racial justice

Disrupting the Master’s Tools: An Audre Lorde Framework of Radical Self & Community Care in the Academy

The CHSS R.A.C.E. Initiative invites you to join our inaugural Learning/Unlearning Circle, “Disrupting the Master’s Tools: An Audre Lorde Framework of Radical Self & Community Care in the Academy,” hosted by our very own Director of Healing Circles and Associate Professor of Child & Adolescent Development, Dr. Sherria Taylor.

Sherria Taylor

Dr. Sherria Taylor

In order to continue to further examine, interrogate, and change the harmful policies, practices and culture of the institution — from the classroom, to our labs, to department meetings, etc., it is vital for us to courageously learn and unlearn as a community. “In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action.” Learning and unlearning as a community involves engaging in collective critical reflexivity around topics that seek to “disrupt the master’s tools” by resisting problematic, harmful, and violent ways of being, knowing, feeling, and doing in the academy and reimagining.

This Learning/Unlearning Circle will support us in understanding and reimagining radical self and community care as envisioned by Audre Lorde, a Black, queer, unapologetic poet, author, activist, and professor who drew attention to the fact that dominant narratives of coping and healing had been designed solely with white, heterosexual individuals in mind. Although mainstream discourse surrounding self-care has increased over the past 10 years, much of it is grounded in capitalistic and white supremacist foci on “doing” rather than being and, for people of color, are often disconnected from the traditions, rituals, and relationships that serve to protect, nourish, and care for our souls and “being-ness” while doing the work of dismantling oppressive systems that we did not create.

Audre Lorde portrait with quote

In her book Burst of Light: Essays, Audre Lorde provides us with a powerful framework for radical self and community care for those not only committed to social and racial justice, but those committed to their own courageous journey of healing and bringing about genuine, sustainable, and critically-informed social and institutional change. In our time together we’ll walk through learning and unlearning what it means to put the radical in self-care and utilize Audre Lorde’s voice as a guide through a series of critical reflexive questions and discussions designed to deepen our understanding of what self and community care can look like in the academy.

Please bring your lunch and snacks and join us via Zoom as we dig deep and embody the following words beautifully stated by Audre Lorde:

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable…; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older- know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those…who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

New tenure-track faculty discuss importance of being authentic selves in scholarship

Many students and faculty members view San Francisco State University and the city in which it is located as sharing a unique spirit of social justice and progressivism. 

Cynthia Martinez, an assistant professor in SF State’s Department of Counseling, was drawn to SF State by the community, the spirit of activism and her department colleagues. She grew up hearing stories from her parents — who immigrated here from Guatemala — about coming to the Bay Area in 1967 and seeing the Black Panther Movement, Civil Rights Movement and Harvey Milk. “The spirit of San Francisco State has that, with ethnic studies and the inclusivity it is connected to,” she said.

Her scholarship interests lie in participant action research, including working with BIPOC families to create non-traditional therapeutic wellness groups and trauma-informed, antiracist advocacy and radical self-care for practitioners experiencing collective trauma.

Martinez appreciates her colleagues’ receptivity to her teaching style and her pedagogical frameworks centered on community organizing, popular education, trauma-informed clinical/school supports, decolonizing critical praxis and anti-racist advocacy. The reason for this, she said, is “because they themselves are striving to create an open and inclusive learning community for our students. And I deeply respect the work they have done.”

Albert de la Tierra, an assistant professor in Criminal Justice Studies, was drawn to SF State because of his department and its explicit attention to structures of power. Meeting the faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice Studies helped him decide that SF State was where he wanted to build a career. 

"The collegial culture that my senior colleagues and my department have built — because of the intentions they have to recognize, honor and value each other's humanity first, and to build constructive criticism from that appreciation of each other's perspectives — pushed me towards SF State,” said de la Tierra.

De la Tierra holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. in Sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center, a B.A. in Criminology, Law & Society from UC Irvine, and advanced certificates in the Psychology of Leadership (Cornell), Critical Theory (CUNY), and Women's Studies (CUNY). He has years of experience teaching introductory and advanced undergraduate courses on qualitative research design, criminal justice studies and various sociological theories. He tailors coursework to students’ positionalities to promote their ability to interrogate the culture(s) in which they live.

"When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” — Audre Lorde

The two faculty members were asked to consider the above quote from Audre Lorde and how it applies to their work. Both expressed that focusing on being their authentic selves in their scholarship is vital. Martinez says this is something she has struggled with in terms of traditional research, which is often quantitative and framed in a way that is “for the community, not with the community.” Being trained as an activist community organizer, going into the field of psychology, and seeing people writing about multiculturalism and thinking about social justice, she aims to find ways to lift the voices of the communities she works with.

