College of Ethnic Studies

Hide Subscribe Link

SF State launches comprehensive online archive of historic student strike

New website features hundreds of photos, news footage, posters, documents, oral histories 

As social movements across the globe are more active than ever, San Francisco State University just upgraded its own archives of the historic 1968 – 1969 Black Student Union/Third World Liberation Front student-led strike. Now, anyone can do their research easily through one comprehensive website, the San Francisco State Strike Collection. It is home to hundreds of historical photos, news footage, posters and flyers, documents and oral histories.  

The new website launched last week on Nov. 6 — marking 55 years to the day when SF State students first walked out to demand a curriculum that reflected the diversity of Black and other ethnic communities. The contentious, heavily policed strike continued for 115 days, becoming the longest college student strike in American history and forever changing the face of higher education. It not only resulted in SF State establishing the nation’s first College of Ethnic Studies, it also paved the way for a nationwide movement in ethnic studies as an academic field. 

The new online collection, organized by Special Collections & Archives in the J. Paul Leonard Library at SF State, combines materials that were previously available on several different websites. University Archives, the Bay Area Television Archive and the Labor Archives and Research Center are the sources for the materials.  

“The SF State Strike Collection is a major contribution to students, faculty, staff and community members who want to reflect, teach, study and understand the sacrifices made to establish the College of Ethnic Studies,” said Grace Yoo, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies. “It preserves the legacy of activists who founded the College of Ethnic Studies and shares this legacy with the rest of the world.” 

The collection also includes content that was previously not available, with more coming soon. An interactive exhibit tells the story of the strike through text, images and video, including events beginning in 1966 that led to the strike. At the time, SF State students created the nation’s first Black Student Union, which then proposed an institute of Black studies to a campus academic committee. 

“Our hope is that the site will highlight the social justice legacy of the campus, tell the full story of the strike and show how ordinary students mobilized to create the College of Ethnic Studies, special admissions and more,” said Eva Martinez, team processing lead for Special Collections. 

Visit the San Francisco State Strike Collection


SF State and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts: partners in culture and resistance

Against the odds, two San Francisco institutions have long collaborated on a grassroots level 

“You’re a stranger now in your home town / With strange faces on once familiar streets.”  

These lines from San Francisco State University Professor Emeritus Alejandro Murguía’s poem “Silicon City” evoke the feelings of many residents of San Francisco’s Mission District, where gentrification has torn apart the community for decades. The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts remains a fixture despite the changes, and it wouldn’t have happened without artists and activists like Murguía. 

“As a marginalized community and community of color, we’re always going to be held to different standards,” said Murguía, the center’s inaugural director who later would earn two degrees from San Francisco State. “And so we always have to come out on top — sobre pasar, go above them — in our talent and our skill and our ability to organize our community so that we can survive.” 

Established in 1977 as inequity and displacement had taken shape in the neighborhood, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA) provides a full array of free, affordable classes and programming that cover Chicanos, Central and South America and the Caribbean. More than 10,000 people visit every month. Housed in a 37,500-square-foot building honored on the Historic Register of Historic Places, the MCCLA includes an art gallery and studios, a print shop, classrooms and a theatre. It also plays key roles in the annual Carnaval, offering music and dance courses to teach people to perform in the parade. 

“Coming out of the civil rights movement, people of color were finding their voice in this country. Activists were fighting for ethnic studies programs,” said Martina Ayala, MCCLA executive director. “Thanks to those artists and community activists, we can look back at the Mission District and find multiple anchor institutions that were established by young students, many of them at SFSU, who had a long-lasting impact.” 

Coinciding with student activism at SF State in the 1960s, organizers made a major push for the San Francisco government to establish community centers throughout the city. Murguía (B.A., ’90; MFA, ’92), fellow future SF State Latina/Latino Studies Professor Carlos Cordova (B.A., ’74; M.A., ’79) and other students were among those organizing in the Mission.  

“All these cultural celebrations we enjoy today are great, but the history behind them, they came at a cost. And they came at a cost that many college students paid,” Ayala said. “And I can’t thank them enough for their courage to fight for what they believed in.” 

