“Success” in the Western Addition

Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson, Campus-Community Liaison / Engage San Francisco 

At any given moment we suffer the curse of being banished to the present. The totality of human beings on the planet right now are given no option other than right now. At no points in one’s life is an individual least cognizant of this fact than in their childhood and their early twenties. One appears to be the most alive and yet they are alive without context. Influences behind decisions go unanalyzed. Tomorrows go unplanned and yesterdays are quickly forgotten.

It is within this vortex of the “hyper-now-ness” that I reflect on my short time with the Leo T. McCarthy Center. The time lapse between my first day and today feels almost negligible in length. Still the value I extract from this time is more than invaluable. I don’t want to be cliché here. I have never experienced this much personal and professional growth in such a short span of time in my entire life, so valuable that I fear the threat of passively experiencing. I constantly take time out to reflect and write down everything.

I sit on staff at the McCarthy center as a member of the Engage San Francisco Initiative. I am the second AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) to assist at the McCarthy Center, and one more will follow once I leave. I spend most of my time working off-campus at the Success Center San Francisco. On the surface level my workplace helps people get back into the workforce and attain their G.E.D. Beyond the surface is a community-rooted family that not only strives to help the Fillmore community, but heal it simultaneously. The word “success” holds no empty, income-based, meaning. At the Center, there is a more holistic view of the word. This view includes life at work, home, school, and beyond. And the people carving out this road to “success” for the community are born of the same soil.

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I am not of San Francisco soil. My stomping grounds are a continent away in the heart of New Jersey. So this leaves me with the task of deciphering my role within a community based organization while having no direct roots to the community.

I can say that the day-to-day stories that walk through the doors of the Success Center are not far from a wider national story that I know on an intimate level. It is from this personal intimacy with the heartbreak that accompanies financial hardships that I am able to draw my empathy.

Still, there are wounds specific to the Fillmore area that I am still acquiring a sensitivity for. Whether it’s two redevelopments, displacement, or public housing mismanagement, the after-effects show themselves through the stress our clients carry into the Success Center. The heavy heartedness is complemented by the overarching optimism and will to change their circumstances that also accompanies our clients as they cross our threshold.  

The McCarthy Center has proved itself to be an extended family member of the Success Center. As I become a more active participant with the Engage San Francisco (ESF) Initiative, I learn what it takes to cultivate a productive, community-centered, partnership. The level of engagement– sad to say– is stunning. Whether it’s the entire ESF staff attending the bi-monthly community led meetings at the Hayes Valley Community Center, or McCarthy Center staff showing up to lead just one faculty with the same vigor they bring to crowds on their multiple walks around the Fillmore district—the commitment to hearing the community and acting on what’s heard  is evident.

In both spaces I’m still growing and observing. The staffs at both centers have embraced me and challenged my thinking. I’m looking forward to the remainder of this year of service and to further collaborations with the community.

Trump Exposes America’s Value

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Amir Abner

M.A. Urban Affairs ’17

Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. President-Elect Trump has spewed racism, sexism and xenophobic ideals since his campaign started and it carried him all the way to victory. As soon as it was announced that he would win the bid to be the next President over Hillary Clinton, you could hear a collective gasp from the city of San Francisco and while many were shocked a man with his rhetoric and past could become the face of this country, I was not.

San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area are really no different in their approach compared to southern cities and their residents that are constantly looked down on. The city still clings on the reputation built in the 1960’s and 70’s as this utopian place of solidarity and free thoughts. The “progressive” San Francisco is all but gone, not that it ever really existed (check out Urban Renewal in the Fillmore) but whatever you pretended it to be, it has been displaced. When was the last time residents of San Francisco looked themselves in the mirror and checked their own racist views and actions? You would think the unjust killings of civilians by police officers would do it… right?

