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Black men disrespected in Mayor Ed Lee’s State of the City address

January 21, 2015

by Allen Jones

In response to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Jan. 15, 2015, State of the City address, I pondered two sayings. One is the universal mother’s favorite: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” The second one I heard while sitting on a church pew learning Christian virtues: “You can’t always be nice.”

Following her introduction, Nicole Banks welcomes Mayor Ed Lee to the stage at the Wholesale Produce Market, one of countless new buildings in San Francisco.

Following her introduction, Nicole Banks welcomes Mayor Ed Lee to the stage at the Wholesale Produce Market, one of countless new buildings in San Francisco.

Mayor Lee’s policies, which are reminiscent of past administrations, are causing too many Black San Franciscans – men mostly – to feel disenfranchised. And unless voters are willing to send this mayor a stern November 2015 warning, it will be one stark reminder that, in San Francisco, Black lives do not matter.

Unless voters are willing to send this mayor a stern November 2015 warning, it will be one stark reminder that, in San Francisco, Black lives do not matter.

Though the mayor’s address was titled “Shared Prosperity Agenda,” it subconsciously and ironically became a solid punch to the gut for the majority of The City’s Black community.

The stage for Mayor Lee’s address was the new Wholesale Produce Market in Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco’s Black heartland – now under heavy gentrification pressure. The produce district is said to be a promising new area for jobs in the coming years, but for whom?

Let’s be honest. Not only would Blacks rather work in construction than in produce – even if they were to land a job moving vegetables and fruit – they can still expect to be the last ones hired, and the first ones fired. And though the mayor heralded The City’s low unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, many Black men hearing the word “jobs” in San Francisco know better than to get too excited.

Though the mayor heralded The City’s low unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, many Black men hearing the word “jobs” in San Francisco know better than to get too excited.

The mayor’s handlers for this event wisely did not select the small but well-kept South of Market Victoria Manoloa Drake Park as the location to pitch his plan. One summer day in 2014, I counted 17 homeless Black men and women milling about in Manoloa Park with all of their possessions in tow.

These homeless, though down on their luck, were all sharp enough to heckle the mayor if any of them had heard him announce, “As long as I’m mayor, we won’t leave anyone behind.” However, his assembled guests and dignitaries, including many from the tech industry who have yet to deliver on their promise to hire Blacks, applauded the mayor’s unrealistic promise.

Did City Hall handlers use San Francisco resident Nicole Banks, a single Black mother of four, when they invited her to introduce the mayor? This educated mother seemed more than nervous as she read her true story of struggle turned into triumph. It was as if she read a prepared speech, not of her doing, before handing over the podium to a confident Mayor Lee.

It is racially insensitive for City Hall not to know how offensive it is to exclude Black men in the mayor’s distorted vision of a Black family. Mayor Lee stated to the crowd of hundreds that Ms. Banks’ situation should be the “norm rather than the exception.”

It is racially insensitive for City Hall not to know how offensive it is to exclude Black men in the mayor’s distorted vision of a Black family.

I understood what the mayor was trying to convey. Nevertheless, on behalf of men everywhere especially fathers falsely labeled as deadbeats, I reject Mayor Lee’s “norm” statement. Ms. Banks deserves praise for her accomplishments, but using this single mother as the mayor’s example of hope for the average Black family in San Francisco is reprehensible.

The only thing that having a single mother introduce the mayor reminded me of was what a Black man could once accomplish in an era when San Francisco was even more unkind to Blacks.

Though no longer the case, San Francisco was once a place where a single father could raise his 10 children and purchase a home in The City with no city program for a first-time homebuyer. In fact, Blacks were not even permitted to purchase property in the city at the time my father accomplished both, buying a home and raising his 10 children, all the while a single parent.

Black lawyers Deputy Chief of Staff and Public Safety Director Paul Henderson and Policy and Government Affairs Manager for External Affairs Theodore Miller are on the mayor’s staff. The hiring of Miller was not without its skeptics, who called it pandering to the Black demographic. But the image these two lawyers project is in my opinion a more favorable depiction of the Black community than the one chosen by the mayor’s handlers.

