Welcome To My Blog!

“The movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” – Roger Ebert (critic)

Here you will find album, movie and television reviews. I will also be posting articles written for Sacramento City College’s student newspaper, the Express, as well as other online and print publications.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Review

Spider-Man_Homecoming_posterScore: 4/5

The superhero element of a – forgive me – “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” was always present in both the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb franchises but as soon as Spider-Man returned to being just Peter Parker, something was missing.

Then there’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and finally there was a film with both Spider-Man and Peter Parker.

Sometime after the events in “Captain America: Civil War” Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back at school. Unlike other iterations of the Spider-Man saga, “Homecoming” does not waste time retelling the origin story. Director Jon Watts knows that the audience will be smarter, which leaves room for a more robust story.

The gap left by the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben is simply implied and not explained by the presence of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Stark knows that Peter has the potential to be a great superhero but is unsure whether he has the maturity. Peter’s need to impress Stark is driven by his lack of a father figure. Note that Stark’s total screen time is in the ballpark of 10-15 minutes, and in that time Watts was able to demonstrate this complicated relationship between the two.

In addition to the petty street criminals, there’s also Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture) who is played by the always delightful Michael Keaton. After the Battle of New York in “The Avengers,” Toomes’ company was hired by the city to do the cleanup. However an Avengers associated government agency takes over, creating deep resentment against both institutions. As a result, he becomes an illegal arms dealer for the city’s criminals.

It’s hard to pinpoint which of the screenplay’s six scribes is the master and commander, and clearly there is a story to be told from that credit. But whatever happened, it resulted in an awesome mishmash of classic Marvel and nostalgic ‘80s films the likes of which haven’t been seen since John Hughes put five teenagers in a library or Ferris took a day off. The addition of Toomes also adds a “Goonies” dynamic to the story. Instead of being an actual threat, Spider-Man is just a meddling kid who’s gotten way too deep into Toomes’ diabolical plan.

Holland does an incredible job of balancing both Spider-Man and Peter Parker in “Homecoming.” He’s equal parts undercover badass and awkward kid from 3rd period Physics. Yes he can beat up bad guys, but he isn’t able to intimidate them.

But kudos is due for the cast of Peter’s social circle. Jacob Batalon is Peter’s best friend Ned. He’s the epitome of the geeky Patton Oswalt-esque nerd of the 21st century, yet he’s totally loyal and totally cool. The mysterious semi-friend Michelle is played by Zendaya who has incredible comedic timing. Tony Revolori of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” fame is Flash Thompson. Choosing to make him a smug rich kid who pops his collar makes him worse than if here just a stereotypical jock – there’s no doubt in my mind that “Flash” is a nickname he insists upon.

At its core “Homecoming” is a teen comedy. Everything else is just razzle dazzle. Peter Parker is just an ordinary 15-year-old from Queens who happens to be Spider-Man. Just because he can scale walls doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the teenage mindset that everything is the most important thing ever in the world. In addition to saving the world one distressed old lady at a time, he has commitments to Academic Decathlon to fulfill, the pressure of doing well on exams and quizzes to get into a good college, and he doesn’t know how to ask Liz Allen (Laura Harrier) to the school dance without looking like a doofus.

Audiences don’t flock to Spider-Man movies to see Spider-Man – though that does help. They go because Peter Parker represents that embarrassing part of adolescence that everyone fears and loathes. “Homecoming” will mean more to those kids who are uncool because Peter Parker is uncool and as Cameron Crowe once wrote, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else, when you’re uncool.”

Away to Home

Originally published in Mainline magazine May 3, 2017

Opening Doors Helps Refugees Land on Their Feet in a New Land

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Russul Roumani (in orange) takes a newly arrived family from Afganistan to retrieve their luggage at Sacramento International Airport. Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson | Photo Editor | vanessaneslonexpress@gmail.com

As the clock ticked forward, moving from one day to the next, Sacramento International Airport began to slowly shut down. Starbucks had just closed for the night, and the help desk was left unattended. A maintenance person was replacing the sign on the single-use restroom to indicate that it was now available to all gender. Lights had dimmed, and security gates had been rolled down, leaving just a few employees and agents.

