work, so he resorted to teaching.”

Individuals with extensive experience in the tech industry are being over-looked for younger and cheaper workers. Resumes riddled with titles like, “Director of Sales” and “Vice President of Global Marketing” do not hold as much value to companies, as observed by Jeff Rose, a 66-year-old unemployed worker in the field.

“Companies are all about the bottom line. Somebody cheaper and younger is out there. When I left Silicon Quest International, they actually replaced my job with two people. My salary was worth the cost of two younger workers with much less experience,” said Rose.

Beyond companies looking for cheaper prospects to fill positions, the issue of cultural adaptivity creates a roadblock for middle-aged techies.

David Flor is a business development representative for Salesforce, a highly sought-after employer in the Bay Area. Going in for his interview, he remembers his interviewer stating it was easier to get accepted to Harvard than to be hired at Salesforce and for every opening there are thousands of applicants. Flor talked about his job with an exuberant amount of energy and expertise.

“Everyone wants to have fun here at work,” Flor stated. “It is a Wall Street type of attitude here. Work hard so you can play hard.”

Flor exudes the type of cultural attitude many tech companies are looking for in their working environments today — a culture that could create a problem for the older crowd of techies who have families and other responsibilities that remove them from work and their coworkers.

Staff recruiting firms that push recruits into these coveted positions are under pressure by many companies to fill these vacancies with a specific candidate. According to recruiters, the criteria for these candidates are similar across the board and detrimental to those who do not meet them. According to a recruiter from Premiere Staffing,  this shift in culture is emulated and modeled after Google by other companies and can be correlated to an emphasis on increased productivity. Both recruiters asked for anonymity in fear of backlash or potential termination by their employers for providing this information.

Companies like Google, now provide food, beverages, sleeping arrangements, dog parks, and fitness rooms that enable workers to stay at work all day. The perks are great, but older employees are more likely to have children and other responsibilities that take them away from the campus, not allowing them to dedicate the same amount of time younger prospects potentially have.

“People do not want to leave and the vibe reminds you of a college campus. Employees like to work outside on the grass, sleep in the pods and play games throughout the day,” said Gilbert Padilla, a contractor in his third year with Google.
One recruiter said that the most common response he gets from companies is that older candidates are “too experienced” and they would prefer to fill their vacancies in a competitive market with young talent who “live and breath tech.”
“Companies do not want a ‘suits and ties’ environment anymore,” he said. “Companies are going against the grain and that is inviting to a younger talent pool, which is what they want. If you are 50 years old, there is a higher probability you will have issues taking orders from a 30-year-old owner or boss and the ability to take direction becomes a concern for the employer.”

Agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) take action against age discrimination, according to The Age of Discrimination Act of 1967. The EEOC resolved 21,273 age discrimination charges in 2015, recovering 99.1 million dollars in monetary damages for charging parties and associated aggrieved individuals.

According to 2016’s Silicon Valley Index (SVI), 64,363 jobs were created between 2014 and 2015. There has also been a 24.4 percent increase in jobs titled “Innovation and Information Products & Services” since 2010 and has steadily increased every year creating a trend in a wanted field. Jobs in this growing category primarily have tech related ties.

Despite the increase in tech related jobs in Silicon Valley, many middle-aged workers cannot capitalize on the opportunities available, according to area recruiters. They are forced to become more flexible with regards to salary, creating a financial burden in an area where the cost of living has reached astronomical heights. According to a recent Trulia report, only 14 percent of homes in San Francisco are affordable to the middle-class.

However, there are still companies in the area who hire solely on merit and expertise. Symantec executives pride themselves in finding a candidate that meets their needs based exclusively on their experience and passion to succeed.

Mitch Underwood, who leads Symantec’s AMS Demand Operations team in Oregon, detailed what he looks for in a potential job candidate.

“First thing we look at is education,” Underwood said. “Does it pertain to the position we are looking for? Their aptitude; how well they articulate ideas tells us how organized they are. We are also interested in what they do outside of work. Philanthropic work and community service is another element we look at,” he said.

Many older workers struggle to find jobs in a booming industry that now places more emphasis on cultural fit and cost effectiveness than on experience. People are more dedicated to the company than the company is to the people. Workers like Jeff Rose still have fight and passion in them and wish companies would see the value in experience once again.

