The Most Important Issue of Our Time: Save City College of San Francisco!
Hola Friends, My name is Benjamin Bac Sierra, and it is my pleasure to greet you. I am your homeboy professor from City College of San Francisco, the most important college on planet Earth. I say this with a straight face; no offence to any other community college, but CCSF is the most important community college in the United States and thus the world. For the past dozen years it has been my blessing to serve and guide young minds, but it has really been I who have been empowered most, for it is through the students’ intellect and desires that I have been pushed to be all of who I am.
Allow me to introduce myself, the real me who is more than just an English instructor. I was born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission and Cortland areas, two districts that have been heavily gentrified since I grew up there. I attended many schools in San Francisco but basically stopped my formal education by the seventh grade. When I was seventeen, knowing that I was headed for prison or death, I made a decision to leave the varrio and join the United States Marine Corps. Because I was a minor, my mother had to sign the papers to get me in. After serving my four years as an infantryman machine-gunner who participated in front line combat during the Persian Gulf War, I began my college studies at City College of San Francisco.
Without City and all their excellent instruction and freedom, I would not be speaking to you today. With open arms, City embraced me and everyone else I knew. City always believed in me and propelled me forward. With their faith, I marched on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at U.C. Berkeley, a teaching credential and Master’s at San Francisco State University, and a Juris Doctor degree at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Once I graduated from law school, City College offered me full-time employment, and I have since had the time of my life leading and learning from our students.
I am not a politician nor am I indebted to anyone else for my words. I hold no office that impedes my speech. I have been trained by what many consider the best institutions in the universe, and I am specifically referring to City College of San Francisco!
On July 3, 2013, under cover of darkness, on the emptiest day of the entire year, during the summer when no faculty or students are really around, the Accrediting Commission for Junior Colleges stripped internationally acclaimed City College of its accreditation. For City College this is a death sentence. For over a year there have been forces planning to shut down City College’s doors. In 2012 the Accrediting Commission penalized City with its ultimate sanction, the threat of shut down. City College rose to its feet and did more than what was expected of them. They raised student achievements and also filled their coffers with multi-millions of dollars that 73 percent of San Franciscans voted for to gift to the college. All faculty and personnel accepted massive pay cuts, yet no matter what City College did, using negotiation, logic, or prayers, it was not good enough. City College has been blatantly swindled to failure, which is a bold in your face challenge to all of us, including voters in a democracy, that no matter what we do, we will be crushed, and who are we?
I am City College of San Francisco. We are City College of San Francisco. Brown, Black, Yellow, Red, and White. Approximately seventy five percent of students at City College of San Francisco are people of color. The Mission, the Fillmore, Bernal Heights have been gentrified. Now there are forces planning to gentrify the educational sector and attempting to pacify us without us even giving them a fight. Chomping on big cigars in backrooms, they are laughing at all of us. We are a joke to them. So stupid, we do not even see they are about to decapitate us, for without education what options do we have?
Prison, the military, aimlessness, or death. Understand this, although Bay Area Skyline, Chabot, or San Mateo colleges are also institutions of higher learning, none of them can compare to the role of a City College in internationally powerful San Francisco, where there are tremendous resources, networks, and unique learning opportunities. Everyone wants to study and work in economic powerhouse San Francisco. Let us admit that this City College shutdown is a class challenge to us all, but especially to poor people of color.
No one is talking about this. There are great, dedicated people who have been working with all their hearts and minds on this accreditation problem, but they have not seemed to want to believe that we are under attack by a force that does not care about logic or goodness. It is my duty as a loco, as a homeboy, as a veteran, as a father, as an instructor and lover of learning that I proclaim these arguments and offer myself totally for this righteous cause, to speak the truth and stand up for City College of San Francisco.
What happens if we lose? Expect that City College will be the first in a domino effect for these private corporations to come in and destroy all of public education. Laney College will be next. Contra Costa College will follow. There will be no such thing as affordable education for the people. Poor students will all become massively indebted, they will not even attempt education and be sucked into despair, and they will consequently have their voices silenced. In classrooms, instructors will promote a private sector type of thinking that does not allow freedom of the mind. Books will be banned; thoughts will be suppressed. City College’s campuses will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. We built the Chinatown and Mission campuses for them! The new Wellness Center and Multi-Use Building will be sold at a discount of what it cost taxpayers to build them. These private corporations made a correct choice in choosing to destroy City College. They knew that City College was the most important community college in the United States of America, and they wanted to smash us in broad daylight as an example. They think they have succeeded.
What can we do? We can make some noise now. Join groups, write letters to your senators, call Mayor Lee and Governor Brown, share this video, make videos like the one I am making now and spread them everywhere on youtube, saturate Facebook all the time, march, join in on demonstrations, support all unions, and give it all you possibly can. This is the most important issue of our time, for it affects our educations, livelihoods, economic opportunities, and our children.
It is time right now at this exact moment for us all to wake up and see that only we can change the future.
Always Adelante and Always Amor.
Benjamin Bac Sierra