I was sitting right below the escalator that passengers would descend to get to the arrivals platform to be picked up. To my left was a woman with a homemade sign that read “SON” while to the right was a young man who alternated his attention between the top of the escalator and his phone screen, eyes nervously darting up and down.

Russul Roumani’s attention was also split between her phone and the escalator, watching for a newly arrived Afghan family. She had been waiting for more than an hour and a half after the family’s flight from LAX was delayed. The plane was supposed to come in at midnight, and it was now 1:30 a.m.

For just about anyone else, it was a typical late night at Sacramento International. But for Roumani and the family coming to the United States, it was a new beginning for eight people.


Earlier that day, March 6, the White House issued an executive order that limited the year’s number of incoming refugees to 50,000 at most. According to the State Department, in the 2014-15 fiscal year that number was 70,000.

There are 21.3 million refugees worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees website. Under the new order, only about .2 percent of them will be allowed into the U.S. this year. The family from Afghanistan – whose names are being withheld for their privacy and protection – makes up eight of those 50,000 refugees.

They will be integrated into their new community by a Sacramento nonprofit agency called Opening Doors, which assists refugees with housing and other support services. As a caseworker for the agency, Roumani coordinates with local volunteers the family’s transportation from the airport to a hotel where they stay until more permanent housing is arranged.

Opening Doors CEO Deborah Ortiz, currently serves on the Los Rios Community Colleges District Board of Trustees after eight years as a state senator, two years as an assembly member and four years as a member of the Sacramento City Council.

Last year the Department of Social Services reported that the state had taken in 7,908 refugees. Of those, 1,299 settled in Sacramento, which has resulted in the city having the third largest refugee community in the state behind Los Angeles and San Diego.

According to Ortiz, Sacramento is also the No. 1 destination in the U.S. for special immigrant visa holders from Afghanistan – like the family Roumani was picking up.

“Once there’s a network and welcoming community here,” said Ortiz, “that really enhances the willingness for a person to identify Sacramento as a place they’d like to go to.”


At the airport, passengers and crew of the late flight from Los Angeles finally came down the escalator. Most of them went directly to baggage claim, while others went to the seating area to mingle with awaiting family. The nervous young man who had been studying his phone nearly stumbled over a duffle bag trying to reach and embrace a young woman. The woman holding the “SON” sign continued to wait.

Roumani was joined by Helen Killeen, a UC Davis graduate assistant who had volunteered to help pick up this Afghan family from the airport. Soon after Killeen’s arrival, Roumani smiled as the family of two parents and six children, including two sets of twins wearing badges marked IOM – International Organization of Migration – descended the escalator into their new city.

The family had arrived, and their two-day journey from Afghanistan to Dubai to Los Angeles to Sacramento had finally come to an end.

After greeting the family in their native language – Dari – with welcome and good faith, Roumani and Killeen went to baggage claim to pick up the family’s luggage. The father and his three sons soon followed. As they waited for the conveyor belt to move, one of the young daughters walked over to stand with her father and brothers. She looked up at the sculptures of unclaimed luggage piled high to the ceiling in Seussical fashion and smiled with sparkling eyes and open mouth.

When luggage began to flow down the conveyor belt, the father and sons quickly looked for their bags and began to stack them onto the carts with vigorous efficiency.

Roumani and Killeen strategized how they would transport the family to the hotel. But this was no challenge for Roumani. She once retrieved four families – 32 people – who arrived at the same time. The family Roumani was transporting that day consisted of 10 people.

“I started asking, ‘Who is your wife? OK, come with me,’ just so we could get all of the kids, laughed while leaving the airport.

Once sufficient housing is found for this group of new arrivals, they would likely settle in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood where a significant Middle Eastern community has planted roots.

“The markets are there, the restaurants are there,” said Ortiz. “That’s where the community resides.”


On a Saturday morning later in March, most of the faculty, staff and student body at Greer Elementary were taking advantage of the weekend. But on that day a few volunteers watched as a class of young refugee children played basketball.

The Saturday School Program of the San Juan Unified School District, run by counselor Heather Berkness, offers children of refugees a chance to improve their language and social skills.

“A lot of our kids speak Arabic, Farsi and Dari, and they are just starting at the foundational basis of language,” said Berkness.

