Bringing Community Voice to City Hall
Sheryl Evans Davis wears many hats – USF alumnus, McCarthy Center Board member, Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission and now recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from USF! Before her day of recognition for her achievements in making a more just and equitable San Francisco, she gave us some reflections on her journey thus far.
Coming from your years of work in community, what do you try and bring to City Hall and the Human Rights Commission each day that might not have been there before your arrival?
My time working with community, taught me the importance of community voice, leadership and the power of collaboration. The Human Rights Commission added a community relations division after I arrived at the agency, partly because our community partnerships and programming increased with my arrival. A major component of our community programming is centered around young people and their families. I believe it is important to amplify community voice and to provide opportunities for youth leadership and development if we are going to successfully improve equity and build inclusive communities.
Having seen USF students participating in community-engaged learning in The Fillmore/Western Addition, what can students uniquely bring to the table?
The passion and curiosity that students bring to community can help inform innovative practices, celebrate the ingenuity and impact of community-led work and validate and inspire the work of a sometimes invisible need. I think students need to understand that simple things like just sitting and talking with someone about their work can make a huge difference, and each extra layer, like a social media post, a report, tutoring, program design or teaching a workshop builds community and unites us all for the common good.
International Human Rights Day was celebrated on December 10. What needs improvement in San Francisco in spite of its reputation for upholding human rights?
I really struggle with these questions about what needs improvement, there are so many needs in the City and yet in many ways we are doing amazing things. I guess if we begin to be more intentional about equity, and honest about racial, health and economic inequities we can begin to address the systems that contribute to the disparities we see in San Francisco.
How does it feel to be receiving an honorary degree from the institution where you earned your M.A?
I am beyond honored! It is humbling to be recognized by an institution with a commitment to prepare students to change the world and be in service for others.