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Top Graduates Will be Honored at SF State Commencement

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As San Francisco State University prepares for this year’s Commencement on May 22, its six academic colleges have each selected two graduating students — one undergraduate and one graduate — for the honor of representing their fellow students during the ceremony by wearing their College’s academic hood.

 

Two hood recipients will also offer their greetings on behalf of the Class of 2015. Eduardo Gonzalez, undergraduate hood for the College of Liberal & Creative Arts, will speak on behalf of the undergraduate class.

 

Jonathan Brumfield, graduate hood for the College of Ethnic Studies, will speak on behalf of graduate students.

 

Those to be honored include:

 

Noureddine "Dino" Chtaini

Noureddine “Dino” Chtaini

Noureddine “Dino” Chtaini

 

Growing up in Washington, D.C., Noureddine “Dino” Chtaini dropped out of school at 15 and, he said, “made some very negative choices” that led him to a 10-year incarceration.

 

He obtained an associate’s degree while in prison and transferred to SF State after his release in 2012. He is receiving his B.A. in sociology.

 

Chtaini’s difficult past has inspired his academic and community work — in particular, his interest in the economic and racial inequalities that impact crime and the criminal justice system. “With all my efforts, I try to provide research that illuminates injustice in the system,” Chtaini said.

 

While at SF State, Chtaini has volunteered with Project Rebound, an innovative program that reaches out to people in prison and provides support for formerly incarcerated students. As a participant in the highly selective Willie L. Brown Jr. Fellowship Program, Chtaini produced a sociological study for the San Francisco Housing Authority that explored the effect of the transition of public housing to private developers.

 

Chtaini is also developing an open-source program that can be implemented by schools and community organizations to help youth avoid turning to violence. He is creating a similar program model to assist the formerly incarcerated as they navigate the challenges of transitioning back into society.

 

In the fall, Chtaini will enter a prestigious sociology Ph.D. program where he plans to continue his criminal justice research and efforts to effect change among youth.

 

Johnathan Brumfield

Jonathan Brumfield

Jonathan Brumfield (Ethnic Studies)

 

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jonathan Brumfield and his family moved to Oakland when he was 12, a difficult transition for him. A self-described “knucklehead kid who challenged educational systems,” Brumfield struggled in school but found a sense of belonging attending hip-hop events. “With hip hop, I knew I had a voice, I knew I had a platform,” he said. His involvement in hip hop and interest in aerosol art — commonly referred to as “graffiti” — also kept him out of violent situations, he said.

 

Brumfield, who will receive a master’s of arts in ethnic studies, now leads the arts program at Safe Passages, an Oakland nonprofit with the goal of inspiring young people and ending the cycle of poverty. He teaches the history of hip hop and aerosol art, using these topics as a tool to connect students to their heritage and personal identities. “Hip hop saved my life, and I am so grateful to be able to save other young people through hip hop,” he said. “All these young people were considered taggers, but I help them explore the context of what they do.”

 

Brumfield’s thesis also investigated aerosol art and its culture, making links to historic Africana aesthetics. As part of his research, Brumfield interviewed youth who create aerosol art in vulnerable Bay Area communities, exploring the significance of the art form and common misconceptions about it.

 

Brumfield has been invited to speak and teach aerosol art practice overseas, including a recent trip to Senegal where he taught art to youth for several weeks. One of his major life goals is to develop an educational exchange program between youth from Oakland and Africa based on hip hop and aerosol art.

 

Emilly Rodriguez (Ethnic Studies)

 

Raised in Marin by parents from Brazil and Colombia, Emilly Rodriguez struggled in high school, became pregnant and almost dropped out. “Education didn’t spark my interest,” she said. But when she entered City College of San Francisco and started taking ethnic studies classes, Rodriguez discovered her passion. She decided to transfer to SF State and major in Latina/Latino Studies.

 

At SF State, Rodriguez thrived academically while working part time, raising her son as a single mother and participating in community-based research projects. In summer 2013, she trained high school and community college students to conduct oral history interviews in the Mission District for an anti-gentrification project.

 

She also contributed research for a history of Latinos in San Francisco sponsored by the San Francisco Latino Historical Society and the San Francisco Planning Department. In addition, Rodriguez volunteers with the San Francisco Day Labor Program, a nonprofit organization that connects workers with employers.