In the 2016-17 academic year, San Juan Unified School District reported that of the district’s 5,233 ESL students, 1,311 – roughly 4 percent – spoke either Arabic, Pashto, Farsi or Dari.

“This is so exciting for them to be in a place where they’re surrounded by others doing just the same thing,” said Berkness.

Since most of the refugee community resides in Arden-Arcade, San Juan reported last year that the district had 832 students who were refugees, the largest number in all districts in the region.

The staff meets every challenge, large and small, at Saturday School. On this day a volunteer approached Berkness with a young girl wearing a hijab who was crying. She had fallen on her hand. While Berkness comforted her, the volunteer went to find someone who could speak Farsi.

Since the program takes place on weekends, Berkness said that it is difficult to find faculty and staff to teach classes for the children. As a result, volunteers – including Berkness’ mother – fill the gap.

To best serve the diverse age range of children, Saturday School emphasizes different skills for different age groups. Berkness said they ask the oldest students what they want to learn and what they think is important. The group of older students that week wanted to focus on applying for jobs and properly preparing resumès.

The adult refugees have their own version of Saturday School – though it takes place on Friday. Opening Doors offers refugees the chance to attend cultural classes to learn about American society and the Sacramento region.

It’s not all fun and games, Ortiz pointed out. The students require more resources due to their experiences in their home countries.

“Because these children are coming from trauma and violence, there are emotional issues that [school districts] are seeking more guidance and support for,” Ortiz said.

In a Saturday School classroom for a younger age group, the children made collages to help identify what is important in their lives.

“We’re doing some really positive character building,” said Berkness. “We want to continue to have those positive affirmations so kids know that we want them here.”

Berkness, who had to leave to attend to the girl who had fallen on her hand, walked down the hallway as children inside the multi-purpose room sang, “This Land is Your Land,” which they would perform at an open house the following week.

“They’re an asset to our system,” said Berkness of the refugee children. “We’re glad that they’re here.”


After meeting the new arrivals at the airport, on the drive to the family’s hotel, Roumani described her own experience with Opening Doors.

It wasn’t long ago that she had someone waiting for her at the bottom of the escalator. In 2008, after a co-worker in Baghdad was killed by unknown assailants, Roumani and her children fled Iraq and were resettled by Opening Doors. In 2011, the agency hired her.

“[Opening Doors] was small when I first started, but now we’re getting bigger and bigger,” said Roumani, one of five employees – including the department head – in the agency’s Refugee Resettlement Department who were also once refugees.

Ten days before picking up the new arrivals, Roumani had returned from a visit with her parents in Baghdad. The house she lived in, she said, was gone.

“The situation hasn’t changed,” said Roumani.

She became a citizen in 2013 but chose not to vote in last year’s presidential election, believing that both candidates would continue conflict in the Middle East.

“I know what war is like,” she said, “I don’t like war.”

Though the Trump administration twice tried to impose a travel ban to the U.S. by nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, SIV holders are exempt regardless of country of origin, according to Ortiz.

Ortiz said that SIV holders differ from other refugees in that they have worked for the U.S. government or military in a capacity, such as translators, that would put them and their families in danger.

“They are at greater risk because they helped our government,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz also said that SIVs are typically skilled as engineers or medical professionals in their home countries. In the case of the arrivals Roumani was picking up, the father of the family was a cook for the U.S. government in Kabul.

Opening Doors was founded in 1993 by the Interfaith Service Bureau as the Sacramento Refugee Ministry to resettle refugees from the former Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991. It wasn’t until a decade later that it changed its name to Opening Doors.

Ortiz came into her role as Opening Door’s CEO when her predecessor, Debra DeBondt, stepped down to volunteer in Africa for the Peace Corp.

“Refugees especially during this time in history are a really vulnerable population,” said Ortiz. “It’s a passion to serve, and this is the organization that fuels this passion.”

The staff at Opening Doors are not the only people in the region concerned about refugees. In late March a group of former and current state workers and lobbyists hosted a picnic for about 200 recently arrived families that was catered by local businesses. It was originally supposed to be held at Land Park, but due to rain, B’nai Israel, a nearby Jewish synagogue, volunteered its recreation area so the event could take place.