“We still have a desire to make an impact,” Rose said. “We are innovative and we want to show that there is still value in hiring people older with more experience.”

An Uncertain Move for San Francisco’s Sex Workers

Marion Pellegrini, core staff member at St. James Infirmary, poses for a portrait in the lab where he draws blood for various tests for patients. The clinic provides healthcare and social services for current and former sex workers of all genders and sexual orientations. Photo by Emma Chiang

 

By Sean McGrier

There’s no sign on the door. One has to be told about the place to know it’s there and, even then, they’d probably walk past it a few times before realizing they had reached their destination. The clinic is discrete; its whereabouts spread mostly through word of mouth. Its modest front door leaves little hint to what goes on beyond it. The work St. James Infirmary does for the community it serves is shielded to ensure that work can continue, which is partly due to the taboo nature of St. James’ clients’ jobs.

St. James is a peer-based health clinic for sex workers located on Mission Street in the South of Market neighborhood. Pretty much all of its staff and all of its patrons are either current or former sex workers – that is, they have either stripped, prostituted or done some job that falls under the “sex work” umbrella, if not a number of jobs involving erotica. The clinic also services the immediate families and primary sexual partners of sex workers. St. James is the only for-sex workers, by-sex workers free health clinic in the country.

But the clinic is moving, and its staff is not sure where. The SoMa building it has been in for the past 13 years of its 16-year-history is up for sale, and a new lease will not be granted. Moving an operation like St. James is a sensitive undertaking, one that poses big problems for the clinic, according to executive director Stephany Ashley.

“Across the city right now, private landlords are not too motivated to rent to non-profits,” Ashley said. “The real estate market right now is money, and most property owners that own commercial spaces in San Francisco are trying to see how much money they can make. Renting to a peer-based clinic that provides social support services for a community in poverty is not gonna make them a lot of money.”

The move also has St. James’ staff worried about client trepidation. Ashley said that’s because some of the clinic’s current visitors might not go to St. James if it moves to a different neighborhood.

“Here, we are right equidistant from Sixth Street and 16th Street,” Ashley said. “If you think about those two corridors, there’s a lot of folks that would access our services there. And this is a space that is accessible from those places. It’s close enough that you could walk here in 10 minutes, but also kind of far enough to where you could get a bit of distance from some of that.”

Dr. Pratima Gupta is St. James’ medical director. She started volunteering at the clinic while doing a fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco in 2005. Two years later, she stepped into the clinic’s medical director role, which is also a volunteer position. Dr. Gupta echoed Ashley’s unease about the move.

“In terms of our clients and the participants who receive our services, we’re seeing concern about the safety of some of the places we’re looking at,” Gupta said.

Proposed locations include spaces in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods, both of which have reputations, earned or unearned, for being dangerous. Neighborhood safety concerns could mean increased police presence around the clinic, which is bad news for many sex workers. According to Gupta, overinvolvement with police could jeopardize the safe-space atmosphere St. James wants for its patients.

“We strive to provide non-judgmental healthcare for sex workers and their families,” Gupta said.  “For somebody to fear coming to our clinic because they fear persecution due to our proximity to law enforcement would really be a detriment and completely go against our mission.”

Law enforcement’s interest in St. James’ operations may seem like a given. After all, prostitution is illegal in San Francisco. It’s also one of a number of jobs that can qualify a man or woman for St. James’ services.

Tony Flores is an inspector sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department. The 33-year SFPD veteran is currently assigned to the human trafficking division of the department’s Special Victims Unit, where he mostly focuses on commercial sex and forced labor. Flores said having institutions like St. James actually makes his job easier, but not necessarily in making arrests.

“We focus on victims and victimologies and having victims taken care of,” Flores said. “The only way we can do this is by understanding the victim’s needs. This is where (St. James) and all the other NGOS and non-governmental agencies or victims services will actually assist us in getting those victims their wants and needs.”

Both Ashley and Flores said they have recently sat on community panels together, discussing ways to better serve the sex worker community. Flores said he isn’t a stranger to working with sex worker advocacy groups in an effort to better the lives of what he views as an exploited demographic. The Standing Against Global Exploitation Project was a San Francisco nonprofit the department worked with closely. The organization has since folded, and Flores said losing SAGE meant the department had lost “some really good advocates,”  and he doesn’t want to see the same fate for St. James.

