I completed my final day at my summer internship last Friday, and by this time Monday I’ll be back in Claremont for two weeks of training with the student Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault. I’m sad to say goodbye to Oakland and San Francisco. I’m happy to say hello to Claremont, although as a city it doesn’t quite stack up to what’s going on here (which isn’t to say that I’m not excited to do more exploring around the Inland Empire, especially the city of Pomona, this year). The city environment, the internship environment, the fact that I didn’t actually have to pay for anything with my own money – this summer’s success and happiness was the product of several huge factors all happening to coalesce at once. I feel so lucky and thankful to have had this experience. Filling out the summary and required questions for the Career Development Office’s evaluation didn’t quite encompass the broad range of learning and growing that morphed my life this summer! (GOOD THING THERE’S VOICES AMIRIGHT)
In the clinic, I learned some practical skills: how to operate a fancy phone, how to figure out whether a San Francisco tenant’s rent increase is illegal, how to design a brochure, how to speak about housing law in Spanish. For all of these things, I am better off. But I honestly feel that the single biggest source of learning was not applying myself to these specific tasks necessarily, but just sitting in the office all day and absorbing everything I could from my surroundings. All of my co-workers have organizing and activism experience around a range of issues and with many different Bay Area and California groups. Over lunch, I was able to learn more about what they’d done before their work here, and what they were working on now. I went to several all-staff meetings, where I learned about the various campaigns as well as other political projects outside our org in which staff were involved. I’m really excited to continue following those projects, and will keep them in mind when I start concretely researching future plans in the coming weeks and months and years and decades. I’d like to remind myself that The Nebulous Future might be full of choices and they don’t all have to be made between September 2013 and May 2014.
I was told at the beginning of the summer to listen freely: anything said within the office walls was fair game for me to listen and learn. So I listened to tenant counselors explaining why the city of San Francisco is in the middle of a housing crisis. I listened to organizers on conference calls with other community groups in San Francisco, compromising to decide on a strategic plan or celebrating a recent victory. I listened to other staff and interns make tens or hundreds of calls to the member base, inviting them to a group meeting or a social event. I listened as tenants told about the cruelty of landlords, or the confusion that resulted when their human landlord was suddenly replaced by a gigantic bank with no name or face delegated to oversee their individual needs. Hopelessness was never the ultimate response to these injustices, though. The more I heard, the more I saw, my eyes widened to understand a history of resistance and struggle. I (re)discovered my own sense of political empowerment, which was multiplied in impact when I saw how many other people of all ages were part of the same process.