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.

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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.

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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

Preview the 2018 Capstone Symposium

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The University of San Francisco Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Master of Public Affairs invites you to join us for the 2018 graduating classes’ capstone presentations on May 14th and May 15th.  The capstone project is the final requirement for the completion of their master’s degree and includes a well-researched analytical paper that applies the knowledge, skills, and methods of the program, in addition to an oral presentation. We are incredibly proud of our graduate students and believe their research will inspire positive changes for the common good.

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Rebecca Charlton, PublicAffairs ’18

That’s Not Our Job: Individualism and State Responsibility After Welfare Reform

In 1996 President Bill Clinton overhauled our nation’s welfare system with drastic spending cuts and new work requirements. This capstone will explore the legislation’s cultural framework, punitive impact on low-income women, and offer a policy re-write to lift single mothers out of poverty.

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Maya Chupkov, Public Affairs ’18

Care and Cash: Addressing San Francisco’s Homelessness Crisis With A Basic Income

Maya is exploring the intersection between basic income and preventing homelessness in San Francisco. She situates her research with a case study of Care Not Cash, a measure passed in 2002 that altered the homeless delivery system. She performs an in-depth analysis of San Francisco’s current homelessness problem, including the preventive strategies that could be strengthened with cash assistance models.

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Amy Dundon, Urban Affairs ’18

Finding “Free City”

Finding “Free City” retraces the story of the City College of San Francisco, a public two-year community college, through its recent troubles and eventual resilience. In the span of five years, the college went from nearly closing its doors to offering classes free of charge to San Francisco residents. The research offers a critical analysis of the recent historical educational and economic policies that have shaped City College. Through the frame of class struggle, Finding “Free City” grants insight into community building and labor union organizing, questions normative economic systems, and evokes a new interpretation of the right to the city.

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Leslie Gordon, Urban Affairs ’18

Building a Better Map: Imagining Racial Equity in Oakland

Leslie’s research investigates visions of racial equity among institutional and grassroots actors who have a role in shaping Oakland’s urban space. As the city of Oakland works to codify and institutionalize racial equity through several initiatives, including the formation of the Department of Race and Equity and a new downtown planning process, how do we imagine a racially equitable Oakland? How would such a city look, feel, and function?

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Nicholas Large, Public Affairs ’18 

Fierce Landmarking: Representation and the Queering of Political Power

This capstone examines place-based organizing for the LGBT community in San Francisco. Comparing contemporary memorializations like the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District and the Harvey Milk SFO Terminal to the Stonewall Inn, it offers a look into the movement behind the places. Operating under a context of gentrification, this capstone asks if it is the story or the place that matters, and what the implications of each are for a rapidly changing community fighting for equity.

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Briana Gonzalez, Public Affairs ’18 

The Invisible Population: Providing Family Services for Single Student-Mothers at USF

Briana’s capstone is on the growing population of single student mothers in academia. She conducts a comparative analysis of several higher education institutions, highlighting the family services they provide. Briana focuses on the University of San Francisco to raise awareness of the lack of family resources on its campus. In her capstone, she demonstrates why USF can no longer ignore this group of students and how the university can implement family resources of its own to assist single mothers in achieving academic success.

Bridget Mahoney, Public Affairs ’18 Rebecca+Bridget+Nolizwe copy (2)

Taking the Initiative: Are Ballot Measures Failing SF’s Homeless Crisis?

Through an analysis of the 2016 San Francisco Proposition Q campaign, this paper will analyze if the ballot measure/ initiative process is the best way to tackle homelessness. In doing so, I will explore why members of the Board of Supervisors continue to use the ballot instead of other legislative processes to correct this major issue.

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Bernice Rosas Belmonte. Public Affairs ’18

Room at the Table: Inviting Latino Familial Support into the Discussion of College Access

Bernice’s research examines modes of encouraging and supporting Latinx first-generation college student families, specifically in Stockton area high schools. Her findings highlight the necessity of bringing Latino families into the conversation of college access in order to further first-generation college students’ higher education goals.