Martinez emphasizes the question she asks herself: “How can we bring the spirit of the families we are working with, and the activism of the people whom I learn from and continue to learn from?” While reading the book “All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks, she was inspired by the idea that love is a verb, an action. This quote helps answer her question, "I feel most powerful when talking about this because it is grounded in my communities, in families, and is founded in a lot of love.”

For de la Tierra, “daring to be powerful” means thinking about love and respect and analyzing scholarship, which can include problematic ideals. He says he considers it essential to be honest with the people he works with and those in his scholarship; he targets their work to demonstrate to his discipline that their work warrants a close reading and examination. “I want to push my people, my folks, beyond the frameworks that they are producing and reproducing.”

“Daring to be powerful is taking the risk of alienating myself from the small number of communities that I have in academia,” de la Tierra continues. He notes that it is easy to criticize backward frameworks or people one does not necessarily like. However, the whole goal behind academia and scholarship is to find colleagues who understand each other. “We are not here to only say what is good about what we do; the best thing I can offer and someone else can offer me is constructive criticism.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are frequently discussed in higher education, and SF State has long championed those values. On the subject of DEI in her own life, Martinez shares, “I live it every day, and so there is not a break… systemic oppression is a trigger of insidious trauma.” She focuses on intersectionality in how power differences play out in our lives and in the context of being Latin/Latinx/Latina. “What does that [intersectionality] mean when it has been grounded in anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity? … I often think about this in terms of identity, and it means intersectionality and how it comes across in class, race and gender.”

As people of color, both Martinez and de la Tierra have lived their whole lives contemplating not only DEI but also exclusion, marginalization, racism and the violence of the state through microaggressions. De la Tierra adds, “I have been reflecting on how I combat white supremacy in my community, how I subscribe to white supremacy ideologies without actually knowing, and how to work to undo that.”

De la Tierra believes that higher education aids in cultivating people who ask questions, are genuinely curious to know more and have the courage to question their beliefs and truths. “You can learn almost anything online… but the promise of being at a university, especially ours, is that you will be in a room with people who dedicated their life to becoming critical thinkers,” he said.

New faculty members break barriers around education

San Francisco State University is committed to ensuring its campus is a place of inclusion, and its faculty and students continue to make sense of the world through racial justice. In the College of Health & Social Sciences, new tenure-track faculty members are breaking through barriers and appreciating the home that SF State has become for so many.

Asked why he chose SF State, Assistant Professor of Child & Adolescent Development Miguel Abad says, “San Francisco State University signifies access to higher education to young people who don't have that opportunity, have been pushed out of school, been written off, or have been told that higher education is not something they could strive to get into. San Francisco State has been that place to take in young people who aren't the traditional college-going story.”

Abad is a youth worker with more than a decade of experience collaborating with community-based and nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area in numerous fields, such as college access, career development, arts education and social movement organizing.

Angela Fillingim, a new assistant professor in the Department of Sociology & Sexuality Studies, says, “Relevant education permeates the entire school culture, not just in ethnic studies — which is the heartbeat that's embraced across the campus, but with a variety of different people with varying majors, and they all still feel that sense of community.”

A Salvadoran American sociologist, Fillingim centers her teaching and research center on social justice approaches to studies of race, human rights, social theory and Latinas/xs/os.

"When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." — Audre Lorde

When discussing the theme of “When I Dare to Be Powerful,” based on the above Audre Lorde quote, both faculty members have similar experiences of pressure to conform to rigid ideas of what it means to be successful as an academic and how they put in the work to get away from finding validation in dominant norms.

Abad and Fillingim agree that daring to be powerful includes focusing on how to contribute to our community and the people they try to advocate for. Abad states, “It takes a lot of intention and awareness of the spaces you are moving in and a lot of self-reflection as to why you are doing something and who you are accountable for.”

Fillingim highlighted that after leaving graduate school, students learn to ask questions that call attention to the problems they face in the communities they come from. She says that power means “you must learn to be comfortable flipping the script and being at an institution where that is valued, centered in the students, and having a space that also values that work.”

Reflecting on how they face issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in their own lives, Abad and Fillingim say their experiences make them consider their own encumbrances to the struggles others may experience. They recognize in their own lives that to overcome these hindrances, they must aim to be grounded in a community where they work to support and acknowledge each other.

“Justice will look different for everybody, but the point is that you are working together to change something, and we can agree that change needs to happen,” Fillingim says.

