An Open Letter re: my UCDC Experience

Washington, DC (just like the brochure says) was a transformative experience for me. While I missed my family and faced some very trying times, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

Ya’ll probably have work to do so I’ll keep it as brief as I can. We’re living in an unmapped and unprecedented era of history, the strength of our institutions are really being tested under fascism and we really don’t know what the breaking point is (if it already hasn’t been reached). And DC is at the center of it all.

An eye of the storm in many ways, D.C. is a center of national and global politics. Press releases I’d draft and bills I’d deliver to the House Cloakroom became part of the New’s Cycle and it was just a normal Tuesday for me.

The UCDC program was first started in 2001 as a way to bring students center-stage and expose them to a new world of opportunities and experiences. If you’re one of the +240,000 students in the UC System, you’ve probably heard and seen pictures of the UCDC program which look like…..

Congresswoman Barbara Lee with my friend Stacy before President Trump’s address to the Joint Session of Congress
UCDC alumni night! #networking

Here is one picture you won’t see highlighted by admin:

This SUV stared me straight in the face every day

While those other pictures narrate the positive aspects of the UCDC program, they didn’t take into account the effects on undocumented, LGBT and other vulnerable students in a rapidly hostile political atmosphere. No, this isn’t about having to wake up at 6 am to go to work. No, it’s not about being exposed to “different” ideas or viewpoints.

Every day for the 10 weeks I interned on the Hill and saw hatred be normalized while people back home were fighting for their lives. I also saw an immensely resistant and awakened American people who aren’t here for a fascist President. To them I have this message:

Our system needs to change for our politics to improve and we’re gonna need to do a lot more than vote and rely on politicians to fix it for us. 👏🏽Voting 👏🏽 is 👏🏽 the👏🏽 bare 👏🏽min👏🏽i👏🏽mum. Stalwart and progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Lee rely on people power to make radical and bold moves like boycotting Tr*mp’s inauguration and opposing an unfair SCOTUS nomination. Organizing needs to happen at the grassroots level for sustainable change to occur. Find those people running phonebanks, canvassing operations and protests and get started today.

State and local governments are already starting to resist Tr*mp’s regime, (i.e. Sanctuary CITIES). California generally has a low tolerance for bullshit and in fact is moving to protect the undocumented people he is targeting.

The UCDC program gave me unmatched access and exposure to our nation’s government and institutions, I won’t deny that. It allowed me to see how fragile and flawed our institutions and political system really are and steps needed to change and improve them.

Something I had to come to terms with was benefitting from a government that works to invade, kill, maim and imperialize other peoples. Living in the United States (and especially California) insulates us from the struggles of people around the world. While we have these conversations and “dialogue” there are people dying all over the world because of our policies and politics. While we face Tr*mp in the 24/7 news cycle, people were always being killed Imperialist-caused famine, bombs and hatred. Living in the United States affords us with so much safety and comfort that we often take it for granted and never check our privilege.

So do I recommend you not attend the UCDC program? To not exit your California comfort zone? To not critically analyze your place in the broader framework that is the world?

I don’t, because how are you going to fight that what you don’t know…?

As a person-of-color, immigrant and student of Public Policy, this exposure was invaluable and unparalleled. Not only has it exposed the moving parts of US politics, it’s given me insight on what needs to happen for the system to change.

I HIGHLY recommend you apply to this program if you are able and willing, and have a shred of interest in going to Washington, DC. And to save you a 2-second Google search, here are the info pages for your campus:

the best, the brownest Riverside

Berkeley

Davis

Irvine

LA

Merced

San Diego

Santa Barbara

Santa Cruz

Ty for getting this far, here is a glamor shot of the Hill and I.