“I still feel people across the country are compassionate and feel the need to do something and be welcoming,” Ortiz added. “Real people have a sense of goodness and compassion, and we’ve seen it every day here in Sacramento.”


At the hotel, Roumani headed for the front desk to get the family checked in. While the new arrivals waited in the lobby, the father went across the room to get coffee for himself and his wife. As Roumani finished at the front desk, a man pushing a cart full of boxes of baked goods came into the lobby. After asking Roumani if the family spoke Arabic, the man welcomed the family in Dari before pushing the cart into the back.

After checking in, Roumani and I assisted the father and his sons in bringing their luggage up to the room. Roumani gave them a cell phone as well as a few take-out boxes that contained hot food from a local Afghan restaurant before saying goodbye.

I asked Roumani how to say goodbye in Dari.

“Kuda Hafez,” she said.

I repeated the phrase as best I could to the father of the family, and immediately the hotel room filled with laughter. The father patted me on the shoulder and said, “That was good.”

Then Roumani and I left the hotel and went out into the night, which was actually a new day for us all.


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A refugee mother holds her child as she leaves the airport in her new country. Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson | Photo Editor | vanessaneslonexpress@gmail.com

Two weeks after picking up the family – by this time sleeping in their new home – Roumani was back at the airport waiting for more new arrivals. This time she was not alone.

“A lot of families are coming tonight,” she noted, observing the large number of Afghans and caseworkers below the escalator.

This time the flight was not late, and the escalator soon filled with people wearing IOM badges. Roumani smiled and walked up to greet the new Afghan family of six she was picking up. After getting their bags, the group of seven headed out the doors to Roumani’s van. Gripping their parents’ hands, the young children occasionally fell behind, lost in wonder of the new world that the wings of a dream had taken them to.

Roumani and the newcomers walked out the airport doors and headed for a friend’s house to begin their lives in what Walt Whitman called the “center of equal daughters, equal sons.”

Volunteers make a big difference to Opening Doors. For more information, click here.

After Tomorrow, Get to Work

Today President-elect Donald Trump will become President Donald Trump.

Most people – including me – never imagined this scenario would actually be real. But it is and for the next four years there isn’t much we can do about it.

A lot of people in this country are afraid of these next four years, and they have good reason. The president-elect’s campaign rhetoric has earned him the title of American Demagogue.

But there is no use in bashing Candidate Trump anymore. Victorious candidates usually change once inaugurated. They find that most – if not all – of their campaign promises cannot be fulfilled due to a plethora of reasons. Sometimes their policies take effect after the opposition party becomes the majority in Congress. Sometimes the economy isn’t as good as they thought it would be. Sometimes – God forbid – there is a war.

But regardless of what President Trump will do while in office, the fact still stands that there are more of us than there are of him and his cronies.

It’s time to get back to work.

If you believe that contraception and women’s reproductive rights need to be protected and universally accessible, donate or volunteer for Planned Parenthood.

If you are concerned for Americans who are Muslim, volunteer at the Council for American-Islamic Relations.

If you believe reading can change a child’s life for the better, become a reading partner.

Volunteer with animal shelters, churches, soup kitchens, soup kitchens at churches, or vice-versa. Most volunteering opportunities are at the local level, so hopefully Volunteers for America will be able to point you in the right direction.

Find out who your state and congressional representatives are and become a citizen lobbyist.

Remember that the entire House of Representatives will be up for re-election in 2018. If you don’t like your representatives, vote for somebody else and/or volunteer for someone else’s campaign.

Remember the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

There are countless things that you can do to make this country better. I suppose that’s what makes America great. Moonshots, Hoover Dams, skyscrapers and baseball make America cool, but they don’t make America great. What makes America great is its people’s generosity. Believe it or not, Americans are generally good people who care about one another.

It’s also important to remember that decency is not a competition and no one is keeping score. You should also not wait for the “other side” to be decent for you to do the same. The only reward you get for being a good person is for your soul, and that’s what really counts.

Presidents exist to guide us, but we are the final authority of our fate. And when a president sucks we usually soldier through before picking someone else (if we can survive Watergate, Jimmy Carter, AIDs and 9/11, we can survive Trump).

Now get to work.

