Reflection: Change in San Francisco

By Samantha McGrath

Take a listen to I left my heart in San Francisco, by Tony Bennett.

These lyrics capture what I like to call the “look and feel” of the city.

When you go off to college you will be asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most people are looking for what kind of job you will have or what you want to major in. However, the question that I think people should REALLY be asking college students is, how are you going to change your world for the better?

Whoa, now that’s a hefty question. How you going to figure out what you want to change? First you have to figure out what you think is important and then look into how you can make a change to improve it.

My management professor once said, “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” Ponder that tongue twister for one second. Soak it in and let it roll around in your mind. For a long time I had not understood what he meant. And the concept of change seemed distant and scary. I got the chance to know what I thought about change after seeing the local changes in the San Francisco community.

J, a San Francisco resident for 18 years, spoke to our class about the  5 o’clock bike rides she engages in called “Critical Mass” that are held on the last Friday of each month through the streets of the city. Cyclists from throughout the area meet at a set location and take over the streets from automobile traffic in a social movement and statement about grassroots organizing and political action. J said it used to be that the police would try and shut down the cyclists but closing roads to them, but now, it is understood that this is a fact of life in San Francisco, and a way for people to engage collectively.

Now how cool is that? It all started with people interested in change in their community.

I got a chance to directly witness the activist community through the Clarion Alley Mural Project.  This project is a community-based organization run by artists that supports socially-engaged public art. This project was a grassroots idea that blended local community and talented artist that have created more than 700 murals about social, economic and environmental justice on the alley’s walls since 1992.  Now, thanks to social media, the work can be viewed online anywhere in the world.

When I was in high school I thought college students always had their lives together and their future figured out. Now that I am a college student, I know that as long as I am making progress on small changes that I am passionate about, I am heading in the right direction. After all, small initiatives can grow into big change.



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