Join our April Day of Action

Tamara

Tamara Walker is the Outreach Manager for the Buchanan Mall Initiative at Citizen Film, a non-profit documentary media organization and an Engage San Francisco community partner, based in the Western Addition.

On Saturday, April 14th, Citizen Film, Community Grows, the Rosa Parks Senior Center and a team of neighborhood volunteers will be rolling up our sleeves to plant, mulch, and clean up the gardens of the Buchanan Mall.

You may be wondering: what is a documentary media company doing organizing a volunteer garden day?

Since 2014, we’ve been working with residents of the Western Addition neighborhood, city agencies, and local non-profits to re-imagine the Buchanan Mall, a five-block park cutting through public housing near our office. Once unsafe and underused, the Buchanan Mall is becoming a connective point for the neighborhood, an example of unity and community storytelling.

As documentary filmmakers, we’ve often tackled social justice issues and used storytelling to advocate for equitable solutions to community problems. Creative placemaking — working to make a place better for all people who inhabit and use it — has been an exciting evolution of that practice. Through a process of collaborative documentary storytelling, the community arrived at a vision of what the park could be — a vision rooted in the collective memory of what the neighborhood once had been.

Residents have begun reclaiming ownership of their space by stewarding the community gardens along the Mall. We’ve partnered with Community Grows, the Rosa Parks Senior Center and Collective Impact to gather stories about the neighborhood’s history of growing food and feeding the community as a form of activism These gardens can do more than nourish the community; they are steps towards self-sufficiency and greater social justice.

The Western Addition was once a home and thriving cultural center for African-Americans, but the community remains scarred from urban renewal that has been repeatedly forced upon it since the 1950’s, displacing thousands of residents, shattering the local economy and engendering distrust. The films that we co-create with the community, the media and garden installations on the Mall, future murals, and media – these are all essential in keeping the community’s people, voices, and hopes front and center as another round of redevelopment looms. By co-creating films with local residents, and by actively soliciting and heeding their feedback, the community can take control of its own narrative.

Join us!

Buchanan Mall Day of Action: Saturday, April 14th 10am to 2pm RSVP here & please fill out the waiver form.

 

 

We Weren’t Born to Follow

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Trish Fontana was a former staffer for Leo T. McCarthy.  She has also worked for two California Lt. Governors, two Governors, two First Ladies and two State Senators. She continues to work in the State Capitol, currently for Senator Richard D. Roth, a retired Major Air Force General who represents Riverside.

This past weekend, I did what I do every Saturday morning.  I strapped on my running shoes, put on my favorite cap and plugged into my Apple Shuffle.  But this particular morning, I just couldn’t shake off the horrible news of the week.  The shootings, natural disasters, flu deaths and daily barrage of sexual harassment stories weighed heavily on my heart.

 And then Jon Bon Jovi’s powerful words penetrated my mind:

 “We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe.”

I started thinking about how do we hold onto what we believe in the face of so much sadness.  Sometimes there are just no answers.

I am proud to say that I am a public servant who works in the State Capitol.  Yes, that same Capitol building which has been overshadowed by the dark clouds of sexual harassment cases, corruption, and bribery.  But against all of that, I am still a big believer in the honor of public service.

It was over 30 years ago that I was a wide-eyed 19 year who at the age of 4 couldn’t speak a word of English when she started school.  I was fortunate to walk into the Office of Lt. Governor Leo T. McCarthy to begin an internship that would change my life forever.

Leo T. McCarthy, the T. stands for Tarcissus, a third-century Roman saint who worked on behalf of imprisoned Christians.  “Tarcissus got stoned to death for his efforts, McCarthy would say, and it reminded me of my days as Speaker.”

Now working in the Capitol can be extremely challenging but it can also be very rewarding. Leo McCarthy was a compassionate public servant who led by example that we should treat everyone with dignity and respect.

 He was passionate about advocating for seniors, the mentally ill and the poor but always with compassion, kindness, and ethics.  Sometimes his meetings could get highly charged and contentious but Leo McCarthy always tried to steer toward the road of higher reason.

I learned a phrase that has become my own personal mantra which is that “you should never mistake kindness for weakness.”

After retirement, he established the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, which is dedicated to inspiring and preparing students at the University of San Francisco to pursue lives and careers of ethical public service.

