Mission block party benefits women, immigrants

By Tenzin Shakya & Molly Rosenthal, staff writers

The bi-annual “Party on 18” block party was held Saturday to support the Women’s Building and other non-profit organizations that benefit low-income immigrants in San Francisco.The Women’s Building, is an organization “promoting social change to improve the status of women and girls through education, capacity building and collaboration.” The event was held between Dolores and Guerrero Street and was focused towards celebrating the Mission District All money allocated from the event was put towards employment and housing–the biggest issues facing illegal immigrant women in the city, according to Executive Director Teresa Mejia. The funds directly support the Building’s free grocery, tax advice, financial and technology education programs.

According to San Francisco Women Against Rape’s website, “In 2004-2005, over 13,000 people accessed SFWAR’s wide-ranging programs and services for survivors of sexual assault.”

Dr. Janelle White, Executive Director of SFWAR and Professor of the Women and Gender Studies Department said, “The numbers are not going down.” According to White, the numbers continue to rise and more women are in need of support and resources.

During the event, Bautista Rocio stood by her table and sold bracelets, earrings, and necklaces from her boutique on Mission Street. Rocio, an Ecuadorian immigrant felt as though she didn’t have many options when she migrated to San Francisco. Three years ago, she discovered the Women’s Building, which has since helped her open and successfully conduct her jewelry shop.

“The center has a lot of diversity and support of people,” said Rocio.

Rocio said the Center helped her obtain a work permit to clean houses and nanny. The benevolence of the Building’s services and staff inspired her to volunteer for Mujeres Unidas y Activias–a project organized by and for new immigrant women to educate them on their rights and available community services.

Deportation of illegal immigrants due to the lack of proper paperwork is an issue Graciela Orozco, SF State Counseling Coordinator has been following quite extensively.

According to Orozco, the effect of deportation on children of immigrant families are being neglected.

“Children are being affected with many different types of psychological problems,” said Orozco. “Nobody’s paying attention to them.”

According to Rocio, free services to develop self-esteem and self-sufficiency for women and children are available through the Women’s building. GirlVentures, an in-house organizations arranges hiking, camping, and kayaking adventures to help young women develop and express their strengths.

The proceeds were also distributed to Buen Dia Family School, an organization that facilitates self-confidence building in immigrant children.

Michelle Galli, stood at the Women’s Building booth, where she also works as an intern, passing out flyers and greeting guests. She said,”The best thing about the services at the building is that they’re free.” This usually leaves attendees surprised with wonders about paying.

Galli, who is also an S.F. State Alumna studied World Development and Spanish. She was drawn to the vibrant mural on the exterior of the Women’s Building, which intrigued her to work there.

“First I was just drawn to the mural, but I also wanted to work with immigrants.” The Mural, spanning from the group to the top of the building and wrapping around the east side, is a vibrant depiction of the contributions of women throughout time and history. It was painted nearly fifteen years ago and designed by community organizations in the Mission

SF State student Orquidia Gomer, Biology major is currently the receptionist for the Women’s building. She is the first person women talk to when they walk into the building. According to Gomez, the most common problem facing women in the Mission District is tied to domestic violence, and the Women’s Building helps in battered women cases and provide workshops to build [women’s] self-esteem.

The event also united popular neighborhood businesses such as Regalito, Tartine, Delfina, Bi-Rite, and Kasa to serve partygoers. Attendees purchased food and drink tickets in exchange for gourmet pastries, barbeque from a pig roasting, and specialty salads and ice creams all donated by the volunteering restaurants and grocers.

“It’s our community and people need it,” said Sam Mogannam, Bi-Rite owner since 1974 and cuisine manager for the event. “People get stuck behind their iPhones and computers too often. Being out here is real way to give back to the community.”

The only paid attraction was the live music–a quartet performing songs for children followed by a three-piece girl band that the young ones equally enjoyed.

Photo Credit Kevin Henderson

The event closed with a country style pie-eating contest where locals could sign up to judge. A DJ spun old soul records after a family African jazz band finished their impromptu set from their open garage.

“It’s not about making money,” said Rachael Hurbert owner of Dolores Park Café. “The Women’s Building is the meeting center for our community. It’s the people in our neighborhood that make us who we are.”

