Thursday, May 29, 2014

'women can do great things.'

I started writing this four years ago, around the time Sacramento Magazine published its feature on the "Last Days of Loretto." It had been a year since the school announced its closing, and there were still so many answers never given, and a statement from Sister Helen to Sac Mag: "There isn't a Loretto High School."

I never finished writing this, and I never sent it. But as I was clearing out drafts in my inbox, I stumbled across it, and perhaps finishing it now and posting it online will one day reach the eyes and ears of the IBVM, who have had so little to say about the great loss that affected so many.

Dear Sister Helen,

I remember so clearly the afternoon in August 2003 I sat beside my fellow classmates and you welcomed us to our new home. We were incoming freshmen, shy and anxious about what high school would bring, and you said something that I've carried with me ever since: "You are Loretto wherever you go."

I believed it then, and I still believe it now--even if you've disowned your own words.

There are a lot of things about Loretto I personally didn't "get" when I first arrived--things that ranged from choosing individual class colors/mascots to the debutante-style graduation ceremony to Baby Think It Over (I still have nightmares about the crying) to "Why don't we have Home Ec classes?"

But as my first year came to an end, I started to appreciate all of those things I had panned before: I'll forever think of Loretto (and crazy, fun Homecoming traditions) whenever I see the Pink Panther because of that unique stamp on the Class of 2007; and I liked that we celebrated ridiculous days like Pi Day, made events on campus out of building catapults in Physics class, and gave special assembly days for a Shakespeare Festival. I didn't lose anything by not sitting in a class to learn home economics because we all still would sit around at lunch and knit, and there was always somebody on campus to teach you how to balance a checkbook or sew a button if you needed to learn, and they would never once belittle you in the process.

At Loretto, we were taught by some of the very best, who didn't view their jobs as just something they did to get a paycheck. They were passionate, and it made us passionate. It made me passionate, and I can say for sure I wouldn't be where I am today without those folks guiding and encouraging me at such a young age. For every challenge that confronted us, Loretto tried so desperately to provide the answers--whether it was in an eccentric counselor's office or inside a quiet chapel. I began to understand that Loretto was not just a campus on El Camino Avenue, but it represented equality, education, sisterhood, and faith. Because of Loretto, I am more confident in my ability to be that woman in the world who can "do great things," as Mary Ward insisted.

And sure, Loretto wasn't perfect--but no family is. You don't always have to like each other, but you always love each other.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

and still I rise.

The first time I read Maya Angelou's "And Still I Rise," I cried. I was in junior high, and I didn't understand it, but I still couldn't help it.

The second time I read it, in an English class in high school, I understood the context more, and I cried for the pain buried in the words.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
I saw this video on YouTube, and then read the words again in a college Humanities course, and even now as I understand more and more of what her words are really saying, I still cry out of fear that we are a society that still forgets the "huts of history's shame," and we forget that empowerment is not about the suppression of others' voices and stories, but about the lifting of the oppressed so that we can one day reach a land of equality for all.

We cannot ignore the weight of Angelou's words in this world that so desperately needs more voices like hers. What a giant, what a loss.

Monday, May 26, 2014

a note...

I imported a bunch of blog entries to this blog, so if you're subscribed and just saw dozens of posts roll through...sorry.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I spent a good part of my senior year reporting a story that caused handfuls of people who I dared once call "friends" to disown and denounce the investigation and the journalists who pursued it. If you know what happened, you'll understand why I was haunted; if you don't know, don't worry--it's not what matters here.

The takeaways from what happened are still to this day, I believe, part of what makes this current spotlight on campus sexual assaults so important: the system was not built to help survivors of injustice.

I'll fully admit that I was guilty myself when the story first came to us. I didn't want to believe this girl's testimony because journalism encourages a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to any sort of allegation. But after the evidence made itself clear--the records and documents and more--I couldn't not continue to pursue the truth.

I couldn't not pursue it the way I never pursued my own truth. I was only 18 when a boy forced himself on me, and I was 19 when he threatened to kill me for reporting it. Nothing ever happened because the people I trusted to protect me told me it wasn't a crime if it was "just an attempt."

You have to actually be raped, apparently, before they consider taking you seriously.

"They put me in a room full of men," a survivor once told me about the police officers she spoke to after she reported her assault, "and they put one woman in there to hold my hand 'in case I cried.'"

Sunday, May 4, 2014

what makes you angry?

It's easy to stand on a soapbox and preach, but once you step down from the high, all that's left are the words that hang in the air around you like cobwebs that stick to your hair as you run through the haunted corners of society's darkest places.

It's easy to be angry, to hold onto it and say, "Yeah, this will fuel my passion," but it's easier, actually, to let it sit on your shoulders because it's easier to be crushed into submission than to carry a weight above you every day--a weight labeled "imperfect," labeled "scarred," labeled "exhausted," and filled with every moment that has fanned the flames inside your soul.

I've been thinking a lot about the things that make me angriest, and I've narrowed it down to this: