Spring 2020 Editor’s Note
“Sorry Dan, I’m just too slow to keep you on the clock this morning. I hope things turn around soon,” was the last I heard from my manager Tika on Sunday, March 15. I was cut after only two hours of my normal six-hour shift at the Valencia Street bakery, Craftsman and Wolves. Although still frazzled from the early wake-up call to open the shop, I understood. We had an abysmal $13 in sales for the morning, whereas on a typical Sunday there’s a line out the door and chaos at the coffee bar. Today I was scrubbing baseboards.
It was a glorious day and I was just blocks from City College of San Francisco’s Mission Center. Determined to make the most of my rare day off, I swung around the corner to the acclaimed Flour + Water, eager to grab a slice. Instead, I found the general manager boarding up the windows with plywood. Walking home I witnessed businesses all along Valencia Street doing the same. Our world became a ghost town overnight. COVID-19, swamping the mainstream media for weeks, had just begun to grip San Francisco.
Over the last 18 months, Etc Magazine has led me to fall in love with storytelling through journalism. It is a thrilling cat-and-mouse game between writers, editors, photographers and their subjects. Add to that the rush I get from my personal struggle with the J-train routinely running 18 minutes behind schedule, and you can see how I keep my adrenaline running during a normal semester.
But this semester’s production of Etc Magazine was anything but normal. Nearly derailed by the global pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn, our fast-paced weekly staff meetings came to a screeching halt. Unable to enter our lab, we could not even access our server. Prior to these past few months, I thought Zoom was some kind of cybersex chatroom. Now, it’s how our staff collaborates and problem-solves in lieu of in-person interaction.
With cancelled events, suspended club meetings and no school, our photo-heavy magazine had to be supplemented with illustrations. Staff member Jennifer Yin stepped up to the plate, designing the cover and three illustrations. Jasmine Castillo, Design Director, assembled beautiful spreads and a press-ready magazine — a tedious responsibility to complete remotely. Long hours were logged by Castillo and our design team to lay out this issue, and this publication would not be possible without their extended effort.
In this issue, Meyer Gorelick and Steven Ray dive into the current state of affairs regarding class cuts and their reverberation throughout the City College community in “Death by 1,495 Cuts.” Ray focuses on four part-time instructors who lost a significant portion of their income abruptly and without warning. Gorelick illustrates how the recently ousted Chancellor Mark Rocha failed to uphold City College’s mission to educate and serve the entire San Francisco community.
Through his writing and photography, Abraham Davis explores the camaraderie of judo and jiu jitsu in “Throw Down. Get up. Repeat.” Mixed martial arts is one of the fastest-growing sectors in sports entertainment, and the growth of the City College judo and jiu jitsu club reflects this. Mitchell Palacio has run the club since 1986, and has built a diverse and tight-knit community.
In collaboration with Carlos da Silva, I share the story of “The Unbreakable Nikki Phillips.” It’s a testament to her grit as she navigates City College while dealing with severe osteoarthritis and mental illness. Through the help of the Disabled Students Program Services, DSPS, Phillips overcomes the odds to succeed academically. The story was photographed by Etc alumnus Yujin Lim.
Eleni Balakrishnan’s timely piece, “Transit on an Open Market,” explores what happened when San Francisco banned all personal vehicles from its main downtown thoroughfare. While it benefits the cyclists, public transport commuters and pedestrians, the new ordinance raises questions Balakrishnan addresses. Staff photographer Kevin Kelleher captures car-free Market Street both pre- and post-COVID-19 lockdown.
Much to my delight, former Editor-in-Chief of the publication Emily Huston returns as a guest writer to profile Veronica and Alberto Campos, owners of the Cafe de la Mission, located at Mission Center in “Corazón y Alma.” Staff photographer and Assistant Photo Editor Emily Trinh photographed them just before the COVID-19 fiasco shut down the school. The Campos family has fed first-rate Latin American dishes to City College students, faculty and staff for an admirable 12 years.
With large gatherings on hold, and an empty San Francisco, I have to tip my cap to our staff photographers, Emily Trinh and Kevin Kelleher, for their hustle in the face of the pandemic. Kelleher braved our revered Frida Kahlo Way during the crisis to get photographs of an eerie Ocean Campus.
Without strong editors, our writing lacks discipline and clarity. Managing Editor Ashley Ornelas’ scrupulous eye for grammar and style gives our writing legitimacy—and makes my run-on-sentences lucid. Content Editor Meyer Gorelick has a knack for concise and clean story-telling that is much appreciated by our entire staff. Photo Editor Fran Smith continues her journalism department legacy, adding beautifully-edited photo stories to her portfolio.
Recently, our beloved adviser Jessica Lifland has been thrown to the wolves of fiscal bureaucracy that has overcome our cherished City College. She only learned of her own class cuts last November, while assembling our fall issue late into the night. For an instructor that has dedicated 15 years to City College, this was disrespectful and disgraceful in the eyes of so many of us who have been fortunate enough to learn from her over the years.
In our pandemic-ridden brave new world, I can confidently say Jessica Lifland will not let Etc Magazine go down the rabbit hole of class cuts without a fight, nor without that New York fire in her eyes.
Our responsibility as journalists to deliver a truthful and compelling narrative becomes all the more vital in a time of crisis and uncertainty. I must commend our staff for pushing through adversity to publish this latest issue of Etc Magazine. It was not easy. Wash your hands. Until next time, San Francisco.
Daniel Murphy, Editor in Chief