As for its medical offerings, Gupta said St. James is no different than any other health clinic. According to her, St. James’ peer-based approach to serving sex workers is really the only thing that makes it unique.

“We do offer HIV and STI testing like any other clinic,” Gupta said. “But the rate of STIs that we are picking up are equivalent to other (demographics). They’re not any higher”

They treat people for coughs, colds, rashes and high blood pressure. St James offers free therapy and case management on Monday mornings, and hosts needle exchanges every Tuesday afternoon. These scheduled events appear on St. James’ online schedule well through the clinic’s projected early January move-out date, underlining an intent to being on call for a community in need.

The clinic is both publicly and privately funded. St. James gets over $250,000 annually through various contracts it has with the City of San Francisco, according to Ashley. Private donors also help fund the clinic’s operations. Ashley said those private donations have increased since news of St. James’ displacement became public in October.

“We hit our $25,000 mark in three days,” Ashley said, referring to a recently-launched GoFundMe campaign. “I was surprised by how quickly it happened. But I was also surprised by the reach of it.”

Ashley said a lot donations came in from people who she had never heard of before, people who don’t have any direct connection to St. James or the sex industry that she knows of. Other names, she said, were more familiar.

“We got a lot of messages saying, ‘Oh my gosh, one time St. James really saved my ass. Thank you so much, and here’s $100. Hope you land on your feet,’” Ashley said. “I think there are a lot of people who are just tired of hearing that things are closing and were like, ‘Alright. Let’s rally. Let’s keep something here. These services are important.’”

Between the Old and New School

Photographs and story by Alex Kofman

Coffee shops, bars and restaurants are typically places people have in mind when considering where to meet their friends. They want a place where they can all come together to catch up, share a few stories, and spill the latest gossip. The barbershop, just like these other institutions has served as a communal gathering spot for decades, especially for ethnic communities who historically turned to the barbershop as a place to collectively converse.Two barbershops in particular, Chicago’s and Sperow Hair Gallery, have maintained their own unique styles over the years and continue to be popular amongst barbershop enthusiasts.

Chicago’s barbershop, originally a sister of a three-shop franchise that began in the 40’s, is located in the Western Addition. Although Chicago’s has been around much longer than a majority of San Francisco barbershops, the barbers working there take a more new school approach to cutting hair and keep up with the trends that are constantly changing. 26-year-old Eshawn Scranton, a barber from Chicago’s, has been cutting hair for four years and has witnessed a huge transformation in not only haircut styles but barbershop culture.

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“When I was in Barber College, shorter hairstyles were in style,” Scranton said. “It was really cool to have a dark Caesar, or a taper or a bald fade and then the longer hairstyles came into effect so I had to learn a lot about the different textures of hair and how to do a lot of styling like comb overs and switchbacks and pompadours so there was a lot that had changed from when I first got into the barber game. I would also say there was a change in the industry. It’s a lot trendier now.”

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In the Outer Sunset District is Sperow Hair Gallery, first opened in 1973 by owner and barber of 45 years, Anthony “Tony” James Sperow. When walking through the front door of Sperow Hair Gallery, your eyes are greeted by a mishmash of vintage collectibles. Walls of posters, photos of Sperow and his clients, stacks of marvel comic books from the 60’s and a large wooden cabinet full of odds and ends collected over the years fill the space. Although his barbershop only has one chair, it is almost always filled by a client from the time he opens shop until closing. Sperow is not your average barber. At 84 years old, he has seen the evolution of the barbershop and barbershop culture over the years, but continues to cut hair the same way he did back in 1951. Tony’s “old school” approach to cutting hair differs greatly from the styles of more “up to date” shops. He likes to keep his hair cuts simple, but appreciates the trends that other barbers are implementing.

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“There’s a lot of different barbers, there’s a lot of classic barbers. These new barbers today, they cut beautiful hair, they cut a lot of lines in your hair, they put X’s and O’s, they put their names in it, and I just give a good old fashion hair cut.,” Sperow said.

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Although Sperow and Scranton’s styles of cutting hair differ from each other, they both view the barbershop in the same light; as a community and haven for people to gather and enjoy each other’s conversation and presence without the disturbance of the outside world.

“Being a barber means salvation to me,” Sperow said. “Meeting and talking to people is the most satisfying thing about being a barber.”

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