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Harnessing Social Media: Matt Rivitz of Sleeping Giants

Matt Rivitz is the co-founder of Sleeping Giants, which is best known for its social media campaign to persuade companies to remove advertisements from outlets that publish far-right propaganda and promote white supremacist views. Rivitz co-founded Sleeping Giants shortly after the 2016 Presidential election. I was eager to talk to Mr. Rivitz and ask him more questions about his career and the work he's been doing as part of Sleeping Giants. 

How did you come up with the idea for Sleeping Giants?

After the 2016 election, I became acutely aware of the growing problem of hate both online and off. One of the people who seemed to be pushing these ideas was Steve Bannon, who was Donald Trump's campaign manager and also the President of Breitbart News. When I looked at Breitbart for the first time, I was totally disgusted with a lot of the articles that were on the site like, "Hoist it High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage." What was even more sh…
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Marina Sirota: Using AI to Transform Medicine

This summer I was one of 40 girls selected to attend the AI4ALL program at Stanford University. During the three-week program, we visited Silicon Valley companies, learned how artificial intelligence is transforming various fields, and applied our programming skills to group projects. (My team’s project focused on using natural language processing to analyze social media and improve relief efforts following natural disasters). One of our guest speakers was Marina Sirota of UCSF, who is using AI to improve medical diagnosis and treatment. I was inspired by her talk and thrilled when she agreed to this interview.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about AI? What is the one fear or misconception you wish you could change?
I think the biggest misconception about AI is that it can solve all of our problems – I think of AI as a way to help us to better do our job instead. For instance, in the context of biomedical applications of AI, we are not aiming to replace physicians, but t…

Encouraging Young People to Vote: Interview with Laura Brill

If you’ve spent time reading this blog, you know that I’m interested in voting rights. California recently passed a measure allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections provided they turn 18 before the general election. This is only the latest in a series of legislative initiatives to encourage more young people to vote. To learn more about these and other efforts, I reached out to attorney and activist Laura Brill. Aside from clerking for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and leading a successful career in law, Laura Brill is the founder of The Civics Center, an organization seeking to improve civic engagement among youth. Below is my interview with her. (If you want to see my previous posts on voting rights, you can read my essay here and my interview with expert John Bonifaz here.)

What sparked your interest in improving youth voter engagement? 
In early 2017, I learned that California allows young people to preregister to vote when they are 16.  I was shocked because m…

Kenyan Changemaker and Dancer Moesha Kibibi

When Moesha Kibibi was a young teen growing up in the slums in Kenya, she was kicked out of her Muslim household because her family frowned upon her passion for dance. At first, she lived on the streets and sold groundnuts to support herself. Over time, Kibibi was able to rent a small, 10-by-10 room where she took in and provided shelter to other young girls living on the street. 

Life in the Kenyan Majengo slums was anything but easy for the young women sharing Kibibi’s tiny room. They had to overcome the challenges of poverty, sexual violence, and, in some cases, single parenthood as teens. But Kibibi continued to dance, and it was dance that eventually provided an avenue for a better life. 

As she won dance competitions and rose to fame as a member of one of Kenya’s most popular dance troupes, FBI, she continued to mentor and help other young girls. “I bought them food, clothes, and sanitary towels and even tried contributing to their rent with the little money I had,” said Kibibi. E…

Making Our Votes Count

I was disappointed to learn that the Supreme Court refused to rule on a case that would have stopped or limited gerrymandering for political gain. You can read about that decision here:
I tend to concur with Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote: “Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one … The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections. With respect but deep sadness, I dissent. “
Below is an essay I wrote a few months ago that puts this issue into a broader context. 



According to 17th century English philosopher John Locke, rulers gain authority only through the consent of the governed. Today, we use electi…

Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? Interview with Irma Herrera

I recently had the privilege of watching a one-woman show at San Francisco’s Marsh Theater called “Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name?”. The author and performer was Irma Herrera, a civil rights attorney, who shared stories of her childhood as a Mexican-American girl in South Texas, anecdotes from her career as a lawyer and activist, and much more. I met with her after the show and she agreed to do an interview for my blog. 

What made you decide to pursue a career in law? How old were you? What had you wanted to be before then?

I think the seed was planted when my mother admonished me with this phrase: “Muchacha eres una abogada sin libros.” She would say this to me because I asked many questions and was always arguing and trying to win others to my point of view. But perhaps the biggest influence was seeing the work being done by African-American civil rights lawyers on behalf of their community. When I looked at the ways that black people were treated in this country, I could can se…

A Board Member's Perspective on San Francisco Public Schools

Rachel Norton is a former journalist who has served on the San Francisco Board of Education since 2009. She served on the SFUSD Community Advisory Committee for Special Education and is also an active member of Parents for Public Schools. I attended San Francisco public schools through 8th grade and was eager to hear her perspective.

What made you decide to first run for school board?

I have two daughters who attended SFUSD schools (both graduated from George Washington HS). I always knew I wanted to send my daughters to public schools and from the time they were in preschool I got involved with Parents for Public Schools and started paying attention to school board politics. 

My older daughter has autism, so from the time she entered Kindergarten I started volunteering with a group of other parents of students with disabilities, to help support parents through the IEP process and to help kids get the services they need. I became aware that so many kids were not getting what they needed,…