During my Capitol career, I have worked with many interns and Fellows who have gone on to pursue careers in public service.  One intern stands out and I will never forget him.

I met Joseph Schultz in 1997 when I was the intern coordinator for Lt. Governor Gray Davis.  Joseph was self-confident and had a strong commitment to public service for which he would later work in the Washington DC Governor’s Office.

We lost contact but one day I was standing on the first floor of the State Capitol when the elevator doors opened.  Out walked Joseph in his full Green Beret Captain uniform. I had no idea that he had enlisted and he just yelled my name and gave me the biggest hug.

I learned later that Joseph was killed in Afghanistan while serving his country during Operation Enduring Freedom where he was known for his leadership ability and steadfast friendship.  He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, the ultimate example of public service.

 Public service is the opportunity to make a difference.  It is putting the “we before me” in our daily lives.  Many interns have gone on to work with foster children, become teachers, coaches, attorneys, public officials, worked in public health and on environmental issues or joined the Peace Corps.

They are shining examples of what Leo McCarthy envisioned – people helping others for the common good.

And on that Saturday morning, Jon Bon Jovi continued singing and I followed right along:

“This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry,
This road was paved by the winds of change
Walking beside the guilty and the innocent
How will you raise your hand when they call your name?”

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Former staffers of Leo T. McCarthy from left to right: Ed Manning, Trish Fontana (author), Betsy Butler and Ted Toppin

2018 Brings Conversations

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This February, the McCarthy Center kicks off the inaugural season of a new speakers series, Conversations for the Common Good, co-presented with news media, POLITICO. The McCarthy Center Board and staff have been planning this series in conjunction with the 15th Anniversary of the Center celebrated this past November 9th at the Merchants Exchange Club where Mayor Art Agnos was honored with the first Leo T. McCarthy Award.

Conversations, envisioned as an annual signature series of speaking engagements, will bring local, regional and national figures to share their visions of the challenges of serving the public good. This year, the series invites leading candidates for California’s upcoming gubernatorial election in fall, 2018.

Entitled, The Race for the 2nd Most Important Office in the Country — Who Will be the Next Governor of California?, the series invites five top candidates (with others to be possibly added) including four Democrats and one Republican.

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 Join us in meeting California’s gubernatorial candidates on the Hilltop campus in McLaren Conference Center. Free limited seating is available. Register to attend here.

Questions For John Chiang

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California State Treasurer John Chiang will be our fifth speaker to participate in Conversations for the Common Good, a new speaker’s series that invites inclusive voices to the challenge of serving the public good. Join us in meeting California’s Treasurer, John Chiang and POLITICO’s Carla Marinucci in conversations on Thursday, March 22nd, 5:00 PM on campus at USF’s McLaren Conference Center.

John Chiang has never been one to chase the spotlight, Chiang has been getting the job done throughout every successive tier of public service. He was first elected to office in 1998, as a member of the Board of Equalization. In 2006, California voters elected Chiang to serve as the State’s Controller for three terms. As Controller, Chiang managed the state’s finances throughout the Great Recession and prevented the state’s credit rating from falling into junk status. Chiang also reformed the pension system, and implemented programs to increase the state’s transparency and accountability to the public. In 2014, Chiang was elected as the State’s Treasurer, where he sold bonds, invested state funds, and managed California’s growing cash reserves. Chiang has seen it all throughout his two decades of public service, from financial deficits and budget cuts to California boasting the sixth largest economy in the world, and he now he is running for the state’s highest office, California Governor.

Chiang describes himself as the only candidate who understands how to finance the programs Californians want, which would lead to ideas becoming a reality rather than a talking point. Chiang’s priorities as governor would be creating more affordable housing, investing in the states K – 12 and University systems, and preventing sexual harassment and assault. John Chiang asserts that he is a fiscally responsible leader and as Governor, he promises to make California accessible and affordable for families who dream of a better future.

