Why We Sat During The National Anthem

Graduation class of 2018

The graduating class of 2018, made up of Master of Arts in Urban Affairs students and Master of Public Affairs students, recently reflected on a decision they made during their graduation ceremony. Four of the students share their experiences here.

Jessica LindquistJessica Lindquist, Master of Public Affairs

A few days before graduation, my friend Amy mentioned to my cohort that last year the Urban Affairs students sat down for the National Anthem during the graduation ceremony to protest the racial injustice and oppression that plagues America. It took only moments for us to collectively decide we, both the Urban Affairs students and the Public Affairs students, would continue the tradition. I sat down to honor American heroes: the courageous nonviolent protesters who have at times risked everything to bring attention to the thousands of people who have lost their lives to police brutality and state violence. I sat down because as a white woman, society has endowed me with a tremendous amount of privilege that I did not earn. Toni Morrison said, “if you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” I sat down to be in solidarity with all those who are fighting for civil rights amid the most blatantly racist administration we have had in modern history. I sat down because through my own research I have seen how the financial services industry has been a major culprit of institutionalized racism in our county. What we did was a small symbolic action but I know it’s just the beginning. I’m eager to see what contributions my cohort makes to advance racial equity in our communities.

Bernice Rosas Belmonte 2

Bernice Rosas Belmonte, Master of Public Affairs

At one point after the National Anthem and midway through the graduation ceremony, a woman behind me leaned forward and asked why we sat down. “As a sign of protest,” I replied. “Yes, but why?” For a quick second, I hesitated not expecting her to ask another question. “Because we are protesting institutionalized racism and police violence. We are sitting because we are acknowledging that.” The woman said nothing and slid back in her seat. Yes, we were graduating today, but our degrees represent much more than a piece of paper. Our degrees represent two years of learning about economic, class, race and power struggles in our society and exploring solutions to these problems. We spent two years highlighting injustices and working towards solutions that can create a real, positive impact in our communities. We sat because we are non-conformist. We sat because each of us has seen society’s problems and have decided to dedicate our lives to work for the common good. We sat because this one action is just one of many actions we are going to take make a positive impact. We sat because we are in this together.

Amy Dundon 2Amy Dundon, Master of Urban Affairs

I sat during the national anthem because I am unwilling to accept or tolerate (let alone celebrate) the distraction of patriotism. I also sat because we, as a group, sat; I sat because my freedom is entirely contingent on the freedom of others (Lorde 1981). I sat to honor the lives risked and lost in crossing to get to this country; I sat out of love for those wrongfully relegated to silence, to detention, to death; I sat because Black lives matter. I sat in reverence for the 2,358 lives lost to police violence since the year I began graduate school (Tate, Jenkins and Rich 2018). I sat because I had to check that number this morning. I sat out of respect of others who have sat, knelt, raised fists before I even thought to remain seated. I sat to honor those that are disciplined, ridiculed, or met with violence for their own acts of protest; I sat in solidarity. I sat because it would have been dishonest to stand.

Briana Gonzalez 4

Bri Gonzalez, Master of Public Affairs

Our cohort had just spent the past two years learning about the racial, economic, and social injustices that plague people of color in America, so it was only fitting that we would sit during the anthem while we graduated from the institution that opened our eyes to these oppressions. We protested and will continue to protest, a country that marginalizes groups based on the color of their skin and the shallowness of their pockets. We protested because of the never-ending cycle of gun violence that kills hundreds of children and people of color each year, yet is ignored by our leaders so as to not upset the NRA and the Republican base. We protested because the groups who are being gunned down by the police are not even allowed to protest the atrocities they endure without facing repercussions. In Ferguson and Baltimore, they were called rioters and were met with more violence by the same police force that had just murdered members of their community. In the NFL, players will now be fined if they kneel for the anthem, a blatant display of oppressing black and brown men. We protested because the Second Amendment is deemed more valuable than American lives. There are many reasons why we protested, and each of us may have our own versions, but we all agree that our country cannot continue down this path. Our gesture might have been small, but it was done to stand in solidarity with those who are fighting against these injustices and it is when we are all in solidarity that change can reverberate across the nation.

