Musician and Activist Diana Gameros Performs at SMC

Filippi Academic Hall may not be a natural space for an intimate concert, but in the first week of December, it was host to local musician and activist Diana Gameros.

In JCL 10, the introductory class in SMC's Justice, Community & Leadership Program, Professor Suzanne Schmidt typically sets aside her final class session for a celebration of collective learning. The materials covered in JCL 10 are challenging, as students are asked to consider their own and each other's perspectives, life experience and positionality in relation to topics such as race, class, gender, ableism, immigrant rights, and inequality in the U.S. education system. In pre-COVID times, students would typically celebrate the end of the semester over food and drinks. This semester, Schmidt invited local musician and activist Diana Gameros to give a private concert and guest lecture for their final class session. 

Gameros has collaborated with the SF Symphony, will perfom at SF Jazz in 2022, and also brings her music and message to rallies and marches in support of DACA, against family separations, and in support of the inherent right of all humans to migrate with dignity. During her session with the class, Gameros addressed student questions such as: "Do you think you made the right choice to immigrate to the United States at such a young age?" Gameros replied that "yes, all of her hardships led her to become the person she is today." When asked what made Gameros want to be an activist as well as a singer, Gameros quoted musician Nina Simone, who asserted that "'an artist's duty is to reflect the times' and ultimately, to tell the truth about who they are." Another student asked, "What laws or systems would you put in place that will make it easier for people to become documented citizens? Or to make it easier for people to cross the border safely and legally?" Gameros quoted Paolo Freire on false generosity, a term students studied while reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed in JCL 10. Gameros noted how American policies in other countries contribute to forced migration and suggested a "Department of Accountability" to study this and make recommendations that relate to immigration reform. 

When reflecting on her experience as an undocumented student, Gameros asserted, "Humans should not have to ask permission to exist. Borders are not natural; they have been manmade." These are powerful words, and her message is communicated just as strongly in her lyrics, which she sings in both Spanish and in English.

"This was a fitting end to a semester," said Schmidt, while reflecting on her first-time teaching in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began. She continued, "As I'm reading over final assignments from my students, many are reflecting on their desire to continue learning about the topics we studied in class. Some will continue working with their Community Engagement partners; others are committing to share their knowledge with family and friends; some have an even stronger passion for education than they did when the semester started. Diana Gameros gave us all a window into what it looks like for one person to cultivate her gifts and passions and mobilize them in the service of her community. I couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to our class."

Photos by Francis Tatem