Sabrina Sanchez, Visionary Journalist and Activist

Meet Sabrina Sanchez, a fourth-year double majoring in Communication and Chicano/a Studies, but one who does far more than can be described by her two areas of study. Her far-reaching involvement on campus has given her a sense of purpose for one of her biggest passions — storytelling. She strives to tell stories that are as intersectional and complicated as she is, now and in the future.

HC: Tell us a little bit about your involvement on campus.

SS: Right now, I’m involved with Aggie Studios and Aggie Now as the News Director. I’m involved in the Dept of Chicano/a Studies as a Peer Adviser, and I also work as a PEACE [Peer Education and Community Empowerment] Coordinator at the Cross Cultural Center.

HC: What do you feel like each of those spaces provides you? Why are you involved with them?

SS: Chicano/a Studies has been a foundation for me. It gave me a lot, and so I want to give back. When I enter the second floor of Hart Hall, the home of Chicano/a Studies, I feel like I’m back at home. It’s a grounding place in a city that’s very different from where I grew up in Stockton. As a peer adviser, I like to give back to people like me who, in the beginning, might be struggling to find their place at this school.

As for PEACE, I do that work because I personally want to challenge myself to facilitate really important dialogues around social justice but in a way that’s accessible to people. It helps me figure out things like how to break down what oppression means in an easy way so people can really engage with that idea. And the community that’s in PEACE is just amazing. To know people from all these different places and share our vulnerabilities — that’s really powerful.

I’m involved with Aggie Studios because that because that’s my form of activism right now. I’ve gone through waves of activism in school, and I think that’s the type of activism I really want to challenge in different ways. I want to challenge mainstream narratives that are given to us and the way stories are covered. I want to put a critical lens to who we give voice to and also give voice to people from my background because I think it’s important — I don’t think there’s enough of us doing this kind of work.

HC: How do you think journalism can be activism?

SS: For me, growing up in Stockton, there was a really specific narrative projected onto my city and the surrounding community. When I was in high school, we were bankrupt as a city, and we were one of the largest cities to go bankrupt at the time. As a result there were so many negative perspectives of Stockton. I remember writing my personal statements for college, and I would Google “Stockton” and just saw things like “bankruptcy,” or “ gang violence.” And then that’s what I thought my city was, because that’s all I was given. Back then, a lot of people had said this — and I did too — and that’s “you’re never going to leave Stockton.” And it wasn’t in this empowering way, like yeah, let’s stay here and do necessary work to make it better. What people meant was that you get stuck in Stockton. And I think that happened because of the way the media portrayed us.

But I really think journalism is such a powerful tool and people need to hold it with responsibility. I think journalists should say no, no longer are we going to create these dangerous and toxic narratives about our communities or others. That’s how I think journalism can be activism. I’m always continuously figuring out how to unpack what’s given to us in media and how to complicate narratives, and do justice to the voices we’re listening to.

HC: Is journalism a professional career you’re considering?

SS: As of right now it is, but I have a hard time thinking about how I want to navigate journalism. I only see stuff about being a mainstream broadcast reporter or writing for big newspapers. Which is nice, but if I do journalism, I want it to be community-based work. I really want to help communities and collaborate with them as I report their stories. If I can find that space, I would love to do that. But I don’t want to sacrifice anything. I want to do the work without sacrificing my integrity, my values or my community’s values. We’ll see. It’s kind of hard for a brown girl these days, especially after the presidential election.

HC: Speaking of that election —  if you’re upset with it, how can you move forward? Especially you, as a POC, as a journalist and an activist?

SS: It’s a moment of self reflection for all of us. If it wasn’t time for you before, the time is now to think about the privileges you carry and how you can use those to help others. It’s really for all of us, me included, to get defensive sometimes when we don’t know about our privileges and have to understand them. But I think it’s important to recognize them and say wow, that’s something I carry and I must use this to help people. I’m graduating soon. I may be a brown girl from Stockton but now I’m a brown girl from Stockton who’s graduating from a 4 year institution. If I don’t recognize that when I’m thinking about how I can help, I think I’m doing a disservice to me and to people who could use what I carry.

I also just think that in whatever work I do, especially in journalism, I am making a statement just by doing something society doesn’t think I should or am worthy of. If you’re saying “I’m still going to dream, and I’m still going to envision a future”, I think that’s powerful and it’s going to manifest into something great. That’s what keep telling myself. I’m still going to allow myself to dream for me and my community.