When it comes to the African American community, the people running San Francisco have been very insensitive and shown no sense of urgency about correcting the social, educational, and economic ills of African Americans.
These assumed public servants are apparently not done with destroying every last remnant of the African American culture in this city, after already enacting exclusionary policies that have decimated our population. After more than 50 years of this, it appears it has become a sport to them.
Now they're in the fourth quarter, having almost entirely won at exiling our community from different districts, particularly the Fillmore. It also appears that they feel African Americans will stop fighting for what is left behind in our neighborhoods.
On Monday, July 27 at 6:30 PM at the West Bay Conference officials from the Mayor's Office and Board of Supervisors are hosting a community meeting on the future of the space once occupied by Yoshi's at the Fillmore Heritage Center, a complex developed by an African American developer in 2007. That means the same external forces whose failed ideas over decades have led to the displacement of African Americans in this neighborhood - and also encouraged the failure of Yoshi's -- still believe they know what's best for us.
Meanwhile, African American leaders have been shut out of the talks about our own district's future. The Mayor's Office has not responded in a timely manner to any calls from leaders in organizations such as the Black Chamber of Commerce, African American faith community and the local NAACP. While our calls to engage African Americans in future plans are going unheard, we hear rumors that the Fillmore Heritage building will be up for public bid, a process that naturally is likely to exclude our people from the table.
This is outrageous and further proof our city administration has no desire to repent from decades of exclusionary policies that have all but gutted the Fillmore of African American culture.
Here's the brief history: African Americans were recruited to the Bay Area during World War II to work in the shipyards, an industry credited for helping make the region the technology powerhouse that it is today. After the war ended and the shipyards closed, the few remaining jobs were gobbled up by whites, who moved off to the suburbs and left our people behind in jobless ghettos, unable to afford meals, healthcare and gain access to a quality education.
Then came the urban renewal movement of the 1950s that displaced thousands of our people from the Western Addition and Fillmore neighborhoods. African Americans were told by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency that if they sold their homes and businesses, they would have priority once neighborhood improvements were made. But the improvements never happened, and the area began to gentrify. Public officials later admitted the urban renewal movement was a failed and unjust policy.
To make up for it, they attempted to revive the Fillmore district's jazz center, but again through bad policy and broken promises they exhibited a blatant lack of trust in African American leadership, to correct the problem. The city sunk $7 million into the Yoshi's club, which ultimately failed. What some of them will tell you is that jazz doesn't sell like it used to. But here's what they won't tell you: At the same time an African American developer was trying to rescue Yoshi's -the city forgave $4.8 million in debt to Yoshi's and required the new Addition to pay back $2.4 million--The city went ahead and approved the non-profit opulent SF JAZZ Center in Hayes Valley, which made it impossible for both Yoshi's and The Addition to succeed.
Perhaps they ought to ask our people how to go about re-establishing our community in San Francisco. And yet, even today we are being iced from the talks, which show San Francisco is socially no different from where the city was in the 1950s. How is that progressive?
It has reached the point of negligence that the city administration refuses to work in partnership with the African American community. We deserve a signed agreement that achieves common ground on an arraignment that would fulfill the moral obligation to keep African America persons in the Fillmore. We require a signed agreement that achieves common ground on an arrangement that would fulfill the moral obligation of keeping African American persons in the Fillmore. We want legally binding agreements, but none have been made nor entertained to insure the participation of the African American business community in the revitalization of this Fillmore Heritage Center asset.
Jazz is a gift from African Americans to the world, and yet the self-proclaimed tolerant leaders of San Francisco have done nothing more than steal it, put another face on it and sell it for the benefit of other neighborhoods. How much more should we lose before this city is awakened to reality? Although they admit an egregious wrong was committed against us, there appears to be no political will to show any fruits of repentance.
I truly doubt that the city would be as complacent if North Beach lost its Italian base or Chinatown its Chinese base. Furthermore, the old public Main Library was given to an interest group for a dollar to create the Asian Art Museum. When is this city going to offer the African American community that kind of deal? The time has to be now, or else we will completely evict a group that has made significant contributions to the wealth and cultural richness of this city.