Kiana Martinez, Community Empowerment Activist, Sociology ’20
During the 2018-2019 academic year at USF, I have had the opportunity to work with, Causa Justa Just Cause (CJJC), a Bay Area grassroots organization based in the SoMa district that works to build community leadership in the fight for housing and racial justice. Working at the CJJC mission office and learning from community leaders at actions as a central part of the Community Empowerment Activist program from the McCarthy Center has been an experience that I will carry with me throughout my future work in public service.
An action that touched my heart was one hosted by San Francisco’s Tenants Union. The Veritas tenants community created the ideas for the action in which they confronted one of the most powerful corporate landlords in San Francisco. This began when the Veritas tenants found out that CEO of Veritas, Yat-Pang Au, was to receive the “Spirit of Life” award for making a donation to cancer research. This news was disheartening to the tenants after the inhumane treatment that he had caused them.
After I introduced myself at our first meeting with the Union, Albert, a tenant, expressed to me the pain that the CEO Yat-Pang had caused him and his neighbors by evicting them including the unsanitary conditions they endured at the complex. He went on to explain that the main reason that they were there was in honor and in memory of their neighbor who was harassed and evicted to the point where he committed suicide.
With their friend in mind, the tenants decided to give the CEO a ‘spirit of greed, harassment and eviction’ award and have the action be a memorial. After this talk, we proceeded to the hotel ballroom space and presented the award as guests walked in. We shouted “Eviction is a health issue!”, “People over Profits” and then we began to sing a song written by the tenants that went to the melody of “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” instead titled “Killing our Souls with Eviction.”
In this overall experience, I have participated in the fight for stronger rent control in California through working on the campaign for Proposition 10, as well as the Sol to Sol Summit, the MLK, Jr. March, the Plaza 16 hearing against the Monster in the Mission, CJJC member meetings and CJJC know your rights trainings.