One of the most memorable parts of my Foolish journey thus far was partnering with the University of San Francisco's Marshall Riley Living Learning Community (MRLLC) for African American Students and Black Scholars during the Spring semester of 2023.
This was a historic experience for many reasons. It started with me being an Alumni of USF, an African American student on scholarship while attending the university in the late 1990s and early 2000s and remembering that less than 5% of the school population was Black during my studies and I was often the only African American in many of my classes.
To offer a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) opportunity for a handful of Black identified students as the population continues to grow at USF (more than 13% in 2022) and also have the entire class of 30 plus students join the Faithful Fools for a full day street retreat of radical reflection, this was a full circle moment for me.
MRLLC students, along with friends from UC Berkeley, bringing their creativity and energy to the Fools' 25th anniversary
Another level that heightened this partnership was having one of my former professors still teaching the CEL class and witness the idea, inception and evolution of the MRLLC come to fruition. Professor Stephanie Sears was someone who shaped my decision to study abroad in Africa, and concentrate diligently on issues impacting African Americans in San Francisco. My two plus decades of community organizing, youth development, social justice and racial equity work, co-founding two programs for low-income students, families and residents impacted by systemic disparities with school, the criminal justice system, affordable housing and medical issues, was influenced significantly by the sociology department and Black Leadership at USF.
The five students who joined the Faithful Fools during Spring 2023 focused on connecting with Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) that call the Tenderloin home. They wanted to engage with folks impacted by the social issues they had only read about or heard on media outlets, and neighborhoods that institutions and even USF, label as dangerous and alert students to be careful when going there or that they avoid altogether if possible.
Through mind, body and spirit discussions, projects and engaged learning opportunities, the USF MRLLC students were able to connect with adults and youth to explore how their cultural identity, beliefs and community impact their daily lives. From supporting K - 5th graders at Montessori Public School to interviews with unhoused Tenderloin residents in recovery and celebrating with fellow Fools for our 25th Anniversary Celebration, it was delightful to have the students show up to the Faithful Fools unapologetically and authentically as themselves and know they were also representing my alma mater.