The two new faculty members emphasize the role of education in breaking barriers. Fillingim reflects on her experiences in the K-12 system that focuses on discipline and obedience instead of encouraging students to develop themselves. She can see this repetition with high schoolers she works with; many students come in with that socialization. “Focusing on education that is dedicated to understanding its students and making education meaningful to their daily lives, who they want to be as a person, and the choices they make —that is the kind of education that is revolutionary and necessary,” she says.

Abad touches on this topic with the classes he teaches, such as having his students read about Native American boarding schools and asking them to reflect on themselves and learn about or challenge their assumptions that education is always a good thing.

When working with students, whether in a college class or a community-based space, Abad tries to focus on promoting collaboration and teamwork. He is struck by students’ adverse reaction to teamwork. He says, “Not only in school but in society [students] are taught, or they come to learn that collaboration is this thing that is too hard and it holds them back as individuals or that it is this negative thing.”

“Education is a vehicle for delivering particular values, and the kinds of values I and others hope to deliver are those focused on radical transformation and social justice,” Abad says.

He recognizes the slow work of helping his students see how they are more powerful together, and how the changes they want to see in themselves and their world will only happen if they work together and express similar values.

Fillingim shares similar values about work needing to be put into the K-12 system. “There hasn't been significant change despite all this work that has been done… there needs to be thinking of education as relevant, grounded in community, grounded in self-actualization,” she says.

Fillingim and Abad both express hope that education centered on self-actualization is possible, and that through the continuous challenges we face, people are working to push through and advocate for social justice-grounded change within education.

CHSS Healing Circles to be relaunched for Spring 2023

In Spring 2023, the CHSS RACE Collective will be relaunching the college-wide Healing Circles Initiative to focus on racial justice through collective learning, unlearning and radical community care.

Please take a look at the video message below from our new director of Healing Circles, Sherria Taylor, explaining why Healing Circles matter in CHSS and what we hope to create and sustain through the Healing Circles Initiative.

Healing Circles will start approximately in mid-late February. They will be structured and racial identity-specific. Each group will choose a book to walk through from a selection of books and the group will determine how long and how often their group will meet.

These Healing Circles will be in addition to and complemented by Unlearning/Learning Circles facilitated throughout the semester. This semester the Unlearning/Learning Circles will focus on:

  • Healing the larger institution through learning and unlearning
  • Rest and restorative practices in an exhaustion-producing climate
  • Organizing for change within the institution
  • Toxic professionalism and leadership
  • Embodiment as resistance
  • Workplace rituals that promote joy and radical self-care, and more

More information and sign-ups for Learning/Unlearning Circles will be shared throughout the semester. Please sign up to attend when they are announced.

To learn more about the Healing Circles Initiative, visit the Healing Circles page on the CHSS website.

Francisco-Menchavez named first CHSS assistant dean for restorative and transformative racial justice

Valerie Francisco-Menchavez, associate professor in the Department of Sociology & Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University, has been appointed to the newly created post of assistant dean for restorative and transformative racial justice in the College of Health & Social Sciences (CHSS). The position was created as part of the CHSS Reflections and Actions to Create Equity (RACE) Initiative and reports directly to the dean and RACE Collective (the leadership of the RACE Initiative). She will begin in the role starting Spring 2023 when she returns from a sabbatical.

Valerie Francisco-Menchavez

Francisco-Menchavez is committed to transnational organizing and scholarly examination of Filipina migrants’ lives. Her political and academic work has focused on Filipinas working as domestic workers in New York City and as caregivers in the San Francisco/Bay Area. She has written about care work engendering radical solidarities among those who are racialized migrants, low-wage workers and transnational mothers. Her book, titled The Labor of Care: Filipina Migrants and Transnational Families in the Digital Age, explores the dynamics of gender and technology of care work in Filipino transnational families in the Philippines and the U.S. Francisco-Menchavez has collaborated with organizations, students and community members to craft participatory and feminist methodologies and projects where migrants’ experiences are centered as expertise. To this end, she has understood the importance of advancing political struggle and movement building as essential to the process of knowledge production.

It has been the commitment and collective guidance of renegade scholars, radical activists and caring communities that helped Francisco-Menchavez sharpen her critical analysis of power and collaboratively build organizations and space for justice. Through her scholar-activist work, academic and political, on campus and off, Francisco-Menchavez realized that the power of change is in the power collective organization and creativity.

“Today, our world calls for urgent attention towards undoing oppression, restoring dignity and justice, and envisioning a new type of relations with one another,” Francisco-Menchavez said. “It calls us to take great care towards cultivating forms of racial justice, that is intertwined with intersectional analysis of power and oppression. To this end, I am thrilled to step into the role of assistant dean for restorative and transformative racial justice.”