Over the years many SF State faculty have selected the MCCLA as the venue to feature their creative work. Professor Emeritus Carlos Barón (M.A., ’88), once the MCCLA theatre and dance coordinator, premiered his play “Death and the Artist” there. Music Lecturer John Calloway (M.A., ’03) has been performing at the center for decades.   Murguía says it continues to serve community needs in multiple ways despite existential challenges to the Mission. Gentrification remains the most persistent in the once workin

Over the years many SF State faculty have selected the MCCLA as the venue to feature their creative work. Professor Emeritus Carlos Barón (M.A., ’88), once the MCCLA theatre and dance coordinator, premiered his play “Death and the Artist” there. Music Lecturer John Calloway (M.A., ’03) has been performing at the center for decades. 

Murguía says it continues to serve community needs in multiple ways despite existential challenges to the Mission. Gentrification remains the most persistent in the once working-class neighborhood, which was at its peak majority Latina/Latino but continues to decline. 

“It’s a real hotbed of community activism and culture and helps ground the Mission District community through all these phases of gentrification that it’s gone through the past 47 years the cultural center has been around,” he said. “Nationally, it’s a huge magnet for artists from other parts of the country, and even Latin America, to show up in San Francisco and have a place immediately that grounds them in their art, that supports them in their art, that allows them a foundation.” 

MCCLA and SF State faculty and students continue to share a symbiotic relationship, promoting similar grassroots and progressive values. The center frequently employs SF State students as interns, including several this year. SF State Dean of Students Miguel Ángel Hernández has been invited to join the center’s board of directors.  

“Any cultural event that we create — whether it’s a poetry reading, a gallery exhibit, a Carnaval, a music concert — it’s all part of not just our resistance to the antagonism to our community, but an affirmation that we have been here longer than the Pilgrims,” Murguía said. “And that’s super important that we realize that. Every act of culture, whether it’s a mural or a poetry reading, is in fact an act of resistance — doubly so, in our times, when not just our community is being attacked, but arts, reading, literature and books are under assault.” 

MCCLA’s city-owned building needs much maintenance, which will force it to move temporarily beginning July 1. Ayala says she and other MCCLA supporters are using their activism skills to ensure the city government provides written assurance that allows them to return to the city-owned building once retrofit and repairs are completed, honoring the rent of $1 per year.

“I always tell people that the Mission Cultural Center is the hospital of the soul,” Ayala said. “And we all know that during the pandemic, without the arts we would not have been able to survive. When we’re confined in a space, we need to find a spirit.” 

Learn more about SF State’s Latina/Latino Department

‘Finding Filipino’: Renowned comics artist discovered herself attending SF State

Rina Ayuyang’s new graphic novel and comic posters explore Filipino American culture and history — including on campus 

One evening in the 1990s, Rina Ayuyang was passing through the Creative Arts building at San Francisco State University. In a small recital hall, she discovered a Filipino ensemble performing a ballad, “Dahil Sayo (Because of You).” She recognized the song because her parents would dance to it in the living room of her childhood home. 

“I lived near campus and would walk down the halls a lot, and I’d just stumble upon things that were happening,” Ayayung recalled. “It was a very film-noir scene actually, this woman singing this Filipino romantic ballad that I just came and found myself in. And it was a very magical experience.”  

It was one of the many life-changing experiences for Ayuyang at San Francisco State to influence her as a comics artist and shape her as a human being. 

New graphic novel 

“The Man in the McIntosh Suit” (Drawn and Quarterly, 2023) is Ayuyang’s new graphic novel, presenting a Filipino American take on the Great Depression. Mistaken identities, speakeasies and lost love intersect from strawberry farms on the Central Coast to Manilatown in San Francisco. 

Kirkus Reviews writes: “Ayuyang spins a captivating tale that is both an homage to starry-eyed Hollywood movies of the period and a corrective that highlights the anti-Asian racism faced by immigrants as well as the thriving communities they formed.” 

Throughout her work, Ayuyang (B.A., ’98) aims not only to increase representation of Filipino Americans in the arts, but awareness of their key roles in U.S. history. 

