Our culture of resistance: Dismantle institutional racism at City College now

Members of the Bay View staff, the CCSF Collective, community members and candidate for City College Board of Trustees Anita Martinez gathered at Third and Palou in the Bayview to celebrate cross-cultural collaboration in fighting against the privatization and shrinkage of City College and for resources for CCSF’s Black students. Shown in the photo are CCSF community involved in organizing, international solidarity efforts, and art activism, including Michael Adams (CCSF Collective), Teresa Aliesya (CCSF PUSO), Harry Bernstein (CCSF HEAT), Laura Cohen (multi-disciplinary artist), Marcos Cruz (CCSF PUSO), Win-Mon Kyi (CCSF PUSO), Mica Jarmel-Schneider (CCSF PUSO), Anita Martinez (CCSF trustee candidate), Jess Nguyen (CCSF Collective), Shawn Purcell-Davenport (former CCSF student), Xianna Rodriguez (CCSF Collective), Leslie Simon (CCSF faculty), Stephanie Woodford (jazz musician), Jennifer Yin (CCSF The Guardsman) and David Horowitz (former CCSF Guardsman journalist). – Photo: David Horowitz

Y’all come! We’re ‘Celebrating Bayview Hunters Point’ – a virtual fundraiser for the Bay View – on Friday, Nov. 20, 6-8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 21, 1-3 p.m., co-sponsored by SF Bay View and El Tecolote

by Eira Kien, Consistent Resistance Coordinator, CCSF Collective Founder 

On Friday, Oct. 23, City College of San Francisco (CCSF) student artists from CCSF Black Student Union (BSU) and CCSF Collective organized Consistent Resistance, an art protest and show at Fillmore Street Cafe. Our theme focused on Black liberation through intercultural solidarity, with collaborators who have long been addressing various systems of oppression through their grassroots organizing and art. 

Our program was replete with resistance fighters, all of whom represent the pillars of education, health, housing, justice, abolition, liberation journalism and the arts. In our sphere of education, we are holding the CCSF Board of Trustees accountable for perpetuating institutional racism through their blatant neglect of providing resources for Black students and shrinking the African American Studies Department – all this is just barely hitting the surface when it comes to their mismanagement. 

We are a group of art activists who are done with a board and administration that ignore the voices of marginalized students. We want immediate action, just like our speakers do, including: Black and Latinx midwife Asmara Gebre, striking to rid the San Francisco General Hospital of sheriffs, Save Midtown’s relentless battle for equity ownership and housing rights and the Party for Socialism and Liberation spearheading the #CancelTheRent campaign. 

We want immediate action, just like the family members who lost their loved ones due to police brutality and the prison industrial complex: Addie Kitchen, from Justice 4 Steven Taylor, who is fighting to bring justice for her grandson, and Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa, from Justice 4 Sean, demanding justice for their brother. 

Just like musicians the Curtis Family C-Notes nourishing families with food and song, Barnzilla and Canal Kn!ght decrying the violence happening to Black communities while cultivating hope for dismantling systems through consistent resistance. 

Just like Comrade Malik putting the power of words into action through the liberation journalism of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper and revealing what is behind the curtains in San Francisco and in prisons across the country. 

Public education is getting privatized, with the California Community College System’s “Student Centered Funding Formula” contributing to the shrinkage and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students losing support.

We want new trustees on the College Board who will create change when elected. We do not want Tom Temprano or Shanell Williams to be rewarded for their performative campaigns and indifferent track record. 

In our team, those making change include Black Student Union Co-Coordinator Analeigh Fulgham, CCSF Collective members Michael Adams and Jess Nguyen, and CCSF students Stephanie Woodford and Natalia Sucher. We want the Black Student Union and Affirmative Action Task Force demands fulfilled and Dr. Ramona Coates to be reinstated as the African American Studies Department chair now!

On Oct. 22, the Board of Trustees placed a hold on plans for the Student Success Center design, which is meant to house all student resources in one place. So, what does it imply when neither an African American Resource Center nor a Women’s Resource Center is included in a space dedicated towards student success? 

What does it mean when Dr. Ramona Coates – who designed a statistics course with a Latinx lens that demonstrated intercultural solidarity in education between the AFAM Department and Latin American and Latino/a Studies – is forced to choose between that course existing and keeping her position as department chair? 

What does it mean when the African American Resource Center only has enough funding for one student worker, no windows, no computers, expired food, is listed as a food pantry site and is not even on the campus map? Or, as AFAM Department Student Ambassador Keli Lord shared, when the African American Studies courses are offered once per week in large time slots that are not doable for working students or students with families? 