Works Cited

Lorde, Audre. 1981. Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossing Press.

Tate, Julie, Jennifer Jenkins and Steven Rich. 2018. “2018 police shootings database: Fatal Force.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/police-shootings-2018/?utm_term=.41ecdc06633e

My Path to the 2017 Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award

Nichole Vasquez

Nicole Vasquez, Kinesiology ’17

2017 Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award Winner

The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good has been a formative part of my college experience here at USF! I am very grateful that I learned of the center my sophomore year of college. Since then, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Privett Global Scholar program, where I traveled to India and worked with an organization which focused on integrating people with disabilities into the school system. I also have served as an Advocate for Community Engagement, where I have been working with the incredible community partner, Family House. In each of these experiences, I have had the chance to be in community with folks from different walks of life. I have also had a chance to think critically about community-engaged work, and see that it often times is not a linear process. Post-graduation, I will be attending Creighton University as part of the Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program. I hope to carry on what I have learned through participation in the McCarthy Center programs in order to be a caring and compassionate occupational therapist. Thank you so much to the McCarthy Center for the wonderful work that you all do each day!

2nd Ave Move 1-26-16

Check out more of Nicole’s posts:

What About An Internship Abroad?

Future Advocate For Community Engagement

An Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) Graduates

Moore_graduation

Dylan Moore ’16
Advocate for Community Engagement

Over the past year, as an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) I’ve worked closely with the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in the Tenderloin neighborhood. As a part of this experience, I worked with a wonderful team of people to plan and implement the Fools annual community celebration, known as Oscard’s Feast. Though it operates as a fundraiser, the primary goal of the event is to come together as Fools and celebrate the community found in the Tenderloin (TL). About a week after the event, I was facilitating a reflection with service-learners from a Communication Studies course as well as with Carmen Barsody, one of the founders of the organization. As we reminisced on the success of the event, Abram Castaneda, one of the service-learners said something that made us all pause, smile and make the classic “mmm” sound that happens when someone in a reflection says something particularly profound. He spoke about the beauty of an event that invites people to “come in your complete imperfections”. If there was ever a summative moment of my experiences as an ACE, that was it. In just one short sentence this service-learner had captured what it means to work as an ACE, with the Leo T. McCarthy Center (LTMC), and with the Faithful Fools.

I began my undergraduate life in service as a Martín-Baró Scholar, working with the Raphael House in the Tenderloin. Through this partnership I served as a homework tutor for young students who were currently or had previously experienced homelessness. I was also fortunate enough to spend a year at the YMCA in Bayview Hunters Point. As a part of my work there I was a classroom assistant, helping students with their algebra homework (although frankly, more often than not, they were the ones teaching me about algebra).

Finally, here I am at the Faithful Fools. voter registrationMy service with the Fools has had me wearing multiple hats. There are times when I’ve helped register voters in the TL and times when my service involves simply being in community. Though my time as an ACE is ending, my journey with the McCarthy Center isn’t over yet. In just one short week I’ll be heading off to Sacramento as a McCarthy Fellow and continuing my journey of exploration.

As graduation grows closer, I’m left thinking about all of the things I have learned as an ACE. While I’m better at writing professional emails and planning reflections, any job of value will help me develop those skills. What makes being an ACE an exceptional and transformative job, is how it has shaped me as an agent of change. Over the past two years I have built incredible relationships, made amazing memories, and learned more about myself and the world than I ever thought I would. As a part of this learning process, I have unpacked and analyzed the structural and systemic issues that affect our community. I have explored my privilege and my marginalization. I have seen the ways nonprofits can fight against marginalization. More than anything though, I’ve learned how to celebrate communities in all of their vulnerabilities and strengths. Being an ACE has taught me that I don’t need to build up walls against my vulnerabilities, I need to bask in them. To share our flaws and imperfections and find common ground within them. Being an ACE has taught me how to grow, celebrate, and heal through vulnerability.

So here I am, in all of my imperfections, ready to take on the world as a McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento and continue celebrating the community that is the McCarthy Center.

(Dylan Moore is the 2016 valedictorian for the School of Arts and Sciences and award winner of the Priscilla A. Scotlan Award and the Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award)