Political activist turned teacher takes a new tactic in classroom

Professor+Daraka+Larimore-Hall+teaching+his+Sociology+101+class+on+City+College%E2%80%99s+West+Campus+in+the+BC+Forum%2C+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+28%2C+2015+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+Calif.+%E2%80%98Everyday+I+see+students+being+brave+and+thinking+outside+their+boxes%2C%E2%80%99+said+Larimore-Hall.

Marissa Jimenez

Professor Daraka Larimore-Hall teaching his Sociology 101 class on City College’s West Campus in the BC Forum, Wednesday, Jan. 28, in Santa Barbara. ‘Everyday I see students being brave and thinking outside their boxes,’ said Larimore-Hall.

MEGAN RANDOLPH, Channels Staff

He began his activism sitting in a baby stroller during anti-apartheid protests. Now politician and activist Daraka Larimore-Hall is teaching Sociology 101 at Santa Barbara City College.

“If you were sitting inside my brain you’d want to kill yourself,” said Larimore-Hall. “I’m always re-thinking over arguments.”

Larimore-Hall is the California Democratic Party Secretary and Chair of the Santa Barbara Democratic Party. He has also been a teaching assistant at UCSB since 2003.

He says that to be a sociologist is being like a six year old again, always asking why.

“Look at real people through fresh eyes,” said Larimore-Hall instructing his class. “Make somewhere familiar strange.”

During class, Larimore-Hall walked back and forth slowly across the stage in the BC Forum. He announced the first assignment, giving students a day off to spend four hours observing people and taking notes.

The slideshow provided several example settings like a cafe or sporting event. Next to “a party,” a little star noted, “you must be sober.”

Larimore-Hall graduated with honors from University of Chicago, then earned a PhD in sociology from UCSB.

“It was literally the lowest ranked party school,” said Larimore-Hall. “In my first year we ranked 500 out of 500. In my second year we went up to 100, but it was because the ratings system only rated 100 schools that year.”

At University of Chicago he was surrounded by many very smart conservatives, and was challenged to understand different ideas.

Larimore-Hall said he then chose to pursue a PhD in sociology, explaining that “political science sometimes misses the fact that politics is about people.”

When discussing politics and journalism, his voice grew stronger.

“I get mad at journalists all the time, journalists who cover politics,” said Larimore-Hall. “Because they honestly don’t know shit about how politics works.”

He laughed, adding that a balance of both perspectives is necessary in our society.

In teaching, he has learned from his students. He said his favorite part is knowing he has helped someone, that moment where he can almost see a light bulb go off.

Larimore-Hall said there are also moments that he feels incredibly old. He remembers being a teaching assistant for a professor who used a pop culture reference in class about The Matrix, to which the class didn’t respond.

“There was this moment where all of the TAs were like holy fuck,” said Larimore-Hall. “They haven’t seen The Matrix.”

As for the students at City College, Larimore-Hall said he is always “surprised and humbled” at how much work people are doing to stay in school. He said it is difficult as a teacher because he can’t assign students today the same amount of work he had in school.

To help his students understand, Larimore-Hall forms sociological theories into more modern terms during his lectures.

“I love talking about race. Its a topic that’s never spoken about,” said student Osmany Montesdeoca. “I like that he brings it out.”

Larimore-Hall said he worries about the growing cynicism in politics. When asked about his message to students, he rested his chin on his hand in thought.

“Do not wait to be asked,” said Larimore-Hall. “Do not wait to have a tap on the shoulder. Show up.”

He talked about his hopes for our generation, saying that he still believes the best way to organize is to get a group of people in a room talking about an issue.

“The way Marx put it,” said Larimore-Hall. “We get to choose our own destiny, but not in the conditions of our own choosing.” He firmly noted that our society focuses too much on liberty and forgets justice.

“In order to pay attention to justice, we must pay attention to outcomes.”