September 2020 Advocate: Change SSF organizing for community empowerment


“Change SSF” organizing for community empowerment in South City

AFT 1493 has worked with the social justice organization “ChangeSSF” after supporting earlier student social justice groups in the District, such as SMCCD Rise Up and the SMCCD Solidarity Initiative, which began in 2016 and organized against arming SMCCD public safety officers and then developed numerous demands such as calling for SMCCD to be a sanctuary campus (to offer protections for students and families who are undocumented immigrants), extended library and learning center hours for students without adequate study spaces and technology access at home, and free tuition. A number of the student leaders we worked with at our colleges were among the founders of ChangeSSF and representatives from ChangeSSF participated in our recent teach-in on social justice unionism.

By Change SSF members

Change SSF is a multigenerational and multicultural grassroots organization which aims to advocate for community empowerment through education and political action. We are motivated by the work of the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other lives taken at the hands of police violence.

We are composed of students, educators, youth and community members who have ties to South San Francisco. We came together during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic and socioeconomic struggles only continue to exacerbate loss in our communities and lead to detrimental outcomes for our people. Change SSF is rooted in the belief that we as a community have the power to create a future where we can not only get by, but thrive and grow. We center our goals and actions as a group around community care and healing.

On July 5th, we held a march in honor of Derrick Gaines, a 15-year-old boy shot and killed by SSFPD officer, Joshua Cabillo in 2015. Cabillo remains an officer in the SFPD. This march was meant to remind the city of South San Francisco of the community’s demand that the city council be accountable for their complicity in police violence in our community and address the need for the defunding of the SSFPD. Specifically, we demand that funds from the police budget are reallocated into vital community programs for mental health services, restorative justice education and practices, affordable housing and homeless services, and other programs that can support marginalized members of the South San Francisco community.

On July 14th, we hosted a car caravan to remind our community to keep our educators and students safe by ensuring remote learning.

We have made connections with many community members to hear their stories and dreams for South San Francisco. We continue to advocate for the removal of Student Liaison Officers from schools in the SSFUSD, and we are currently engaged in direct community work such as a voter guide for the upcoming election and a school supply drive for students in the SSFUSD.

Change SSF march in South City on July 5

Among the various demands and plans we have in motion, we remain rooted in the hope to build a strong community that takes care of one another and to have a community that is not met with police violence, but has resources to meet the many specific and nuanced needs of vulnerable communities.

Having the opportunity to speak at AFT 1493’s “Social Justice Unionism in Practice: From Part-Time Parity to Anti-Oppression Organizing” teach-in allowed some of our members to talk about the work that we are currently doing and learn from labor organizers. We hope that we can continue to connect and learn how labor organizing is tied to community organizing and the fight for social and racial justice. Our group was honored to share space with other organizers and have the opportunity to speak about the formation of our group. Some of our members are SMCCD alumni themselves and hold the educators and communities within the SMCCD near to their hearts. In the future we aim to continue to build relationships with the union organizers within SSF and beyond and to learn from their organizing methods.

Change SSF envisions South San Francisco to be a place where our youth have room to explore their creativity and receive education that honors their histories, where our immigrant communities do not live in fear, but can readily access the resources they need, and where families do not have to suffer due to the impact of mass incarceration in this society. We are dedicated to putting in the work so that we and others in the community can learn from one another, keep each other safe, and build upon the work done by organizers and community before us. Change SSF welcomes all community members dedicated to racial and social justice.

Read about a founding member of Change SSF, James Coleman, who is running for South San Francisco City Council.