Please note that I don’t mean to disparage single moms; I just feel that right now, Black men should be lifted up at every opportunity. I salute Nicole Banks – along with my niece, who became a single mother at 18. Her title is now Dr. Tamarra Jones. She is the director of the Ryan White Foundation in Orange County.

Spotting a Black worker on any of San Francisco’s countless construction sites is as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. Since City Hall put most Black contractors out of business, Black workers, from trainees to journeymen, find few employers willing to hire more than a token or two.

Spotting a Black worker on any of San Francisco’s countless construction sites is as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. Since City Hall put most Black contractors out of business, Black workers, from trainees to journeymen, find few employers willing to hire more than a token or two.

The emphasis of this year’s address was the obvious affordable housing crisis facing so many San Franciscans today. Surprisingly and equally baffling, many San Franciscans still vote for a politician who just utters the empty words “affordable housing.” And though the mayor’s affordable housing pitch for this year is linked to more November 2015 Election Day question marks, Black residents see the writing on the wall: “Housing is unaffordable for way too many Blacks so long as we are locked out of living wage jobs.”

As I drive by the many construction sites where a massive amount of construction is taking place all over the city, I’m concerned. Not only do I see very few if any Blacks working construction on these major, mostly private projects, common sense tells me that there will be even fewer Blacks employed to manage, live in or own these properties in the coming years. Even when Mayor Lee mentioned that voters gave the Pier 70 project a green light, I suspect Blacks who dare apply for work will be hired only on the usual appeasement-only basis.

I see very few if any Blacks working construction.

Adding insult to injury, instead of complying with The City’s preference for local builders for public projects, out of town non-minority contractors are known to set up a makeshift office and surreptitiously move to the front of the line, as was evident with KCK Builders, the San Rafael contractor tapped to build the new Bayview library after the contract with the Black-owned low bidder had been snatched on a minor technicality. Once the project was complete, KCK’s San Francisco phone line went completely dead.

Also in attendance for this address were former mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom. Ironically, Blacks who used to own businesses in The City often blame the closure of their business on the tenure and policies of former Mayor Willie Brown. Then, when his handpicked successor came into office, more Black businesses failed, driving more Black families out of a city that had become unaffordable.

In 2007, former Mayor Gavin Newsom commissioned a study completed in 2009 to address why so many Black residents are leaving the city and how to reverse the trend. As you read the first “key finding” of the report, you will scratch your head, as it states the obvious: Blacks are leaving San Francisco. No wonder many have called the report a fraud, and the chairperson of the task force charged with compiling the report, which was two years in the making, wanted nothing to do with it.

One can imagine these two former mayors, Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, only consented to attend Mayor Lee’s gathering on the condition that Lee not utter the term “Black outmigration.” In the entire 40-minute speech, the words “Black,” “outmigration” nor even “African American” were never mentioned once by Mayor Lee, unless you count the time he said the word “race,” once.

One can imagine these two former mayors, Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, only consented to attend Mayor Lee’s gathering on the condition that Lee not utter the term “Black outmigration.”

Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom and Mayor Ed Lee have a combined 20 consecutive years of State of the City addresses that have largely excluded Black San Franciscans. What has this continued charade done to improve the lives of the Black community in the Bay Area?

With the newly elected mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, also in attendance, Mayor Lee offered a hint when he smiled and vowed to work with Oakland’s new mayor.

Mayor Lee wrote a letter to the owners of the Golden State Warriors. The NBA franchise had been in Oakland for more than 40 years until Mayor Lee invited them to look at a plot of land in San Francisco to call home. And though many applaud this move, it would be wise if the new mayor of Oakland held her purse with a tighter grip.

I was surprised to hear the name Audrey Cooper fondly acknowledged by Mayor Lee in his address to the city. Ms. Cooper is the new boss at the San Francisco Chronicle. For decades, The City’s largest newspaper has failed to report responsibly on issues that most concern the Black community.

