Tanashati Anderson has spent the past month rushing from place to place in preparation for a month-long Humanity in Action (HIA) Fellowship in Berlin, where she’ll attend lectures and discussions that address social injustice. She’s one of 54 other U.S. students and recent graduates selected for the 2017 programs and is the first student at San Francisco State University to receive the HIA fellowship.
Humanity in Action is an international nonprofit that aims to protect the rights of minorities in a new generation of leaders through education. The fellowship is designed to nurture future human rights advocates. Twenty-two fellows from the U.S., Germany, Poland, Greece and Ukraine will gather in Berlin and explore past and present examples of resistance to intolerance, with a goal of encouraging participants to be engaged citizens and responsible decision makers. They’ll meet with activists, artists, experts and policymakers to explore a variety of human rights challenges, including how and why individuals and societies, past and present, have resisted intolerance and protected democratic values.
Advocacy and public policy have always been a part of Anderson’s life. As a high school student she was involved in California Youth Connection, a youth-led group that advocates for public policy change on behalf of foster youth. In 2010, she also became the chair of the group’s San Francisco chapter. A 24-year-old San Francisco native, she graduated from SF State with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature in January 2017, the first in her family to receive a college degree. She’s also part of the Guardian Scholars Program, which helps former and current foster youth successfully graduate from college by connecting them with services such as priority registration and free summer housing.
Associate Professor of English Language and Literature Sarita Cannon calls Anderson one of the most remarkable students she’s met during her 11 years of teaching at SF State.
“Her journey from being a youth in the foster care system to being named the undergraduate honoree in literature by the English Department this spring is inspirational,” she said. “Tanashati is a resilient, hard-working and determined person who has created networks of support to help her thrive personally and academically.”
Anderson said the fellowship will be a nice break between finishing her undergraduate degree and starting a graduate program in hemispheric literature this fall. She’s decided to attend Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
Anderson said she likes that HIA takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying intolerance and social justice. She chose to study literature because of her fascination with stories that explore different facets of the human experience. SF State Professor of English Language and Literature Lois Lyles echoed Cannon’s praise of Anderson’s initiative and tenacity and added that Anderson is a committed social activist. “I sense that her drive, self-discipline, dedication and integrity will take her far in life,” Lyles said.
And it’s already taking her to central Europe. What appeals to Anderson most about the fellowship is that she’ll be studying issues of oppression and resistance from different perspectives — something she plans to continue exploring in graduate school. And she hopes to become a professor one day, she said, and wants to explore these types of narratives with her own students.
— Jamie Oppenheim