 

In her final two years at SF State, Rodriguez was a teaching assistant in Latina/Latino Studies, which inspired her aspiration for the future: to teach ethnic studies at the university level.

 

“I think it’s an accomplishment to be a young single mother in a challenging set of circumstances and to be so motivated to excel in my education,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been tough, but there are plenty of other parents who do it too. Parents are extremely motivated by their children.

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Arts and Culture

‘Put Ur Play On’ Productions Showcases Local Talent at Laney College

On Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Laney College Odell Johnson Theater, the Third Annual Black Centric Showcase celebrated Black History Month. The show depicted eras of Black history, while featuring talent showcases of monologues, skits, dance, rap and singing expressing the past, present and future.

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Actors in stage production “Unapologetically Black: Here to Facilitate Harm Reduction Services for Those in Need, Inc.” (l-r): Toni Rochelle, David Cesari, Ziare Whitelow, Christina Gluszaczak, Harley Ford, Cody Johnson, Shayna Howlett, Tyler Mae and Anthony Dixon. Photo by Carla Thomas.
Actors in stage production “Unapologetically Black: Here to Facilitate Harm Reduction Services for Those in Need, Inc.” (l-r): Toni Rochelle, David Cesari, Ziare Whitelow, Christina Gluszaczak, Harley Ford, Cody Johnson, Shayna Howlett, Tyler Mae and Anthony Dixon. Photo by Carla Thomas.

By Carla Thomas

On Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Laney College Odell Johnson Theater, the Third Annual Black Centric Showcase celebrated Black History Month. The show depicted eras of Black history, while featuring talent showcases of monologues, skits, dance, rap and singing expressing the past, present and future.

“The showcase was designed to feature talented members of the community performing all eras of Black history: Where we are from, where we have been, and where are we going,” said Saleemah Jones, production company founder-producer of “Put Ur Play On” with assistant director Angel Galloway.

Pamela Terry performed a monologue spun from August Wilson’s “Fences.” Terry responded to a casting call ad for the role. “Through my audition I learned about the production company, Saleemah Jones, and assistant director, Angel Galloway,” said Terry. “These two sisters are brilliant in their work to improve the quality of life in the community.” She said the experience was both inspiring and challenging.

AKIL of Oakland performed his original song “Gave Us 28,” referring to the number of days in February for Black History Month. “I like to produce positive rap,” said AKIL. “They gave us 28 but every day we make history.”

Other performances featured an original skit on love by Lauren Black and Erynne-Dnae of Cotati, California, and a poem by Oakland middle-schooler Talia Rochelle entitled “Go to the Back, Rosa Parks.” “Rosa Parks is an important, strong, brave woman in Black history,” she said.

Paris Jackson Jr. performed an original dance.

Gary Moore of San Francisco performed a monologue from August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Shelly Broadnax performed an original poem entitled “MIBPOC,” about having to check the ‘other’ box when filling out surveys and applications.

IMAC FADICHI of Chicago performed an original rap, “The Good Show,” and Pierre Jones of Richmond performed an original monologue entitled, “Black Caesar.”

The second half of the show included the stage production “Unapologetically Black: Here to Facilitate Harm Reduction Services for Those in Need, Inc.,” written by Itoro Bassey, a Nigerian playwright.

“Itoro reached out to us, and we thought it was a great way to put this perspective on our platform to raise voices,” said Jones, play producer.

The production, satiric in nature, explored the seriousness of Black and white race relations including white privilege and white insensitivity toward African Americans in everyday situations.

In one scene a white male doctor talks to a Black female patient in a dismissive manner. At the height of their disagreement, the two actors are frozen in time. A third actor enters, “Dr. Find You an Ally,” performed by Anthony Dixon, who narrates the situation and offers to serve as a white ally for the Black woman for 24 hours at the price of $59.99.

The actors unfreeze and the Black woman joins the narrator, as he explains his services including a bootcamp provided to retrain white perpetrators and transform their behavior into one of respect, understanding and empathy toward Black people.

Actors in the production included Tyler Mae, David Cesari, Shayna Howlett, Toni Rochelle, Ziare Whitelow, Christina Gluszaczak, Harley Ford and Cody Johnson.

“It’s been great to combine a showcase featuring some of the best in Bay Area talent with a stage play production written by a Nigerian sister,” said Jones. “The month may have 28 days, but we are 365 days a year, 24-7 making history,” said Galloway.