The Zax: Our Country’s Future Without Unity

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In November I voted for Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States and as the world saw last month I — along with millions of others Americans — did not get what I want. Instead the country’s electoral system chose a man whose candidacy was built upon the foundations of  pseudo-nationalism, fear mongering and genuine misogyny.

For 16 months Americans watched a campaign that overthrew the power structure of one major political party and revealed the arrogance of another. When condensed so crudely it sounds like an astonishing feat of political will. But the devil is in the details.

We know too well what was said on the campaign trail. It has left a burning scar across the country, the likes of which have not been seen since General William Tecumseh Sherman burnt his way from Atlanta to the the sea.

But to write about the outcome would be dull. Smarter and wiser people have written better commentary with more insight.

But it is worth mentioning that the scar is not the steep influx of hate crimes, but the incredible polarization that both sides have been persisting for decades.

During the campaign I went to Nevada and Wisconsin which went to Clinton and Trump respectively. I also phone banked and called people in North Carolina, which voted for Trump.

In Wisconsin, I spoke to a woman who supported Trump said she and her husband hadn’t worked since the factory closed. She couldn’t afford to drive her kids to school in the town over — everybody was out of work and the school district could only afford to send one bus.

A man in North Carolina told me that he was going to vote for Trump because he was tired of “the same shit.” He went on saying that he hated everything that he said during the campaign, but that it wouldn’t matter if he ended up changing “the system.”

But the experience that will stay with me the longest is when I spoke to a woman in northern Nevada. Her daughter was sexually assaulted but her prosecutor decided to plea bargain with the assailant and he walked free. She felt wronged by the system and that her child got no justice. She reluctantly voted early for Trump,  because she felt that for just that moment she could give her daughter some justice. Then she ended it with, “You didn’t hear about this because it didn’t happen in LA or New York. It happened in who-gives-a-shit Sparks, Nevada.”

After hearing them I made no effort to argue. If they were at peace with who they’re voting for then so was I. We were going to win anyways, I arrogantly thought to myself.

After the election I delved into deep thought and began asking myself a lot of questions:

Are my family and I going to be safe? What does this mean for us?  Why has my country let me down? How did this happen despite all of the things he said?

It’s safe to say that I wasn’t alone in these thoughts. After a brief moment of panic, I called an old friend who had conservative views. He was just as shocked as I was — then again a lot of us were shocked.

“Maybe people just wanted a change,” he told me.

His response baffled me. What did that mean? How did Trump represent change? Even though his cavalier attitude towards the results infuriated me, I still valued our friendship.

I decided to look at it from his perspective. I let his words rattle around my head as I slept. The next morning I went onto Facebook and was disgusted by the posts.

There were two reactions among liberals after the election. The first was genuine fear among people of color and other marginalized people. This fear stems from both history and what people of color reported immediately followed after the election. This reaction was justified.

The second disgusted me beyond measure. In addition to not being justified it was just as fear mongering as Trump’s campaign. Well meaning whites began posting the link to Twitter’s “Day One in Trump’s America” series and used it as examples of why there needs to be another civil war. Others began blaming Republican voters, saying “If you voted for Trump, fucking unfriend me.”

That’s when I remembered what those Trump voters and my friend told me. That morning I posted this.

As a response to my very public “Facebook meltdown” from the night before, here are some thoughts.

I’m seeing a lot of posts saying “I can’t believe half this country is racist and sexist and homophobic,” “We should just not include Florida anymore,” and “F**kin rednecks ruined this country.”

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe the reason Trump won was because for years we have been ignoring a part of the country that is just as poor and just as disadvantaged as other groups.

This didn’t happen because half the country is sexist, racist and homophobic. This happened because in our pursuit of progress and inclusiveness, we forgot to include them.

For decades they saw on their televisions as liberals fought for the civil rights of minorities and LGBTQ+ folks while poor whites were characterized as country bumpkins, rednecks and hicks who were all racist and homophobic.

Meanwhile globalization has taken their manufacturing jobs out of the country and the new interstates made small towns in the heartland and Rust Belt forgotten.

It’s hard for anybody to explain why a job they had for years went somewhere else. Why the economy globalized, why prices would go up if manufacturing stayed where it was.

So nobody bothered to explain it to them and the frustration was left to fester as they saw the same liberal activists on TV talk about creating more opportunity for minorities. All while opportunity has been taken away from them.