Bookmark and Share

A second look @ the homeless around the corner!

Standing by her shopping cart, tired, dirty and winded, the homeless woman with a stack of newspapers walks slowly to almost everyone in the passing only to find them walking away from her with strange looks mixed with some shy awkward smiles.

She has her dirty blonde hair tied up with a thick black sweater and torn jeans in the middle of Shattuck, Downtown Berkeley- that also on a sunny Sunday morning when almost everyone is in smiles trying to enjoy the day.

“Please take a paper and spare some change”… “I have not had anything to eat today,” said the poor homeless lady trading newspapers for dimes at a busy corner.

Curious to know her story, I stood next to her and traded a quarter for a paper.  The newspaper was titled Street Spirits. According to their website, its a “publication of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) that reports extensively on homelessness, poverty, economic inequality, welfare issues, human rights issues and the struggle for social justice. For the past 10 years, Street Spirit has been dedicated to empowering poor and homeless people and giving a voice to the voiceless, at a time when the voices of the poor are virtually locked out of the mainstream media.”

Her name was Joann Knott, 46 years of age and a single mother of a 16-year-old boy. The two were living in a nice house back in Detroit, Michigan just five years ago before becoming homeless in Berkeley.

Ms. Knott was employed as a “Professional Petitions Consultant” with a firm that works to organize and operate petition drives for organizations wishing to gain support on bills introduced in the area.

Ms. Knott arrived in California four years ago in pursuit of a job as a Professional Petitions Consultant here, and hoping to start her own business.

“Berkeley and the Bay Area in general is highly active in the process of creating petitions for voters in demand of various changes in the law,” she said.

“I thought I could easily land a good job in the local market.”

However, despite her numerous attempts to secure a job here, she failed and instead ended up spending all her money and became homeless.

Though Ms.Knott is homeless, she is still in pursuit of a job in Berkeley and interns at the local chapter of Peace Action West to advocate for nuclear ban and peace.

“I’ve protested against nuclear weapons since the early 60’s and it was my fortunate luck to able to intern and get paid at Peace Action West” she said.

Peace Action West is an organization dedicated to building a citizen’s movement of sustained political power for fundamental changes in United States foreign policy. They are also one of the largest grassroots peace and justice lobby in the country.

According to an article in the American Journal of Public Health, over 7% of persons living in the United States, which equals 2149045.85, have been homeless (defined as sleeping in shelters, the street, abandoned buildings, cars, or bus and train stations) at some point in their lives.

Testing those statistics, I walked across to the café shop to a man sitting outside with a cup of coffee, and his New York Time puzzle on the table. After a few minutes of explaining my project to him, he agreed to talk to me.

“Homelessness in Berkeley is at rise because this city is so liberal and keen to paying for the homeless,” said the 36-year-old Wells Fargo Banker Marcus Reading.

“Why should we support a bunch of people that just sit around downtown begging for money, when the rest of us are working our butts off” he said.

Ms.Knott has her son enrolled at the Berkeley High School where there is funding available for families without homes.

“The diverse range of people here is what makes the city of Berkeley attractive and the people are just too nice” she said. “They never let you go hungry”.

Cross Roads at Intersectionality with Gender Identity – A Tibetan feminist perspective

Our multicultural society at large is so diverse that we struggle to define or identify people in categories. We are all taught not to judge others, and treat others the way we would like to be treated. However, in practicality it’s often the case that due to the lack of information about others, we depend on stereotypes of their communities and practice racial profiling. In most cases we look directly at the physical features of a human being to try an guess their identity. We approach them in the manner that fits the definition of our very own standards – the unconscious bias. One common struggle of inequalities appears when we judge others by their gender. Intersectionality has been accepted by many feminists as being a key to understanding the gender divide that exists in our society.[1] Race, nation, gender has been amongst many other factors that assist in categorizing people into objects of commodities accessible for judging and positioning. The fact is even women don’t believe that all women want the same equal rights because everyone has their own priorities that follow their social surroundings and their beliefs and values in their individual personal lives.