“We always feel like we’ve come a long way, but there are still things that need to be addressed. We like to bury things in our history that aren’t as pretty,” Ayuyang said. “I feel like as an artist, we need to continue to use our platform to share ideas, motivate and inspire.” 

‘Finding Filipino’ and the ‘CIA’ 

Ayuyang was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and chose to attend SF State because she had deep family roots in the Bay Area. She majored in Art with an emphasis in Conceptual and Information Arts, an experimental program where she says everybody made their own rules and embraced a do-it-yourself ethos that prepared her well for a career in comic arts. 

“They called it the ‘CIA’,” Ayuyang said. “It was a little fun rag-tag artist operation going on. It had this grassroots feeling that felt very San Francisco, bohemian-like. It was very much my jam.” 

The courses that Ayuyang took in the College of Ethnic Studies from professors such as Dan Begonia taught her about the hidden histories of Filipino farmworkers and activists in California. She met lifelong friends in the Asian American Studies Department and participated in the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor, a student organization.  

SF State has had such an impact on Ayuyang that she dedicated a comic to the University in her new poster series, “Finding Filipino.” Presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission for the Art on Market Street Poster Series, the nine posters are on display at 30 bus shelters in downtown San Francisco through June.  

On the “Finding Filipino at SF State” poster, she shares her Gator story: “Here, I learned that I was more than a ‘model minority,’ that I could be an artist, a writer, an athlete — anything I wanted to be.” 

Learn more about the SF State School of Art and College of Ethnic Studies

Gator Juan Gonzales reflects on 50+ years of Mission community newspaper

Juan Gonzales was honored at El Tecolote’s Golden Legacy Gala on Aug. 26 in San Francisco, which celebrated five decades of bilingual journalism in service of the Bay Area’s Latinx community.

Founder of state’s longest-running bilingual newspaper launched paper at SF State

From an early age, Juan Gonzales was always starting small businesses in and around his Stockton neighborhood. First, there were the Kool-Aid stands, then he picked fruit from his neighbors’ trees and sold them up and down his street. In middle school, he developed a passion for writing and later journalism. As a young adult, he combined entrepreneurship and journalism into one dream: starting a newspaper. But it was a goal he didn’t think he’d achieve until he reached his 40s.

But in 1970, six months after graduating from San Francisco State University’s Journalism program, 23-year-old Gonzales achieved his dream early — he launched El Tecolote, a bilingual newspaper serving San Francisco’s Mission District residents. How that paper came to be had a lot to do with what happened to Gonzales as an undergraduate student at San Francisco State. The paper, now in its 53rd year, is still going strong and is the state’s longest-running bilingual newspaper — a legacy that was recently celebrated at a special fundraising gala where Gonzales was also recognized.

Black and white photo of Juan Gonzales when he was younger

Juan Gonzales in the early days of El Tecolote. (Acción Latina/El Tecolote Archive)

When Gonzales transferred to SF State in the late 1960s, he was confronted with a world vastly different from the conservative farming town where he grew up. SF State was ground zero for nearly every social movement of the 1960s. There were civil rights activists, students tuning in, turning on and dropping out, anti-war protests and ethnic identity demonstrations. It was fertile ground for a journalism student.

“This was all a part of the SF State experience,” Gonzales said. “A lot of the things discussed on campus, the forums, were relatively new to me. Going to State was a wake-up call for me to think more seriously about what I wanted to do in light of things that were being said.”

In 1968, the SF State student strike erupted on campus, with students of color demanding an education that reflected their lived experience and histories. Gonzales was on the front lines, not with a picket sign but with a pen. He wrote about the strike for SF State’s student newspaper, The Phoenix. “We really matured as journalists, and it provided a solid foundation in terms of doing work under extreme pressure, covering a major story,” he said. He was supportive of the strike and even published an editorial stating as much, but he remained objective in his reporting.

While covering the strike, a student demonstrator asked if he’d ever consider writing about his own community. “[The striker told me] ‘You know who could use your skills? Your community. There’s a community in the Mission District and it’s highly populated by Latinos and they could use your storytelling and use your skills to write about their culture, give them a voice,’” Gonzales recalled. This question stayed with him throughout college.

