To Be an American: Unpacking the Land of the Free

 

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Isabella Gonzalez Potter

McCarthy Fellow ’16

Isabella Potter served as a McCarthy Fellow this past summer working as an intern for Tony Thurmond, Chair of Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. The following post is an Op-Ed that was written as a part of McCarthy Fellow course, taken in conjunction with the 12-week fellowship. Isabella graduated in 2016 with a B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in Latin American Studies and is currently still working with Assembly member, Tony Thurmond.

 

I have been thinking a lot about separating the personal from the professional. But how can politics not be personal? How can my physical appearance or anyone else’s not be political within a system that has everything to do with the color of your skin? The neighborhood you were raised in. The family you belong to. The community that you come from.

In lieu of recent events (by events I mean murder) I have been spending a lot of time on Facebook, reading, digesting, attempting to process. Today one of my Facebook friends posted something that caught my attention and was receiving many comments; “…we are Americans before we are ethnic and racial groups.” My first thought was what type of kool aid is he drinking? He himself is a person of color and my intent here is not to call him out, but break down what this means to me. What this means on my timeline as I scroll through the hash tags, news articles and video clips of killing. The continual cries by myself and my friends who are scared for their life in this country. Who never really feel safe anymore because so many people who look like us are being killed everyday and you don’t want the next hash tag to be your name.

What does it mean to never really be free in a country that calls itself the land of the free? Living here in “America” (I mean the United States because everyone seems to have forgotten about Central and South America) undeniably awards us with privilege within this country. People have died to make this so, including of course Police Officers and other Armed Forces who fight and risk their lives everyday. What is missing from the dominant narrative is the story of people who risk their lives everyday by simply existing within a political structure that wasn’t made for them. It means fearing the people who are supposed to protect you. This NOT to say that I do not like police officers, or the law, but rather the fact that even when you comply you might end up shot 5 times because you are seen as a threat to the one who is pulling the trigger.

I am an American, yes. But, I am a young, brown woman born to Spanish-speaking immigrant parents who lives in America. I grew up in the America that legalized racial profiling in my hometown, banned Mexican American History at my high school, and that built a literal fence to keep out people who are seen as alien, including my family. Being an American in 2016 means you are your Ethnic group before you are a person, and that won’t change until people stop dying for the color of their skin.

 

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A Lesson from John Lewis and MARCH the Trilogy

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Ayah Mouhktar

 B.A. Media Studies ’18

Ayah is the new social media assistant for the McCarthy Center and worked on the co-sponsored speaker’s event with Congressman John Lewis on the campus of USF on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

 

John Lewis was not a big part of my life growing up, he was not my idol and truthfully, I did not know who he was outside from what I read online about him.

Now, John Lewis is one of the biggest influences I have in my life, and it only took him one night of speaking for 20 minutes to a crowd of 200 people for me to realize that. I did not know what I was missing before hearing his voice resonate to a crowd of people of all races, gender and socio-economic class.

I walked into the event not knowing what to expect. Would there be a ton of suit and tie high profile people looking for photo ops, or important donors for USF that we had to impress? And to my surprise the first person that greeted me was a 6th grader named Heaven who I mentored while working for Magic Zone, an afterschool program dedicated to aiding students in the community with homework.

Heaven reminded me of someone I wish I was when I was in 6th grade. Growing up in New Jersey I was nervous and anxious for the future and I kept that anxiety with me for a long time, I was afraid to speak in public, I was afraid to have people know how I was feeling and Heaven was the exact opposite. She knew when she wanted to be heard, she articulated her ideas with such force that whoever she was talking to would have to remain silent to fully grasp what she wanted to say. She was hopeful, bright, smart and funny. Every quality I desperately needed when I was growing up.

Heaven was excited to hear and see John Lewis, an opportunity she said was like “meeting a celebrity.” Her joy, the light in her eyes and the excitement in her tone of voice reassured me that the future generation is not a lost cause, they are not phone addicts who are addicted to social media, but they are young, hopeful individuals who are hungry for knowledge and Heaven was the prime example of that.

If I took anything away from the John Lewis event it was not a quote from John Lewis himself, but rather a quote from his co writer, Andrew Aydin.