What power dynamics are at play in the administration if Jill Yee, dean of the School of  Social Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Ethnic Studies, and Social Justice. is not protecting these positions, going so far as to ridicule Dr. Coates’ loss, as stated in the Affirmative Action Task Force’s open letter? 

If these patterns keep happening, where academics and resources are limited and administration is power-tripping – it happens with the board’s approval. 

The board has not listened to the stakeholders. The Black Student Union was not reached out to by any of the trustees before trustee elections. Only after the BSU came up with their demands and the CCSF community voiced their concerns, only then did the trustees finally reach out to them. 

As dismaying as it is to understand that the trustees will only listen through public pressure, I am writing to further incite the community to not just pay attention to what the CCSF trustees are doing and push for actions, but to also recognize how this is tied into the school-to-prison pipeline. 

One of the factors contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline occurs when there are fewer resources available for vulnerable communities. So far, CCSF’s Southeast Campus in Bayview had no classes last semester; the CCSF Evans Campus, also in Bayview, is known for its trades courses but will shrink if the CCSF Aircraft Technicians Maintenance program is relocated there. 

I believe, as do many, that with collective power, we can stop letting the people at the top get away with pushing people down to the bottom.

An entire campus dedicated to the arts, CCSF Fort Mason, was shut down. CCSF Civic Center, serving the Tenderloin and surrounding areas, faces the same threat. The Older Adults program was cut by 90 percent; non-credit ESL by 20 percent. 

In 2019, the Ethnic Studies and Social Justice course was targeted for class cuts, but due to student organizing it managed to stay safe – for now. And, as already shared, resources are limited, if not totally disregarded. In other words: CCSF is getting downsized, with its real estate being sold to line the pockets of corporations. 

There is something at play here. Public education is getting privatized, with the California Community College System’s “Student Centered Funding Formula” contributing to the shrinkage and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students losing support. In the current climate, rife with transformative justice and “F12” sentiments, where we are through with the nefarious prison-industrial complex and are taking steps towards abolition, we must protect an irrefutable resource: Education, our most powerful tool. 

Community colleges can be a microcosm of pure potential. They can be a mirror for how society can be, as we push for living wages for Black students as a form of reparations, resources, free education, housing and more. Everyone involved in the Consistent Resistance art protest highlighted issues visible at CCSF. 

There are BIPOC mothers and students facing housing insecurity – students like Alex Nieto, whose life was lost due to police violence. There are student journalists from the Guardsman or accounts like CCSF Student Says sharing information to educate the public. 

Anita Martinez, on the left, is the only trustee candidate endorsed by CCSF Collective, a group of students fighting to keep City College anti-racist, unburdened by corporate interests and culturally inclusive. Bay View editors Malik Washington and Nube Brown are at center and CCSF Collective organizer, student advocate and article author Eira Kein is on the right. – Photo: David Horowitz

And, as I write, I have to emphasize that we are not only fighting the issues – we are fighting for our beliefs. I believe, as do many, that with collective power, we can stop letting the people at the top get away with pushing people down to the bottom. 

Intercultural solidarity actions centering those most impacted are integral. We can keep building off of one another in the face of class cuts, campus closures and capitalist systems motivated off profit while we, especially the BIPOC community, reclaim the narrative. We can set the stage for ongoing collaborative efforts at an organizing level. 

As we build our culture of resistance, learning from our predecessors and peers, we also invite openness: Anyone can be a part of this, at any time. On Friday, Nov. 20, 6-8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 21, 1-3 p.m., San Francisco Bay View and El Tecolote will produce a virtual fundraiser called Celebrating Bayview Hunters Point, where the diversity of the neighborhood is showcased through speakers and art. You’re all invited; the Zoom link is: https://zoom.us/j/98145398447?pwd=eDllS1FISnpXOTkyUXRjTU1pWXRpdz09. Come join us as we launch into a series of creating change!

Note: Please vote for Anita Martinez for CCSF Trustee! She is the only candidate who we fully endorse, who has been on the ground with student organizers and who has community college experience. She is not interested in using the trustee position as a political stepping stone.

Eira Kien is a Vietnamese-Chinese American art activist. She is passionate about ending domestic violence, supporting her Asian American community, abolition and liberation efforts. She describes herself as a beginner driven by earnesty. Contact her at kien.eira@gmail.com