In June of 2014, Ms. Cooper cited company policy against using racial slurs as the reason the paper will no longer use the term “redskins” in identifying the NFL franchise Washington Redskins. However, when the president of North Korea referred to President Obama as “like a monkey” on two separate occasions in 2014, the Chronicle ran a story on this racial slur.

Then the Chronicle had the audacity to run a reader poll on the remark. One of the response options was “Maybe he (Obama) deserved it.”

What has changed for the better for the Black community in and around the city? Does the City of San Francisco care about this group of disenchanted people who helped build this great city?

What has changed for the better for the Black community in and around the city? Does the City of San Francisco care about this group of disenchanted people who helped build this great city?

Mayor Ed Lee did say something I agreed with when closing his address. He declared, “The state of the city is strong and getting stronger!” That’s true, I believe. But let’s be clear: The lingering stench of marginalizing Black men in San Francisco is growing stronger, and it’s not caused by homeless Blacks, but rather by City Hall.

San Francisco writer Allen Jones, author of “Case Game: Activating the Activist,” can be reached at (415) 756-7733 or jones-allen@att.net. Visit his website, at http://casegame.squarespace.com.

 

7 thoughts on “Black men disrespected in Mayor Ed Lee’s State of the City address

  1. Endia G.

    NO!!! and they don't have to care. I looked around and started calling The Bayview , The New Mission years ago. Its The New Mission, The New ChinaTown ,The New Anything BUT BLACKTOWN!!! Tell Me what IS GENTRIFICATION but a tool of a RACIST NATION!!!

    Reply
    1. Ginger

      Define bigotry regarding Blacks do. Care prosperty of careers merchant class. No government dependent allow. Externals to destroy once respect gangs. And narcotics and Glide foundation is hope. Blacks your envious others successful. Career I guess without assumption. Blacks lack political
      strength hate others. Successful 3rd Evans Post office gentrified. BMR for sale no Blacks ask. Cohen to assist you Ms.Whitewash lacky. For Ed whom using political party. Victory don't vote for him!

      Reply
  2. Ron P. Muriera

    Mr Jones~ The CORRECT name of the South of Market park is Victoria Manalo Draves Park, named after the Filipina American Olympic diver who faced racism in San Francisco and won 2 Gold Medals for the United States in platform and springboard diving at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.

    -Ron P. Muriera
    National Trustee – Northern California Representative
    Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS)

    Reply
  3. james Brady

    Most black men cannot vote in SF and are relegated to run down SRO's in the Tenderloin and homeless …..Hell I'm black and city hall destroyed my business….Herrera, Lee, Brown, Newsome are all corrupt…I'm glad you're offended because your observations are on point..

    Reply
    1. Ginger

      Why? Taking personal so typical speaking. For whom I know your concern. Generalizing reaction those not having. Proper options Bayview residents stereotypical. Affixed my sets I agree S.F is circle.Favoring the manipulative business persons. Yes basically campuses vindictive attitudes. Regarding those in power have ballots. 3rd St new going to happen Blacks. Disunited in Bay area yes
      going those. Able willing to continue buying. Into false assurance of greed. Going stop if others unite.
      Unfortunately Blacks in America not strong. Economic power just followers hate. Others not low self esteem. Did your business fail due. Only color consumers Blacks. BayView trashy and housing i know. Racist not true were careers. Welfare and stare at today. Do nothing so typical write. Your animosity elsewhere who careers! Blacks gangs and rude children drugs. Contact Cecil Williams Wille Brown!

      Reply
  4. haroldmiller4sanfranciscomayorn2011

    I live in Sunnydale housing and it’s starting to look like a GETTO with all the abandoned broke down and stolen cars in our parking lots, I have complained to Supervisor Malia Cohen, but no response, I completed to parking enforcement last year, no action taken, we are good people that live here, PLEASE HELP US CLEAN UP SUNNYDALE. ….

    Reply
  5. Mag

    “The state of the city is strong and getting stronger!”.
    Yeah, if breathing money was possible and healthy.

    Reply

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