Most people in San Francisco can ignore the issues that are faced by many people when it doesn’t directly impact their lives, in fact it actually helps their quality of life. The $5 coffee shops, that displace the corner store, can be seen as a cool hip place to meet friends and get work done, but what about the family of the person displaced? Look at the Mission District today, some will argue that communities naturally change over time, but being in the Mission makes me feel like I’m living during the apartheid in South Africa. Every corner you can see the historical importance of the Latino community with murals and cuisine but the high rents of residential spaces attract rich white transplants from other cities. The new residents walk around looking down on long time residents and it’s a bit sickening. The same can be said about the Fillmore district and Western Addition, but most of the black owned businesses in that neighborhood were displaced during the 1960’s and 70’s, so it’s a bit harder to find the history there. The destruction and mistreatment of people of color is constant so when a friend asked me “aren’t you afraid of Trump because he’s racist?” my answer is simply, no.

The racism in this country is very real, but we pretend to ignore it whenever we can. I am still not over how the government treated the people of New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. If you think we’ve moved passed that, you are sadly mistaken. Every month there is a public lynching in the form of police executions taking place. I watched historically black communities become displaced over the last few years, a few examples are, Harlem, North Philadelphia and Oakland. The education systems in urban areas are crumbling and I watched how state officials dis-invest in HBCU’s. During this same time mass incarnation is still an issue and I watch people rejoice over the changing marijuana laws that will enrich thousands of white owned corporations. Even with these new state laws, federal law still classifies marijuana as illegal so if you’re black please be aware of this because we will continue to profiled while driving and stopped and frisked for the color of our skin. Last time I checked the water in Flint is still toxic and the Chicago police department continue to hold civilians illegally for years. Whenever there seems to be a pinch of black progress in America, ignorant white rage rises up in an attempt to reverse it (read White Rage written by Carol Anderson). The sentiment for most Americans is, in order to have winners we must have losers. If President Obama symbolized progressed in the eyes of millions of black folks, it must have meant the decline in the eyes of millions of white folks. Donald Trump’s rise should have been expected. If it took for a monster for America to address its racist nature then so be it.

When the hypertension dies down, will those who oppose him and his views still be on the front-line fighting for fairness? Or will they become reclusive due to his ignorance having no major direct impact on their lives as they were led to believe he would? Americas oldest tradition is racism and it will carry on with the electing of Donald Trump unless the people from the hardest hit communities come together rise up.

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Dispelling Stereotypes and the Importance of Memory: A Walk Through the Fillmore District

Mary CruzMary Cruz
Advocate for Community Engagement
Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar

As an alumnus of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS), a living learning community on campus that strives to embody the Jesuit ideals of education and social justice, I was naturally ecstatic to have the opportunity to blend my role as an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) with my experience in the EMDS program. However, I am most excited about being able to work with the students in the current cohort as they navigate their journey of learning about social issues within the Fillmore community and Cuba, as well as its relation to Hip Hop.

This year EMDS has partnered up with the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center (EHHCC) in the Fillmore to work on an amazing project to preserve the histories of the change makers that are portrayed on the mural on the exterior of the center. As the ACE for EMDS I have the opportunity to participate in this project as part of my direct service with the Fillmore community.

Part of the importance of having this project partnership between the EHHCC and the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars is to create a social consciousness about the histories of the Fillmore community and preserve these stories first hand while the change makers are still available to give their personal testaments of their involvement in the community as well as how they have observed the community evolve.

Last month, to introduce students to the space and community that they will be recording in their mural projects, EMDS participated in a tour of the Fillmore community led by the Director of Engage San Francisco for the Leo T. McCarthy Center, Karin Cotterman along with community members Lynette White and Altheda Carrie.

Participating in the walk through of the Fillmore allowed me to learn more about the inviting environment of the community. Many times we are put off by the exterior or stereotypes of a community without actually entering the space and drawing our own impressions or understanding the issues facing a community. During the tour, the students and I experienced a number of community members who were not a part of the tour, come up to us and tell us their memories about the history of the Fillmore. This interaction which happened naturally, definitely helped humanize the people within the community and reinforce the importance of our service project as we continue to record the oral histories of the community members in the Fillmore throughout the semester.

Check back for shared oral histories in future blog posts!

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