After graduation, a professor asked him to teach a journalism class in SF State’s newly formed College of Ethnic Studies in the La Raza Studies Department. His class was called “La Raza Journalism,” and he taught students to write journalistically. Right away he realized there was a problem: There was no place to publish his students’ work. That’s when the idea came to launch a bilingual community newspaper in the Mission District.

With the help of SF State students and Mission residents, he launched El Tecolote in August of 1970. Gonzales promised he’d commit to the paper for at least five years. “Publishing one edition is easy, but consistency is key,” he said. “If you want to establish the paper as part of the neighborhood, people want to be able to see it every two weeks.”

The first five years of El Tecolote came and went. Gonzales stayed on, splitting his time between the paper and SF State. (He later left SF State to join the faculty at City College of San Francisco where he currently teaches and has served as department chair of Journalism since 1985.)

One of the early student writers for El Tecolote was Edgar Sanchez (B.A., ’74). He was a student in Gonzales’ La Raza Studies course and credited El Tecolote for launching his journalism career, which has since spanned five decades, taking him to Palm Beach, Florida (Palm Beach Post), and later to Sacramento (The Sacramento Bee).

But when he started writing for El Tecolote he was pretty green. An immigrant from El Salvador, Sanchez he said he struggled with writing in English. “I didn’t have the command of the language. My writing was horrible,” he said. “But I continued to write and along the weeks became better.”

Gonzales was a solid role model, Sanchez added, in part because he wrote for the major wire services — United Press International and the Associated Press. As an editor he was hands off, Sanchez said. “He gave us the freedom to pursue stories we wanted to do,” he said.

Some of the stories the paper produced had a real impact on the community: Two of Gonzales’ early investigative series resulted in real change. While in graduate school at Stanford University for journalism in the early 1970s, Gonzales and fellow student Mario Evangelista launched an investigation into the lack of Spanish-speaking emergency operators at Pacific Telephone and Telegraph. They found the Spanish-speaking community was not receiving quality service, often having calls disconnected and waiting more than four minutes for assistance. The story caught the attention of state regulators, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held statewide hearings about the issue.

“The end result was [the CPUC] forced the utility to provide reports in terms of their implementation of full bilingual services,” Gonzales said.

A few years later, a pregnant Spanish-speaking woman sought treatment for bleeding at San Francisco General Hospital. The hospital attendant couldn’t understand what she was saying and sent her home. The woman lost her baby. El Tecolote launched an investigation into the bilingual services offered by the hospital. Their reporting revealed that few hospital workers were bilingual and hospital signage, prescription information and other printed materials were inadequate for non-English speakers. That story was the catalyst for the hospital to hire interpreters and more bilingual staff.

Juan Ginzales and other people crowd around a table to look at a newspaper layout

Founder of El Tecolote Juan Gonzales and the El Tecolote team assemble the newspaper. (Acción Latina/El Tecolote Archive)

For more than 50 years, El Tecolote has been the paper of record for the Mission District, documenting everything from gentrification and the housing shortage to conflicts between the police and the community. It’s done this at a time when community newspapers are vanishing. Gonzales credits the paper’s longevity to his and others’ dedication and “to the army of volunteers,” he noted

“The community is relying on [the] publication, and I think if you establish yourself as really providing good information and being relevant then the readership will stay with you, and hopefully even financially support you,” he said. And it’s helped that Gonzales doesn’t compromise on quality. “We have to give our readers quality work — good writing, good photographs, good layout … They expect the best, and we should give the best.”

Check out SF State’s Journalism department and the Latina/Latino Studies program.

