Saturday, May 27, 2006

SF State Commencement Day - students keep 'rockin' like Neil Young

One of the proudest days of the year for faculty members at SF State University, where I teach, is Commencement Day - the time when we formally acknowledge the hard work of our new graduates - the teachers, new 'rockers', new fighters for peace and social justice. The adrenaline from serving as a faculty marshal also helps me during the final grading week as I always struggle to grade the research papers turned in this past week and assess the work of my 220 or so students before this coming Friday.

SF State Graduation Highlights - [I liked Sac State Prof Duane Campbell's sober but inspiring speech to his graduating new teachers posted last week]
*over 8000 smiling graduates and their families and friends on a beautiful SF day - congratulations to my Asian American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Liberal Studies students and all of the new teachers from our College of Education!
*self-proclaimed rocker Neil Young asking students to consider a vision of peace when ever confronted with thoughts of war or human suffering. Young and his partner Pegi Young, co-founder of The Bridge School for young people with disabilities, received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees. Pegi said in her remarks that one of the mottos of the school is - Just Because People Don't Speak Don't Mean That They Don't Think. I am proud our university has recognized the courageous work of Neil and Pegi.

* Asian American Studies student activist and rapper Valerie Francisco's incredible commencement speech which called upon graudates to apply Paulo Friere's concept of humanization in their future work. More on Valerie and PACE [Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor].

From SF State's website on Valerie -
When Valerie Francisco began rapping years ago, she gave herself the stage name Hood Scholar. Now Francisco is the hood recipient for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and a fledgling scholar in sociology and Asian American studies.
Francisco, a native of Parañaque, Philippines, moved to the United States at age 9. She spent most of her adolescent years in Concord, in the predominantly Latino barrio of Monument. Her life experiences have shaped her academic interests.
"When you're growing up in poverty, not having anything, and everybody around you doesn't have adequate housing, I really saw -- as a sociologist -- the inequalities," said Francisco, who will also be the student speaker at Commencement.
Her community activism began at age 15 when she organized protests against Proposition 21, a California ballot initiative passed to increase punishment for gang-related activities. Francisco is also a founder and the mass campaign officer of babae, a San Francisco nonprofit that addresses the rights and welfare of Filipino women in the United States. As a scholar, Francisco studies immigrant women's experiences relative to global and local institutions. Francisco has been a participant in Career Opportunities in Research, a federally funded program that helps minority students become competitive applicants to doctoral programs in mental health, providing each of them with a $20,000 scholarship and faculty mentorships. This fall she enters the doctoral program in sociology at City University of New York. She plans to become a university professor and remain active in the Bay Area's Filipino community.
Francisco performs hip-hop music with Rhapsodistas, a collective comprised of four young Filipinas. Now known as Sho Shock, Francisco describes her style as "conscious and progressive but hyphy." Hyphy is a Bay Area-born hip-hop movement that is a combination of "hyper" and "fly."
"My art is a way to talk to people who wouldn't come to see me give a lecture," she said. "My people, my community and my family are most important to me. They are my bedrock."
-- Matt Itelson

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