Maurice’s story moves the soul — his life has been one of being knocked down and getting up again. His single mother raised him in public housing within San Francisco’s historic Fillmore District. When his mother died, he was only 8 years old, so he and his siblings were also raised by his grandmother. “Keep my babies together,” his mother said with her dying breath to his grandmother. He was in the room when his mother passed and those words were emblazoned in his mind even though they weren’t directed at him. Out of the five, “I was the charmed one — I was going to make it,” Maurice told me, “even though I didn’t know what ‘make it’ meant at the time.” Losing a mother at such a young age meant that he learned things about his mother as he got older, like the fact that she had been a Black Panther.
But his childhood was anything but “charmed” — food stamps, Section 8 housing, an older brother in and out of jail — Maurice lived the life of the have-nots in the Bay. “I was a ward of the court; it was tough. We had the cards stacked against us … we always had to wonder where our next meal was coming from.” And, as if his life wasn’t already challenging enough, he became a father at only 18 years of age. After high school, Maurice went straight to work and worked two jobs to make ends meet.
One day, a close friend of his was killed in a terrible car accident, and it was a pivotal moment for him; “I need to make a difference. I need to go back to school,” he thought as he mourned the death of his friend. After being denied the time off of work to go to school, Maurice gave his two weeks notice. He would be the living example for his kids and registered at Skyline College.
Maurice is a natural leader and stands up for what is right. More so, he’s effective at creating change. While at Skyline College, a security guard called a group of students “monkeys.” He didn’t sit by — he took action. His speaking up and organizing led to the empowerment of students, giving them a place in the college. It also solidified what he thought he should do — serve.
Fast-forward a few years, Maurice found himself dealing with a terrible situation. A fellow student called his eldest son the “N-word” on the school playground. As it turns out, the teacher showed a rated-R movie without consent. The teacher thought it was OK because the movie was related to Black history. Without providing the students any context, they were shown images of Black children being beat and spat at and called the “N-word.” Maurice wrote a letter to the board and laid out some options. After all this, the principal asked Maurice to join the School Site Council, which led him to get more involved in the school’s operations. The same teacher showed the same movie to Maurice’s youngest son the following year with, sadly, the same terrible outcome. This tragedy sparked his run for the school board.
After two successful runs for South San Francisco Unified School District board and serving as president, Maurice Goodman is now serving his second term as a trustee of the San Mateo County Community College Board. His lived experience has led him to run. If elected, he wants to “bring the community’s needs to the Assembly … and help fill the gaps between communities, in technology, health care and education, and develop solutions that work for the state and benefit the residents of San Mateo County.”
Listening to his story is inspiring — it reminds me that some folks undeservingly were handed the worst hand yet made it through. But not all make it through. And Maurice not only “made it” but is fighting to make it better for those behind him. We have candidates who have lived through the issues we seek to solve. And who better else to represent us than those who understand the problems from lived experience.
Rudy Espinoza Murray is a father, husband, Redwood City resident and community organizer. He is a co-founder of the San Mateo County Farmworker Affairs Coalition and a director of the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District Board.