SF State professor reflects on Juneteenth: it ‘represents liberty for Black people in America’

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Tiffany Caesar looks back on the history of the celebration, now a holiday for CSU employees

On March 22, 2023, the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees adopted a resolution designating June 19 (Juneteenth), which was recognized as a federal and California state holiday in recent years, as a paid holiday for CSU employees effective this calendar year. Ahead of the holiday this year, we spoke to San Francisco State University Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Tiffany Caesar, who looked back on the history of the holiday and shared what it means to her and ways to celebrate this year.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth National Independence Day celebrates the emancipation of slaves in Galveston, Texas, signifying the end of slavery in all states. Juneteenth stands for June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 on Galveston Island affirming that all slaves were in fact free.  Though the Emancipation Proclamation was published in 1863 declaring that ‘all persons held as slaves’ within the rebellious states ‘are, and henceforward shall be free,’ not all states adhered to those orders declared by former President Abraham Lincoln.

It was not until June 19, 1865 — two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and several months after the passing of the 13th Amendment — that all slaves were free. African Americans have celebrated the holiday yearly and on June 17, 2021, it officially became a U.S. holiday with the advocacy of activist Opal Lee, known as the grandmother of Juneteenth.

It became a holiday in Texas in 1980. Juneteenth is also called the second independence day. However, I would argue it is the first as civil rights movement leader Fannie Lou Hammer states,  “No one is free until everyone is free.”

What are ways we can celebrate Juneteenth?

There are many things locally you can do in San Francisco to celebrate Juneteenth. If you follow S.F. Black Wallstreet on Instagram, they have curated multiple programs you can do for the holiday.

You can also read and watch many things that document the history of Juneteenth, such as a Smithsonian Institution article on the historical legacy of Juneteenth and a piece by literary critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that explains what Juneteenth is as well as an interview with Lee.

What are some of your favorite memories of celebrating Juneteenth in the past?

My favorite memories of celebrating Juneteenth occurred when I was a fellow for the Institute for Social Justice and Race Relations at Jackson State University during the summer of 2022. We had special speakers discuss the importance of Juneteenth, there was live music, games and great food! It was truly an experience that joined knowledge of the historic moment and fun for all in a true community way.

How are you celebrating Juneteenth this year?

I'm joining the festivities in San Francisco. I would love to go to Galveston, Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth to celebrate one day. There are several activities you can participate in there, including the Juneteenth Symposium “Sounds of Freedom.

What makes the holiday special and important to celebrate today?

It is important to know that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves. Even though there were executive orders to do so, some plantation owners chose to withhold that information for fear of losing their labor. The holiday represents liberty for Black people in America. Even though there are continued challenges as it concerns racism and disenfranchisement, it is still seen as a victory that on June 19, 1865, all slaves were finally free.

Learn more about SF State’s Africana Studies Department.

Grace Yoo named dean of SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies

Yoo has served in various SF State roles for nearly three decades

Following a formal search, Grace Yoo has been selected to serve as the next dean of San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies effective July 1, 2023. She currently serves as a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State.

Yoo has worked in higher education for over 30 years, 27 of which have been at SF State. She began as an Asian American Studies lecturer faculty member in 1996 and 18 years later became chair of the same department, serving in that role until 2018.

“Dr. Yoo is an excellent community organizer in addition to being an award-winning sociologist who is also exceptional at securing grant funding,” said Amy Sueyoshi, SF State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The skills and passion that she has are much needed not only in the classroom and in higher education but also here at SF State. We are so grateful to Dr. Yoo for continuing to make our University a place of learning and love.”

Yoo also held a number of positions at SF State, such as the inaugural director for both the Race, Empowerment and Justice Project in the College of Ethnic Studies and the First-Year Experience Initiative. In the latter role, she facilitated the implementation of First-Year Seminar, led faculty development efforts on the First-Year Experience, created the First-Year Experience Peer Mentorship program and produced several University reports examining first-year retention during COVID-19. 

Yoo has also served as a project director for a number of extramural grants. Most notably, the U.S. Department of Education awarded her SF State’s first Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) grant. This grant and subsequent ones have totaled over $5 million for culturally responsive outreach, student support and faculty development to decrease equity gaps and increase college access, retention and graduation rates.

“The College of Ethnic Studies — which is the ‘beating heart’ of SF State — has been my home and purpose for nearly 27 years,” Yoo said. “I am so excited to support our students, staff, faculty and communities with the high-impact practices of ethnic studies teaching, service, research, scholarship and creative activities. Centering care, equity and social justice in our work is my joy and commitment.”