There was a portion during the event where people in the crowd could write anonymous questions/comments, so I took a notecard, wrote a question I thought would never get answered and handed it back to the program director. Ironically, my question was the first to be answered, “When I was younger I was so afraid of not having my voice heard, and now, being a Black Muslim woman in America I’m just afraid. What do you do to not only conquer your fears but to make sure your voice is heard?”

When prompted with the question he replied with a quote that will resonate with me forever, “Be you as loud as you can. Make everyone know who you are. If they don’t like it, they will get out of the way.”

I will be me – and be as loud as I can, and I will do so knowing that I have the support from Andrew Aydin and John Lewis himself.

 

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Changing Transportation: My Path from USF to Sacramento

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Shannon Simonds
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs ’16
Transportation Planner, Caltrans

When I started at Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program at the University of San Francisco I just knew that I was interested in understanding the opportunities to mitigate climate change through urban transportation policies and planning. To be working for the state of California as a transportation planner at Caltrans just two years later as an alumna of the Urban Affairs program is still a little crazy to me; but also very exciting.

As a graduate student, I tailored my classes and research to focus on different aspects of transportation as it relates to the environment and urban spaces—and it worked! I get to work in the field I studied and get to learn something new every day. I currently work on the Rail Planning team developing the 2018 State Rail Plan. I am working to coordinate commuter, regional and intercity trains with freight and local bus routes to create a truly integrated, state-wide system. I like that I get to learn about a new area of transportation for me—rail while bringing in a new perspective that tries to incorporate climate sensitivities and equity into the rail planning processes.

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We’re Better Together

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Genesis Regalado
Privett Global Scholars
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Because teamwork makes the dream work. 

Being far from home and integrating yourself into a new culture is challenging and intimidating to say the least. It takes a lot of time and a lot of trust in the process–there’s no one moment when you are completely integrated or completely comfortable. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself because you’re in an environment in which it is okay to ask a trillion questions and be confused. I’d like to say that my transition has been flawless and brag about how good I am at picking up local lingo, but the truth is that living in Cochabamba has turned me into a confused extranjera who always has to ask for guidance, which is so different from the self-sufficient, U.S. me. I’d also like to say that I’ve done it all on my own, but again the truth is that I’ve had lots of help from my peers, the site team, my host family, friends and kind strangers.

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I work with Movimiento Sonrisa and my job is to go around the pediatric wards of the very run-down Hospital Viedma and play with the children and make them laugh. Loving them is not in my job description but I do it anyway. It’s impossible not to love every single one of them and want to cover them in bubble wrap and store them in my suitcase so they never get hurt again. There’s a certain magic to working with children. The power dynamic is interesting because you know you hold authority over them because you’re older, but they know that they hold a certain power over you because they’re little and sick. They have a way of opening you up and making you vulnerable that allows you to get out of your head and be your true self. I love working with them and I love reflecting on the way I act when I’m with them as opposed to the way I act in other settings. I d0n’t have any pictures with them because I have a real problem with volunteers who take photos with children for show. They aren’t a circus attraction, they’re tiny humans who would rather you interact with them than post about them on your summer blog.20160620_142026

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Read the rest of Genesis’s blog on the Privett Global Scholars blog.

MoPA Internship in Washington, D.C.

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Sarah Souza
Master of Public Affairs candidate ’17

As a candidate in the Master of Public Affairs program (MoPA), I am spending the summer completing my internship requirement in Washington, D.C. for theGROUP, an independent strategy, policy and communications firm. The supportive environment on campus helped me find this incredible opportunity. And, the hands-on internship requirement not only allows me to put into practice what I learned in the classroom, but it also gives me the chance to experience living in our nation’s capital!

After one year at MoPA, I felt confident and prepared to work at a prestigious firm. Courses such as Writing for Public Affairs and Research Methods honed my communication and analysis skills – pertinent to this internship. MoPA’s electives allow me to tailor my educational career to my interests and makes me a better intern because I have experience in several fields. Rigorous coursework with experienced professors, such as Ed Harrington teaching Urban Public Finance and Kathleen Koll teaching Immigrant Cities, replicated what the real world is like in public service by combining academia with practicality. Continue reading

2016 McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento

The McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento participants are immersing themselves in their internships and helping to make a difference from California’s Capitol!

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Isabella Gonzalez Potter: Assembly Member Thurmond’s office.

McCarthy Fellows 2016

Ivette Chow: CalHFA Single Family Lending within the Department of Housing and Community Development.

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