Questions To Ask:

  • Proposition 13 has limited a city’s ability to fund services. What are the biggest roadblocks to reforming Proposition 13, and how would you overcome those barriers?
  • Divisions exist between California’s inland and coastal communities. Politicians spar over taxes, environmental regulations, and poverty reforms. How would you bridge the existing divides in California as Governor?
  • You have two decades of experience managing the state’s finances. How would someone who has been all about the numbers in California, apply those skills to address the social issues throughout the state?
  • Many middle-class Californians are struggling to purchase homes, send their children to college, and maintain a quality standard of living. What is your agenda to help our struggling families?
  • The impacts of climate change will compound throughout the twenty-first century,  and California will experience harsher droughts as a result. What is your plan to address future water shortages?
  • Many seniors and retired adults live on fixed incomes; every year the cost of food, utilities, services, and housing increase, but their incomes stay flat. How will you address the needs of aging Californians?

This post was written by Justin Balenzuela, M.A. Urban Affairs ’18. Justin will be introducing Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday, March 22nd.

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How Cobb Elementary Transformed Me

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Valeria Imendia, International Studies’18

I still remember receiving an email about a literacy internship opportunity during the fall semester of my junior year and thinking it would be a great chance for me to expand my experiences in education. As a student in the Dual Degree Program for Teacher Preparation, I decided to apply to be a literacy intern through Engage San Francisco but little did I know I would be embarking on an experience of a lifetime. I am now a senior, about to graduate this coming May, and I continue to learn so much about myself and my passion for teaching with every chance I get to walk the halls of Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School.

From my very first day of the internship, I was met with nothing but kindness and support. My first impression of the school was more than I could have hoped for, and it continues to be a place of unique learning experiences for me. For one, every day at Cobb is different—whether it is because I have to work with new students and create activities for them on my own or because unexpected situations arise where I have to provide care for students. I first went in thinking of myself as a tutor for my students, but it was not long after I started my work there that I realized this job required a lot more than just academics. Every single student I have had the privilege to work with at this school has sparked so much passion for teaching within me, and I continue to think about them in everything I do as I pursue my teaching credential.

Alongside my students, my mentor at the school and my internship supervisor always go above and beyond to ensure that as interns we are being supported and guided in the best way possible. It has been thanks to their warmth and guidance that I have been able to feel like I have agency in my position as an intern. From day one, I have felt like I am a part of the school community and that is because I have been given the tools and the trust to bring my perspective into the work I do with my students. Hence, this program has been crucial in my journey as a future educator because it has shown me first-hand that there is a lot of work to be done in the classroom. It has likewise shown me in practice what my responsibility as a woman of color going into this profession looks like in order to ensure I am doing my best to advocate for our youth. My students have therefore opened up new possibilities within me and they have taken me by the hand and walked me through their life experiences and their passions, which is something that will be forever engraved in my heart. I am honored and humbled to walk the halls of Cobb and get hugs from students I have not even worked with yet and to get high-fives from the older kids who normally like to tell me they are “too cool” for doing reading activities with Miss Valeria. My students give me so much joy with all their unique ways of showing me love and affection, and I have come to understand that with this care also comes responsibility. I strive to honor these demonstrations of trust by making sure to always keep my students and their rich knowledge and individuality at the forefront of my teaching practices.

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My time at Cobb has helped transform me in only the best way. I have been challenged by difficult situations; I have been put to the test as I have had to come up with solutions without much time to prepare, and I have most importantly been shown the most genuine and pure love from my students. Being at Cobb and experiencing the day-to-day routines and witnessing what my students go through both as students and as individuals with their own interests and stories has allowed me to step back and think about the privileges I hold in that space and also as I think about my own future classroom. My students have taught me to be humble and to understand that this work is in the service of every single person in my classroom, particularly of those whose voices have historically been left out. My students—all of whom are not older than eleven—have taught me far more than I could hope to learn from a textbook. I am grateful to have wonderful teachers who push my thinking and hold me to high standards, yet it is my students at Cobb who push me even further and keep me accountable in everything I do.

I continue to be grateful for every single day that I get to be a part of this literacy program because it means I am being challenged to question the ways I engage with this work in education. Regardless of the official expectations of my position or of any titles, this work goes beyond what can be seen as purely academic at a surface level. This opportunity has allowed me to immerse myself in hands-on experiences in teaching and given me a new sense of purpose. I have wanted to go into the teaching profession because I believe our youth has invaluable lessons to teach us and because they deserve to know that their voices matter. I know that this work is difficult, but we owe it to our students to show up for them and allow them to be visible in every way that makes them who they are in order to disrupt practices that have silenced much of our youth—particularly our youth of color— for far too long. This internship has therefore allowed me to work on the skills that make this ideal a reality and I am humbled to be able to experience this with the wonderful mentors I have gained and the students that make this journey worthwhile. This journey is a constant learning experience and I am grateful I got that email and decided to apply all those months ago because now I have a new community that has given me the best gifts: a renewed sense of purpose and a greater love for teaching.