Yoo earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from University of California, Irvine, her master’s degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Francisco. Her research expertise is in social support and health among immigrants, women of color and Asian Americans. Yoo’s book “Caring Across Generations: The Linked Lives of Korean American Families,” co-authored with Barbara Kim, won the Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association Asian/Asian American section.

Yoo replaces Amy Sueyoshi, who became SF State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs in July 2022. Catrióna Rueda Esquibel, associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, has served as interim dean.

Learn more about SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies.

University celebrates student research with college-wide showcases

Students across campus have been sharing their research at various student project showcases

As the academic year comes to a close, SF State’s colleges are celebrating the scholarship, research and creative activities of the University community with multiple student project showcases. In April and early May, undergraduate and graduate students from across campus shared their work through research posters, presentations and performances. Students, staff, faculty and community members saw everything from student-built prototypes of engineering projects to the exploration of evolution through dance to presentations on the history of global fashion.

This year, the Colleges of Liberal & Creative Arts (LCA), Science & Engineering (CoSE), Ethnic Studies (CoES) and Health & Social Sciences (CHSS) all had research events. While the LCA and CoSE showcases have become annual campus traditions, CHSS’ Research & Creative Works Showcase (held at the Seven Hills Conference Center Thursday, May 4) was the college’s first. The College of Ethnic Studies Student Showcase, also on the newer side, was held Thursday, May 11, on the fifth floor of the Administration Building.

“When I found out about the CHSS Undergraduate Research & Creative Works Showcase I knew I had to participate. Research has been such a key component of my SF State experience,” said Nathan Burns, who is graduating this semester with a degree in Sociology and a minor in LGBTQ Studies. “For my senior seminar last semester I created ‘SURV(IO)LANCE,’ a textual and visual zine where I incorporated academic research and my personal experience as a queer, trans, disabled person to discuss surveillance. For the CHSS Showcase I was able to print a few copies of the zine to share with people in attendance. It was so exciting to be able to not only share my research with other campus members, but get to see just how much incredible work is being done across campus that I otherwise might not have heard about.”

Eduardo Hernandez, a senior Criminal Justice Studies major, also participated in the CHSS showcase. His work explores how the overlapping interests of the prison industrial complex, the U.S. military establishment and law enforcement lead to mass incarceration. He says that his project represents his solidarity with individuals who have been exploited in prisons.

“My research experience at SF State enabled my academic potential to be significantly developed by showcasing my research project for fellow peers, scholars and visitors. I am honored to have been recognized and have granted the privilege to participate in the CHHS Undergraduate Showcase with scholars at SF State. Presenting at the event, I experienced a great sense of joy and relief knowing nearly six months of research and preparation allowed me to represent SF State in its highest light possible: an incredible research facility in the SF Bay Area,” he said.

In total, hundreds of students participated in these college showcases. The College of Science & Engineering — which has been holding showcases since 1999 — had approximately 230 posters presented by more than 400 students, with more than 80 judges from academia, industry, government and other fields participating.

Two male students showing a robotic arm to a male judge

Students Ryan Scott and Fazliddin Hotamov demonstrate their gesture-controlled robot arm to a judge and alumnus Robert Gray (B.S., '98) at the CoSE showcase. Photo by Paul Asper

While the Lam College of Business doesn’t have a project showcase, its students were able to showcase research in a different way: at the college’s annual Innovative Pitch Competition in April. Students developed and pitched business projects to seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and faculty, and three teams shared $10,000 in cash prizes. Earlier this year, students from all colleges also participated in the campus-level San Francisco State University student research competition for a chance to participate in the CSU-wide student research competition.

“San Francisco State provides amazing opportunities for students and faculty to work together on research and creative projects. Participating in these collaborations — whether it is a course-based research project or an independent study builds career skills — creates community and contributes to improving life on campus, in the Bay Area and beyond.” said Biology Professor Gretchen LeBuhn, who is Chair of the University Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Council. She is also co-director of SF State Creates, an undergraduate research office launching this fall to facilitate these types of hands-on student opportunities.

Learn more about Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities at SF State.