It seems so fitting that The Free Farm’s neighbor Tenderloin is hosting Streetopia (http://streetopiasf.com/) because it’s home to so many health and social services organizations with compassionate staff and volunteers who seek to improve community conditions closer to utopia. My own decision to volunteer at The Free Farm was partly inspired by my Getup training at Garden For the Environment (http://www.gardenfortheenvironment.org/pages/support.html), where we put together the weekly CSA box of organic produce for Food Runners to deliver to Larkin Street Youth (http://www.larkinstreetyouth.org/) for homeless youth in the Tenderloin.
People’s history of the Tenderloin
http://www.jamestracywords.com/), a very compassionate and informed housing activist. As a youth, James visited the Tenderloin a lot when he came to visit his uncle who lived at Polk and Eddy; and later, he stayed with his uncle a lot as his in-home support service worker. James said he spent a lot of time walking around with his uncle, a sailor and member of the Sailors Union of the Pacific, who shared stories of SF.
About a dozen of us met at Luggage Store Gallery to meet our Tenderloin neighbors and learn about their struggles/successes to create their own utopia. To make this a real People’s History, James invited us to chime in with our own oral histories and recollections—and several in the group played major roles in the history of making the Tenderloin a better place to live. Also noteworthy is the prominence of gardens in people’s visions of utopia!
http://centralcitysafehavens.org/about/) locations in the Tenderloin and SoMa, which provides “15 minutes of shelter and a phone call” to anyone in distress. Locations are identified by a green and yellow sign in seven languages, designed by a community artist who lives in San Cristina. The program was started in 2007 by Tenderloin residents who wanted to make their neighborhoods safer by relying on each other, instead of the police.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compton%27s_Cafeteria_riot), 101 Taylor at Turk, was the site of one of the first recorded transgender riots against police harassment in U.S. history in August 1966, which preceded the 1969 Stonewall Riots in NYC.
http://www.chp-sf.org/pgs/senator.html), 519 Ellis St., was where the American Indian Movement occupiers stayed for one night after they were evicted by federal marshals following the 18-month occupation at Alcatraz that ended in June 1971. In 1991, Community Housing Partnership acquired the building to house formerly homeless individuals and families in response to a permanent housing campaign led by Coalition on Homelessness and Council of Community Housing Organizations.
This site reminds me of the Power of 504 (http://www.dredf.org/504site/504home.html), a 26-day sit-in during 1977 by disability activists until they won their demand for adoption of regulations to prohibit disability discrimination. I wasn’t around when this took place but watching this must-see documentary is so inspiring at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyWcCuVta7M!
The film begins with Mona asking why commission art in a place where many people are scraping by without basic needs—who can afford art in the Tenderloin? The answer: to bring positive activity and community engagement, which is what happens when Mona does her “slow motion performance art” with the “Greek choir” across the street, 300+ waiting in line for a meal at St. Anthony’s. As Mona interacts with the residents passing by, she’s inspired to insert their images in her murals that combine the present/historical/utopia at the same time. She says her aim is to get people to look up to surroundings and interact, rather than looking to the ground to avoid contact so we get to our destinations more quickly. The mural took longer to complete when a panel was vandalized, so Mona had to repaint and caved into pressure from warnings “don’t put in a cop car.” To avoid graffiti vandalism, she ended up painting a black car, which residents refer as “undercover cop car.” Since then, the mural has not been vandalized as the community respects the mural and keeps an eye out to protect it.
Paige said she filmed 50 hours of footage, but edited video to 23 minutes for a better chance of showing at the festival circuit. I look forward to the DVD with extra footage to learn more about the other characters in the mural utopia and the power of art to inspire transformation.
Like Mr. Antolini said: It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement.
Public Service Announcements:
Sun., June 17, 2012, 2-3:30 pm, An Armchair Tenderloin Tour
Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room, Main Library, 100 Larkin St. at Grove, SF
Cityguide docent Peter Field will present a slide show on the colorful history of SF's Tenderloin district.
Through June 23, 2012, Streetopia in the Tenderloin