Dominick: I am here because I intend to be the change
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Dominick is an active student advocate from UC Berkeley. I met him last week at the Student Organizing Summit organized by the University of California Student Association, and had this interview.
The context in which Dominick’s story took place is drastically different from the current situation in mainland China; some concepts and the legislation process might be foreign to many Chinese readers. But I think it worthwhile to share this story -- a story about student power, a firm belief in justice, and the practicality -- in the hope of inspiring more people.
Tell me about yourself
"My name is Dominick. I study Political Science at UC Berkeley. I was raised in Sacramento."
I remember during the Student Lobby Conference in March, you gave a speech about a Bill at a news release in front of the state government. What was it about?
"Right. So I was asked to speak on a piece of legislature called CA Act to Save Lives (AB 392). The Act is basically increasing police officers' civil and criminal liability, saying that police officers should avoid using deadly force whenever possible. But, right now, officers can legally use deadly force and kill someone even when they have other alternatives. Passing this bill will make California the most strict state about gun control. "
"I spoke on that issue because I am a black male in California -- It means a number of things:
It means even in one of the most progressive, diverse, and inclusive places in this world, I’m 6 times more likely to be arrested;
It means I’m gonna be profiled."
"It means my father is gonna be profiled, for just existing.
My father is 6’2, 220 pounds, big, bald, and black. So he will always fit the description.
It means that there’s always gonna be police officers thinking that he’s what he shouldn’t be. "
"So I spoke on the issue, just encouraging the crowd there that this is something that we students should be concerned with, because this not only affects people outside the institution, but also affects parents of students in this institution, and affects students themselves -- I’m living in that experience.
They can’t go to school and feel safe. If they can’t make it to school, it means we are not serving the entirety of our student body.
So I said that and got some folks emotional."
So what happened to the bill?
"At that time it was very questionable whether or not it would get through California’s legislature. The speech was not the end. I went back and continued the work. We called legislators, both on the Assembly and the Senate. We had lots of students from across systems making phone calls and lobbying.
A few months ago, the bill passed the assembly and went through the process. It’s going to be signed by the Governor tomorrow."
Have you always been active in student advocacy?
"I’ve known this stuff since freshman year, but didn’t really go into it until a couple of years ago, when I started to realize that things are getting worse.
Like I said, I’m from Sacramento. There’s a shooting that happened 20 minutes away from the community that I’m from. That was the initial point for me to expand, not just speak on it, on Facebook, give suggestions to my friends, but actually do something about it."
So what kind of work have you done?
"Aside from the advocacy I did around this bill, I pushed the entire system wide university to reform the police practices. We are looking at not only the abuse force police, the way they hire, but also how they hold accountable of themselves."
What’s your plan for the rest of your time in college?
“I have one more semester at Berkeley. I will work on increasing the diversity of the faculty and student body.
A lot of research came out that the needs of diversity actually go both ways. Students of color need the learning from faculties that look like them, or have a close proximity to their experiences so they can be better understood. And in the same way, professors and faculties need to have that emotional or professional connections with people they see in classrooms.
So it’s in the best service of not just students but of people that are working and doing that research at our institutions.
And other arguments like how the more diverse your institutions are, the better ideas you can come up with. You can get a lot more ideas, more juices flowing.“
Tell me why you are here, why do you want to be in this summit?
“I am here because I have a responsibility to see that my work is being passed on to people who understand and are willing to work for it. I want to see them feel confident and competent in their work.
I want more people to know from my experience that your voice does matter, and you should get involved with something you care about.
I got involved with police accountability and racial diversity.
I was only one person, but I got to do a lot of great things.
Anyone can do what I did, if they just have the determination to see it through.“
In one sentence?
"My name is Dominick. I am here because I intend to be the change."
The above interview took place on August 18th.
The day after our conversation,
Assembly Bill 392, which Dominick had actively advocated for,
was officially signed by the Governor of California.