Exploring San Francisco with a Sociological Lens
by Trey Spadone ’20
What happens when you send thirteen students and one professor to the city of San Francisco?
During the fall semester, my peers and I took SOCI 224 or Immigrant and Sexual Cultures in San Francisco. Our reasons for applying varied, but in some way or another we all were interested in how gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, and citizenship status create identity-based communities in the various districts of this global city. Some of us knew each other from our first-year, Washington, D.C. excursions, and even middle school, but everyone had at least one person they didn’t know. Living, learning, and traveling are the core aspects of the Sophomore Residential Seminars program. My class embraced these goals and became rather close because of it.
The class was an Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) course which meant we were expected to deeply engage with each other. A lot. At first, there was natural hesitation to discuss our identities and the complexities that make us who we are. However, as time passed we began to become more comfortable with each other and were able to more freely discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe it was because we had seen each others’ just woke up look, but I also think it had to do with the fact that everyone felt committed to the class and committed to each other. We all made the conscious decision to join the program and wanted to get the most out of it.
Memories were made in San Francisco that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Before we left, each of us researched a neighborhood in the city and a site that is focused on social justice in that neighborhood, so we each facilitated discussions on everything from gentrification, to the importance of independent bookstores, to ending homelessness, preventing suicide, liberating sex work, cultural preservation, and sustaining LGBTQ communities. Then we went to see what we researched. We gazed at beautiful murals in the Mission, took a Tai Chi class in Chinatown, and visited the ruins of the Sutro Baths in the Richmond/Sunset District.
We also had the opportunity to meet so many individuals whose stories and words really inspired me. We spoke with Krissy Keefer, a dancer, choreographer, activist, and co-founder of Dance Brigade the nation’s first feminist dance troupe. We visited San Francisco’s Tibetan Cultural Center and learned about the work they are doing with Tibetan-American families to preserve their heritage. We attended a service at social-justice focused Glide Memorial Church where we celebrated life, sang together, and heard a sermon about the white-washing of MLK Jr. Being a part of SRS San Francisco has truly been a rewarding and moving experience and I am so thankful for every part of it.