And then we mock them and their way of life.

We demonized religious folk in media by characterizing all Christians as gay bashers or all Mormons as judgemental; and we mocked their beliefs and implied that their way of life, their spiritual comfort, was a joke, that if you believed any of that you were dumb.

They were finally fed up with all of it and this is the consequence.

Some of my more liberal friends read this and commented that it just didn’t make any sense, or that in the spirit of another comment, it’s true but not really.

When I made a post about my experience talking to Trump voters another comment read, “If that’s truly the reason so many people voted for him, then they have only shown themselves to be gullible fools.”

Even though we’re supposed to be more accepting than the other side, we are so quick to dispose anyone who poses a threat to the binary of our political bubble.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend that identified as somewhere to the right on the political spectrum.

They told me that after the election they began posting articles and think pieces that took up an optimistic tone for the coming four years. They also told me that since posting these things they have lost a considerable number of Facebook friends.

This person, also told me that they grew up in the American south as a person of color with an “Arab” sounding name. Though chose to not go into detail of the remarkable bigotry and hate they faced. Instead they simply stated, “The [racism] that the media complains about is kindergarten racism.” They also noted that the people who unfriended them were all white.

NOTE: The following is a direct address to young liberal whites.

People of color are all trying to find ways to cope with what happened last month. Some are incredibly happy, others are incredibly scared. Some are trying to find some hope in this, others are getting ready for battle. But apparently the ones who are trying to find the light in darkness have no place in your world.

If Trump turns out to actually be the American Hitler, you’re not going to be the victims. The worst that will happen to you, if you stay quiet, is that you’ll just watch your friends of color and their families suffer.

You personally do not know what it feels like to be racially discriminated against. You will never understand the level of shock and disappointment I felt when somebody in the grocery store called me a fat chink.

What you will do is say stuff like “I’m here for you” and “I’ve got your back.” This is all well meaning except your definition of being “here for us” is shutting down anybody who disagrees with you.

I consider myself to be very liberal, but the lack of understanding among liberal people is astounding. Aren’t we supposed to be the accepting ones?

Acceptance starts with understanding. Waiting for “the other side” to understand us leads nowhere. The best way to understand somebody else is to listen to them. Not only does it give us perspective, but also makes them feel validated.

Stop disregarding other people’s emotions. It is important to remember that while we were all upset by the election results, another half of the country was happy. They’re emotions are valid. We don’t have to like Donald Trump, but that should not translate to not liking half the country.

Stop thinking in monoliths. Saying that “half the country is racist” or “half the country is lazy” fogs over the fact that there are 300 million people living in the country all with dreams, cherished memories, concerns and fears.

Finally, stop viewing different struggles as more or less important. Struggle is not a competition, it is what unites us all. In fact the only monolith that is correct is that we have all experienced struggle.

It is possible to be a decent person and not have a decent president — we’ve done it a lot. If enough people in the country believed that, we wouldn’t be as divided as we are now. So let’s start.

From The Trail: Photos of the 2016 Campaign in California

It’s finally here! After two years of brutal campaigning, today the world looks to the United States as we hold our elections.

I don’t know how much I’ve spent on Uber and Lyft this cycle, but it was probably a lot. This year I was able to cover different aspects of the 2016 campaign. Sometimes with other people, other times alone. But the experiences of rallies, press conferences and a debate have all been the same: sending out emails trying to justify that my blog was a legitimate media outlet, waiting to receive confirmation, recognizing the same reporters at each event, wading through the crowd to get the best shot, trying to get the best quote, running into fellow student journalists.

The following are photos that I’ve taken during this incredible cycle. Since June I’ve reported on three rallies, a congressional debate and a group of Clinton campaign volunteers in Reno.

I did not photograph the Reno trip, though there are photos from when the bus got stuck in Donner Pass on the way back.

Some were taken with my phone when I was with other people.

Regardless of the quality or event, this election isn’t about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ami Bera, Scott Jones, Loretta Sanchez or Kamala Harris. It was always about what we as Americans — more specifically as Californians — are.