 

The Paths of Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars

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The Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars (EMDS) is a living-learning community that explores issues of diversity, inequality, social justice, and social change. Named after the late Esther Madríz, beloved USF professor of sociology who embodied the Ignatian ideals of education of the whole person as a means toward social justice, Esther Madríz Diversity Scholars examine and challenge these boundaries to gain a fuller understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The program approaches hip-hop through sociological frameworks to explore the role of poverty, globalization, immigration, racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, incarceration, and urban marginality. During winter break students participate in a transborder travel experience (previous destinations include: Cuba, New York City, Marseille, and more) to gain new perspectives on social problems and their solutions.

Below are excerpts from some of the EMDS Cohort 12’s reflections on their experience during fall and winter of this year:

Natalie Mills, Kinesiology ’20

We started our curriculum with learning about the sociology of hip-hop. I grew up with my papa rapping, “I said a hip-hop, hippie to the hippie, the hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop,” to me and my brother, making us giggle. Through the EMDS program, I soon discovered that songs like “Rapper’s Delight” were pivotal points in the history of hip-hop. We have learned about the influences from Barbados and Jamaica, and how Afrika Bambatta turned the practices of yard parties into one of the integral elements of hip-hop: djing. The history and art of the Bronx that emerged from the struggle of black and brown folks has inspired me. I also learned about the politics surrounding the art of graffiti, which opened my eyes to government’s systematic oppression of youth of color.  The art of hip-hop can be explained as a means of resistance and a loud voice of the struggle.

Chaniece Jefferson, Art History ’19

One particular reading, Reflection in Service Learning: Making Meaning in Experience, helped me and my fellow students begin a dialogue about cultural competence. My cohort has provided a space for me to see things in new perspectives and challenge ideas. An issue we have discussed thoroughly is around gentrification, and how we as college students can be seen as gentrifiers ourselves in San Francisco. One memorable event that I was able to attend was a showing of the documentary film Dolores We had the honor and privilege of meeting Dolores Huerta herself, and it was a life-changing experience. Meeting someone who has sacrificed so much for her activism shifted my way of thinking and made rethink the roles I’m in and how I could become more like her. Most importantly, it made me rethink about what I would like to do with my college education and what I want to do in life.

Isaac Baron, Politics ’20

For my community work, I’ve had the privilege of working with San Francisco Rising on the College for All campaign. This has been an experience that I felt allowed me to recognize the level of privilege I have as a student pursuing higher education. It has made me reflect on my experience back home in Santa Barbara, and the economic disparity and how that parallels the educational disparity as well. Many of the people I grew up with either did not finish high school or did not pursue an education beyond it, so the idea of holding an internship with a community organization while attending an institution of higher learning never really crossed my mind growing up. In this way, I feel that the program has allowed me to cross a border set in an economic class that I never thought I would cross. The campaign that we’re working on through San Francisco Rising would make public education through California public colleges and universities free by establishing a grant funded by a tax that would cover tuition costs for students. This would make higher education more accessible to those who see their personal economic situation as a barrier. 

Alegra Bauder, Fine Arts ’20

The experience we had traveling to New York and to Washington D.C. is one that I will always cherish. Meeting and engaging with all of the people and organizations was a privilege and enhanced what we had learned over the semester. At Howard University and One D.C., I saw how gentrification and urban renewal affects other communities outside of San Francisco. In New York, and especially in the Bronx, seeing everything we had learned about the culture and world of hip-hop came to life, and it was incredible. I think that going to different boroughs and communities within the city helped me to fully grasp the long-term effects of what we had studied, such as planned shrinkage and benign neglect. Seeing it first hand, it’s obvious that the injustices that occurred in neighborhoods there are still evident today. By engaging with other communities, my EMDS cohort has begun to better understand our own communities in San Francisco.

Check out the slideshow from Cohort 12’s trip to New York and Washington, D.C.:

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