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Black History

Cathay Williams — The Only Known Female Buffalo Soldier

Cathay Williams knew that she couldn’t volunteer to serve as a regular soldier in the U.S. military. But knowing didn’t stop her. The young girl who had once labored as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation in Jefferson City, Missouri devised a plan to enlist in the U.S. Regular Army: she would register under the pseudonym William Cathay.

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On Nov. 15, 1866, the 17-year-old, born to an enslaved mother and a free father in Independence, Missouri in 1844, enlisted for a three-year engagement, passing herself off as a man.

Cathay Williams knew that she couldn’t volunteer to serve as a regular soldier in the U.S. military. But knowing didn’t stop her. The young girl who had once labored as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation in Jefferson City, Missouri devised a plan to enlist in the U.S. Regular Army: she would register under the pseudonym William Cathay.

As contraband, or a captured slave, Williams served as an army cook and a washerwoman, traveling with the infantry all over the country while serving under General Philip Sheridan. This experience with the military didn’t satisfy Williams; she wanted more. Military service held the lure of independence for a young, unmarried former slave.

On Nov. 15, 1866, the 17-year-old, born to an enslaved mother and a free father in Independence, Missouri in 1844, enlisted for a three-year engagement, passing herself off as a man.

At the time, the army did not require full medical examinations. After passing the physical tests, Williams was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment, one of four all-Black units newly formed that year. The regiment would later be known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

This excerpt, dated Jan. 2, 1876, was pulled from an interview with the St. Louis Daily Times: “The regiment I joined wore the Zouave uniform and only two persons, a cousin and a particular friend, members of the regiment, knew that I was a woman. They never ‘blowed’ on me. They were partly the cause of my joining the army. Another reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.

“Soon after I joined the army, I was taken with the smallpox and was sick at a hospital across the river from St. Louis, but as soon as I got well, I joined my company in New Mexico. I was as that paper says, I was never put in the guard house, no bayonet was ever put to my back. I carried my musket and did guard and other duties while in the army, but finally I got tired and wanted to get off. I played sick, complained of pains in my side, and rheumatism in my knees.

“The post surgeon found out I was a woman and I got my discharge. The men all wanted to get rid of me after they found out I was a woman. Some of them acted real bad to me.”

Williams was discharged honorably by her commanding officer, Captain Charles E. Clarke, on Oct. 14, 1868.

After leaving the army, Williams moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where she again worked as a cook and washerwoman. She was married for a short time and bore no children. There are no official records of her death, however, it is estimated that she passed away sometime around 1893.

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Activism

Richmond Promise Scholarship Application Deadline Closes March 17

Qualifying applicants can receive up to $1,500 annually for four years toward their post-secondary educational goals at a two-year or four-year college and/or while pursuing a Career Technical Education Certificate at any not-for-profit institution in the U.S. 

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Scholarships are available for high school graduates who want to go to a two-year or four-year college or a nonprofit vocational/technical school. Photo courtesy of Richmond Promise.
Scholarships are available for high school graduates who want to go to a two-year or four-year college or a nonprofit vocational/technical school. Photo courtesy of Richmond Promise.

Calling all high school seniors from Richmond and North Richmond: The Richmond Promise Scholarship Application period for the 2022-2023 school year closes on Friday, March 17.

High school seniors and GED students under the age of 24 who reside in Richmond and North Richmond and attend public, private, or charter schools in West Contra Costa County are eligible to apply for the scholarship.

Qualifying applicants can receive up to $1,500 annually for four years toward their post-secondary educational goals at a two-year or four-year college and/or while pursuing a Career Technical Education Certificate at any not-for-profit institution in the U.S. 

Students can also petition for an additional two years of extra funding. Throughout the process, the program provides supportive services to participating scholars from high school through college graduation, including support with identifying and applying for financial aid.

Richmond Promise launched in 2016 with a $35 million, 10-year investment by Chevron Richmond. The funds are part of a $90 million community benefits agreement between the City of Richmond and Chevron connected to the $1 billion Refinery Modernization Project.

To apply for the Richmond Promise Scholarship, go to https://richmondpromise.tfaforms.net/81. Need some help? Reach out to Richmond Promise at scholarships@richmondpromise.org. Learn more about the organization https://richmondpromise.org/

Kathy Chouteau contributed to this report

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