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Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets supporters outside the Hillary Clinton Rally at Sacramento City College. June 5, 2016
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A protestor outside the Clinton Rally. Signs read “Billary is a Fraud,” “Neocon – Neolib Two Sides of the Same Coin.” June 5, 2016
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Fellow Sac City Express reporters Maxfield Morris and Tyler Heberle at the Clinton rally. June 5, 2016
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Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, State Senator Richard Pan and Congressman John Garamendi stand backstage. June 5, 2016
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Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage. June 5, 2016
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Frequent collaborator Vanessa Nelson stands with other photographers during the rally. June 5, 2016
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Supporters cheer as Congresswoman Doris Matsui passes the mic to Clinton. June 5, 2016
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Sacramento County sheriff and Republican candidate for the California 7th Congressional district Scott Jones poses for photos outside KVIE before the debate with incumbent Ami Bera. Oct. 18, 2016
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Republican strategist Wayne Johnson (left) and former Sacramento County sheriff John McGinness (right) before the California 7th debate. Oct. 18, 2016
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Traffic behind our bus in Donner Pass. I was following a group of volunteers campaigning for Clinton in Reno. Oct. 30, 2016
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California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for US Senate Kamala Harris at a “Get Out the Vote” rally with Congressman Ami Bera. Nov. 3, 2016
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Kamala Harris speaking to reporters. Nov. 3, 2016
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Yes on Prop. 61 rally at the California State Capitol. Nov. 7, 2016
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The crowd outside the California State Capitol listening to Sanders speak in support of Prop. 61. Nov. 7, 2016
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Prop. 61 supporters listening to Bernie Sanders outside the California State Capitol. Nov. 7, 2016

Kamala Harris Makes Campaign Stop in Elk Grove

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California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for the United States Senate Kamala Harris stopped the campaign headquarters of Congressman Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) for the Sacramento leg of her 10-day bus tour of the state.

Due to California’s top-two primary, two Democrats will be going head-to-head in the general election Nov. 8. Harris’ challenger is Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of Anaheim. However, Harris is still the national and state party’s choice to fill the seat of retiring Senator Barbara Boxer who has occupied that seat since being elected in 1992.

According to a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, Harris leads Sanchez by 22 points as of Oct. 23. More recent polls put her at 20.

Recently Harris has gained national attention after spearheading the crackdown on backpage.com. Site executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin were charged with pimping and pimping minors in Sacramento County Superior Court back in September. Prosecutors allege that all three men knowingly received millions in bonuses from the illegal prostitution ads on the site.

Harris said that it is important that her successor continue to pursue prosecution of backpage.com if she is elected.

Candidates duel over contested 7th Congressional District in California

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Democratic congressman Ami Bera and Republican challenger Scott Jones debated in Natomas yesterday for California’s 7th Congressional District.

The two candidates have dueled over this hotly contested seat with both accumulating their share of skeletons in their closets.

The debate began with questions regarding a lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s department. The lawsuit covers allegations by a former female deputy that Jones sexually harassed her. However, Jones insisted that the allegations were false.

“I went under oath and I deny these allegations in the strongest terms possible,” said Jones.

Bera continued to push the allegations issue, saying that they were “pretty shocking what was going on.” This attack mirrors pro-Bera mailers and television ads that paint Jones in a similar light.

But Bera’s character was also called into question. Earlier this year, Bera’s 83-year-old father pleaded guilty to two felony counts of election fraud. Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, used family and friends to illegally contribute above the legal limit to his son’s 2010 and 2012 congressional campaigns.

“My father made a mistake and he shouldn’t have done this,” said Bera during the debate. “He’s not a criminal but he broke the law.”

A federal prosecutor found no evidence that would indicate Bera or anyone in his staff knew of Babulal Bera’s illegal activity.

Jones however believes otherwise. “Either the 90 friends and family of Congressman Bera who all knew what engaged in a conspiracy for four years to keep that information from Congressman Bera,” said Jones, “or alternatively that Congressman Bera didn’t have any substantive conversations with any of those 90 family and friends.”

Since redistricting in 2013, the California 7th has been one of the most hotly contested districts in the country. According to Cook Partisan Voting Index, the district is considered “even.” Bera narrowly won re-election against Doug Ose in 2014. This year should be no different.

Sponsors of the event included the Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento Bee and Folsom lake College which is located within the 7th District.

The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The deadline for voter registration California is Oct. 24.