Panelists discuss racial justice at CHSS Annual Showcase

The College of Health & Social Sciences held its 2021 Annual Showcase in a virtual format on April 22. This year’s theme was Embodying Racial Justice. The event included a lively, passionate discussion of racial justice and a slideshow featuring poster abstracts. You can view the abstracts and posters here.

Dean Alvin Alvarez began the program with welcoming remarks and spoke about the College’s RACE Initiative. This was followed by the panel discussion, moderated by Sherria Taylor, assistant professor of Child & Family Studies in the Family, Interiors, Nutrition & Apparel Department. Panelists were Maiya Evans, a lecturer in Holistic Health and Public Health; Supriya Misra, assistant professor of Public Health and Brandon Venerable, a member of the CHSS Race Collective.



Sherria D. Taylor, Ph.D. (moderator)

Assistant Professor, Child & Family Studies

Sherria D. Taylor (she/her) is an assistant professor of Child & Family Studies in the Family, Interiors, Nutrition & Apparel Department at SF State. She earned her doctoral degree in 2013 from Loma Linda University in Family Studies with a concentration in Systems-Organizational Consultation. Her dissertation was titled, "A Family Resilience Model of Behavioral Health for Low-Income, Ethnic Minority Families." Taylor attained her M.A. in Counseling and Educational Psychology with an emphases in Marriage and Family Counseling and Community Counseling from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2003. Her research interests include family, community and cultural resilience, mental health, substance abuse prevention, the buffering effects of spirituality among ethnic minority families, and academic resilience among underrepresented college students. She has been involved in research funded by HUD and the Family Process Institute related to family resilience and family support services among low-income families.

As the former executive director of the nonprofit agency Access for Community & Cultural Education Programs & Trainings, Taylor was successful in securing over one million dollars in grant funding. She has produced peer-reviewed publications and reports related to low-income families, mental health, substance abuse, resilience and social justice pedagogy. Her work has been shared at various annual conferences focused on strengthening families and diversity and inclusion in higher education, including the National Council on Family Relations and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity.

Taylor is one of the founding members of the CHSS RACE Collective at SF State, which was formed with the goal of overseeing and engaging the entire CHSS community in activities, trainings, and working groups that are designed to advance racial justice. The CHSS Reflections and Actions to Create Equity (RACE) Initiative is a college-wide, permanent commitment to dismantling racism systemically in the college and to advancing and embedding racial justice in its teaching, research, and service, as well as its policies, procedures, and operations.


Maiya Evans, MPH

Lecturer, Holistic Health & Public Health

Maiya Evans (she/her) teaches courses in Holistic Health Studies and Public Health at SF State, where she earned her Master of Public Health in Community Health Education in 2015. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts  in Film/Cinema/Video Studies and Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Much of her work examines the intersection between holistic health, public health and social justice.
Evans has worked as a health educator at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, is a consultant for the anti-racism organization, The Mosaic Project, and was awarded the 2020-2021 EPIC Community College Fellowship at Stanford University for her work on globalizing the public health curriculum. She is the founder of Hey Girl Health, a health, wellness and culture brand that puts women of color at the center of the health conversation, and host of the health and wellness podcast, the Hey Girl Health Show. She is currently working on a project entitled, “Celebrating Diversity and Culture in the Virtual Space,” which demonstrates the benefits of creating an inclusive and diverse classroom space in the virtual realm.


Supriya Misra, Sc.D.

Assistant Professor, Public Health

Supriya Misra’s (she/her) research focuses on mental health inequities among socially marginalized communities, particularly racial and ethnic minority groups. She uses mixed methods to understand the roles of discrimination, stigma, and trauma on the onset and experience of mental distress and to promote dignity and justice for those living with mental illness. She completed her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology at Stanford University, her Sc.D. in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at New York University. She also worked for several years in nonprofit management to develop and implement evidence-based health education resources.


Brandon Venerable, MPA

CHSS RACE Collective

Brandon Venerable (he/his) is a Black Queer born and raised in Sacramento. His passion for public health/administration and social justice stems from his own experiences navigating public and health care services as a young person, and he strongly believes in the importance of equipping underserved populations with the tools to not only survive but thrive. He is one of the founding members of the CHSS RACE Collective at SF State, which was formed with the goal of overseeing and engaging the entire CHSS community in activities, trainings and working groups that are designed to advance racial justice. 

Venerable holds a B.S. in Nutrition and Food Sciences from Sacramento State University and a Master’s in Public Administration from SF State. His academic and professional interests center on organizational development, specifically, centering equity in the design of organizational structures, processes and values. He currently serves as a senior global programs manager for a global health nonprofit, where he focuses on program management, organizational development and strategy. In his free time he enjoys reading, attending local drag shows, cooking new vegetarian and vegan recipes, and watching movies and documentaries.