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Justin Balenzuela, Urban Affairs ’18 

Rounding Up Outlaw In-Laws

San Francisco is experiencing an economic boom that’s driving population growth and housing costs. As pressure builds, the accessibility of affordable housing options is constrained, and options are reduced to illegal or substandard housing conditions. Justin’ research focused on in-law units, which can be illegal and include substandard housing conditions, and addressing the conundrum of bringing units up to code without affecting tenants. His goal is to improve unit safety by encouraging the legalization of illegal in-laws, all while preventing the displacement of existing tenants while units undergo renovations.

Denise Garcia

Denise Garcia, Urban Affairs ’18

Just Transit: Governing Sustainability in Los Angeles

As more cities experience the detrimental impacts of climate change, the need for sustainable planning implementation increases. Throughout various cities, regions, and the state, sustainability plans have been developed and implemented, but questions remain as to whether their approach or implementation will have the desired mitigating impacts. Drawing from an equitable framework, this paper includes a comparison analysis to critique current sustainability plans developed from 3 different levels of governance.

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Aaron Gordon, Public Affairs ’18 

Do Tech Workers Care About San Francisco? Analyzing Political Engagement

Over the past decade, there have been tensions between the tech Industry and long-term residents of San Francisco. Many people are concerned with the influence that large tech companies have on local politics. But what effect is the average tech worker having on San Francisco politics? This study aims to answer that question.

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Erika Sandberg, Public Affairs ’18 

The Secret Door: Transparency and Privacy in the California Juvenile Justice System

Erika’s research addresses the imbalance between transparency and privacy in the California juvenile justice system, and the effects this heightening of opacity have on judicial and governmental accountability. The rationales for increased privacy are rehabilitation and avoidance of youth stigmatization, yet decades of legislative enactments suggest a shift towards more punitive measures. This research will propose recommendations to optimize the balance between the two competing concepts while keeping the privacy of youths intact, because without insight, who are we really protecting? The children or the institution?

Jessica Lindquist

Jessica Lindquist, Public Affairs ’18 

Protecting San Francisco Residents From The Wolves of Wall Street: A Case Study

In response to the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal agency responsible for protecting consumers from abusive, deceptive and predatory practices of the financial services industry. The CFPB’s consumer complaint database has been an important resource for the American public for the past seven years. However, the Trump administration has declared its intentions to remove the database from public view, an action lobbied for by the financial services industry. Jessica conducts the first deep data analysis of the public complaints filed to the CFPB Consumer Complaint database by San Francisco residents. Her case study highlights how consumer financial harms are a citywide problem: San Franciscans living at every income level and in every part of the city are struggling to resolve their financial issues with the wolves of Wall Street, the financial services industry.

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Ceaundra Thomas, Urban Affairs ’18 

Reframing Deficit Theories about Black Boys in Oakland Schools

Deficit oriented theories have been used in the United States education system as a means of justifying the disparities we see amongst gender and racial groups, specifically Black boys. Ceaundra’s capstone focuses on how these deficit theories can be reframed to more accurately capture the root of these disparities. Over time, systematic barriers have presented a multitude of obstacles that hinder people of color from receiving the same quality of education as their white peers. By focusing on the African American Male Achievement program implemented by Oakland Unified School District, she antagonizes the master narrative of Black boys underperforming because of their culture, and conceptualize ways that the education system can better serve Black boys.

Reflecting On 2017

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Professor David Donahue, Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Sankofa, the African word that means we need to know and understand our past to head intelligently into our future.  Sankofa is usually symbolized by a bird whose feet are moving forward but whose head is looking back.  Sankofa is an apt metaphor for the McCarthy Center as we head to the end of 2017.  This year marks our 15th anniversary.  It also marks a year of strategic planning to chart the course for the next five years.  

High-Res-Sankofa

As with Sankofa, there is much wisdom in the McCarthy Center’s past that can inform what we value: integrity, knowledge, and service.  Recently, we have been conducting oral history interviews with some of the people who knew Leo McCarthy well. Over and over, we hear about Leo’s humanity, his compassion for those who were marginalized by society, and his commitment to doing what is right. At our 15th anniversary celebration on November 9, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi described Leo as a person who could see the “divinity” in everyone.  If only this generosity of spirit were the norm in politics now.  In the meantime, it animates the kind of community we create in our programs at the Center.