What we fail to realize is that many people are so inter racially linked now that only the dominant traits appear in their physical features and we cannot define them properly or even fully define ourselves. All that knowledge however does not come forward in our consciousness when we use just our eyes to define others. Perhaps it is meant to be that people shouldn’t be approached differently based on their physical appearances – which often times leads us to manipulate their identity in small categories.

“Since critics first alleged that feminism claimed to speak universally for all women, feminist researchers have been acutely aware of the limitations of gender as a single analytical category. In fact, feminists are perhaps alone in the academy in the extent to which they have embraced intersectionality—the relationships among multiple dimensions and mo- dualities of social relations and subject formations—as itself a central category of analysis. One could even say that intersectionality is the most important theoretical contribution that women’s studies, in conjunction with related fields, have made so far.”[2]

The United States Census Bureau estimated that just in California alone 6,798,406 people are currently mixed with two or more races.[3] Surely it would be very difficult to define all these people based on just their physical traits and it would take ages to find definitions that they would all comply to.

Understanding intersectionality is a necessity in understanding our own identities. We believe that our identity is meant to express ourselves. Thus, when others decide to do it for us, we feel a discomfort of forced or coerced silence. A simple factor of acknowledgement would be that an individual’s social identities profoundly influence one’s belief based on their experience of gender.  It’s important to look into their surroundings, and acknowledge their individual wishes to define themselves on their own terms without being coerced into categories of subjects. The mere factor that there exists so many forms of identities within each individual should be a major underlying factor in the feminist movement’s attempt to unify all women rights into positions of consideration for change – In compliance and agreement to the right priorities that women deserve ofcourse.

When Melanie M. Hughes, a PHD candidate at Ohio State University did a study on “Complications at the Intersection: Overcoming the Challenges of Cross-National Research on Minority Women’s Legislative Representation”, she stated that “Differences such as race, ethnicity, religion, and language not only impact women’s identities and interest, but form intersecting social hierarchies that shape women’s access to power.”[4]

In Ella Shohat’s article “Dislocated Identities”[5], she shares her personal experience of having to choose between two of her identities in order to serve the purpose of the war that had taken place. Shohat describes the syncretic identity that formed within her as an Arab Jew in the United States.  Shohat’s priorities to her womanism might not be the same as Mimi Nguyen; a Vietnamese American carrying a load of history with her physical appearance in the United States. Ngugen talks much about how “everything changes when she travels”[6] because of the perception of her identity defined by the “othering” factor.

Though Ella Shohat and Mimi Nyugen both share similar feminist ideals in wanting equal rights for women their priorities are separate than mine.  China occupied my country, Tibet in 1959 – forcing my grandparents to escape into exile. Though I have this opportunity to excel in education and various other professional fields in this free country, I have also lost a lot of my traditions, my culture and my history back home and often feel dissembled within my own small community of Tibetans. Though I am an advocate for equal rights, I will not use all the rights handed to me for I want the choices in life which work to identify my authentic individuality.

In the end, it is our determination to have various choices in our life that portray our personal accountability and responsibility for our actions without the feeling that YET AGAIN we have become victims of oppression. Instead we must take on the role of survivors who will work for progress of choice for women and men all over the world while promising that we will not make the choices for them. Instead, we owe it as a universal responsibility to all mankind to advocate for others rights! The right to make their own choices in their personal inhabitant that fits their personal surrounding identity – as with ourselves.


1)      McCall, L. “The Complexity of Intersectionality.” SIGNS -CHICAGO-. 30. 3 (2005): 1771-1800. (Online); http://www.rochester.edu/college/psc/news/intersectionality_readings/mccall.pdf

2)       U.S Census Bureau, “M0207. Percent of the Total Population Who Are Two or More Races”. U.S Census Bureau. 11/29/2009


3)      Grewal, Inderpal, and Caren Kaplan.  Gender in a Transnational World.”Dislocated Identities”; Ella Shohat, pg 440; Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2006.

4)      Hughes, Melanie M. Politics at the Intersection A Cross-National Analysis of Minority Women’s Legislative Representation. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University, 2008. (online); http://sociology.osu.edu/people/mmh/APSA_paper.pdf

5)      Grewal, Inderpal, and Caren Kaplan.  Gender in a Transnational World.”Viet Nam: Journal/Journey”; Mimi Nguyen; pg 435, Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2006.