Leo’s values speak to us as we look ahead.  We began this new school year with a sense of heaviness and anxiety as racism and white supremacy, which have always been part of the history of this nation, became especially visible and were given permission to manifest by our nation’s president. That heaviness has as women have come forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment, including by our elected officials.

As 2017 ends, we are resolved to engage for racial, gender, and other forms of justice.  Our strategic planning process will give us direction toward those goals as we support students eager to engage in their community and in political life.  We are developing a new program for next year to connect USF students with community organizers and advocacy organizations.  We hope to engage students in city government as we continue to recruit students for state and national government internships.  Since the start of the fall, we have registered over 800 USF students as new voters who are ready to make their voices heard.  Early in 2018, we will launch our gubernatorial speakers series, bringing candidates for the “second most important office in the nation” to campus so they can engage with students, staff, and faculty.

We are eager to hear your ideas about what you see as strategic directions for the McCarthy Center.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with us any time.  Our efforts are stronger when they reflect a collective vision.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section here or email ddonahue@usfca.edu

Resiliency – as an Act of Political Welfare

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 Nolizwe Nondabula, Youth Health Alliance Program Coordinator

   Engage San Francisco, USF Campus-Community Partnership

 

Reflecting back on my journey with USF’s Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program, I definitely did not see myself continuing a relationship with the Leo T. McCarthy Center after graduation in Spring of this year. My first year in the program was a critical time as the Movement for Black Lives gained momentum and the conversation between police and state violence on Black people made national headlines. My focus as a graduate student was on racial justice, which meant taking classes with an emphasis on racial policies, interning at Race Forward, and working with the Brown Boi Project and PolicyLink.

When I wasn’t in the classroom or in the office, I was on the bus to Ferguson, waking up Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf, and shutting down the Bay Bridge. I was angry and determined to interrupt business as usual until folks knew that all Black Lives Matter.
And while my body told me to slow down, I refused to listen. The urgency I felt from the movement told me to find a way to balance my activism life with my academic life. And though I carried the magic of my ancestors, I soon realized that I also carried the weight of those that came before me.

As I began my last year of grad school, I burned out…hard. My anxiety was at an all-time high, I was tired of being tired, and the desensitization of Black death made it harder for me to attend class, go to work, or get out of bed.

Through the guidance and support of my tribe, I made appointments to see my therapist (and stuck with it) and I thus began to unpack my personal journey around mental health and trauma. This journey is not easy but as a Black Queer Woman living in the United States, it’s necessary. Said best by Audre Lorde, womanist, writer and civil activist,  “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political welfare.”

I believe that we will win this fight for equality, but we need the presence of everyone in the movement to do so. So what happens if, as another tactic, we focus on the resiliency of our communities? Both individually and collectively? In pursuit of my own healing, I’ve recognized my need to lean into the discomfort and stigmatization around trauma so that I can plant my seeds of affirmations and self-love.

So when I was told about the position of the Youth Health Alliance Program Coordinator as part of USF’s Engage San Francisco Campus-Community Partnership, I felt like I was planting another seed towards this continuous journey. Engage San Francisco is very hyper-local in its focus and is asset-based in its philosophy so I have had the privilege of witnessing community magic bask from within, while building relationships with different stakeholders. I’m honored to be a part of spaces where the collective passion and eagerness serves as the foundation to produce community-identified goals in the Western Addition.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.23.12 AM.png

Within my position, my focus is on the emotional well-being of Western Addition youth. I work closely with Western Addition service providers, community members, city agencies and USF staff and faculty in crafting a shared vision of behavioral health. Last week, Engage San Francisco, in partnership with Rhonda Magee, USF Professor of Law with a Social Justice focus, started a 7-week course on Mindfulness and Compassion Based Skills for Stress Management. Classes are free and open to Western Service Providers and community members. And if the amount of vulnerability I’ve already seen is any indication of what’s to come, then I can only imagine how transformative this course will be for those enrolled.

I’m grateful to be a part of the conversation on youth wellness in the Western Addition. I look forward to learning from existing community partnerships while holding on to the fact that we are our ancestor’s wildest dreams. Because, in the end, we are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.

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