by Xochitl Jackson
San Francisco – After several years of advocating for African Americans to have an equal opportunity to benefit from San Francisco’s lucrative tourism and hospitality industry, the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce (SFAACC) is calling a national boycott against San Francisco’s tourism and hospitality industry, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. SFAACC is demanding the City of San Francisco
- conduct hearings into the discriminatory practices and lack of representation of African Americans in the hospitality industry, and
- redirect 5 percent of the Tourism Improvement District (TID) fund into nonprofit organizations that will recruit, train and place African Americans into hospitality industry jobs, and
- direct tourism spending into African American neighborhoods and businesses.
In recent months the SFAACC has met with and written the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Board of Supervisors and the mayor regarding the exclusion of African Americans in the tourism and hospitality industry. Despite approximately $8 billion in annual tourist spending flowing into the City, the amount that flows into San Francisco’s African American community is infinitesimal.
The San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce (SFAACC) is calling a national boycott against San Francisco’s tourism and hospitality industry, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
SFAACC asserts that African American neighborhoods are seldom promoted by the San Francisco Travel Association (SFTA) and African American businesses are often refused contract opportunities. In fact, a recent video by SFTA to promote San Francisco to the world and draw tourism to the City did not include any African American or Latino images or destinations. The issue is exacerbated by the lack of African Americans employed in the industry, despite the efforts of Unite Here Local 2’s efforts to push hotels for greater diversity in hiring with a memorandum of understanding they created for the City’s hotels.
In an effort to resolve the disparities, SFAACC met with Theresa Sparks, director of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), to express concerns regarding the tourism industry in general and the SFTA in particular. Ms. Sparks offered HRC as a “mediator” and agreed to meet separately with Mike Casey, president of Unite Here Local 2 and Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of SFTA, to discuss SFAACC’s concerns.
In her report to the SFAACC, she apparently provided misleading statements. According to Mike Casey, he denies telling Sparks that he “is not aware of any overt discrimination” in San Francisco’s hospitality industry and considers that statement a misrepresentation of their meeting. Ms. Sparks also failed to address the major issues and concerns of the SFAACC in her meeting with Mr. D’Alessandro.
Community outreach, jobs, job training, contract opportunities and economic development were apparently not on the agenda and not discussed. Fred Jordan, president of the SFAACC, stated: “It’s apparent that the African American community in San Francisco has no advocates in the public sector regarding this issue. No one seems to want to confront one of the most blatant and visible forms of discrimination affecting African Americans in San Francisco – being shut out of San Francisco’s number one industry, tourism.”
The repercussions from this discrimination have been staggering. Some of the disturbing facts include:
- The median income of African American households in San Francisco is $30,840, just 35 percent of the median white household at $89,140.
- The African American population in San Francisco has dropped from 13.4 percent in 1970 to less than 4 percent today – the worst percentage decline of any major American city.
- 50 percent of African American children do not graduate from San Francisco high schools.
- Although less than 4 percent of the general population, African Americans make up 54 percent of San Francisco’s jail population.
- The life expectancy of African Americans living in San Francisco’s Bayview district is 14 years less than residents of Russian Hill or Pacific Heights.
- The African American unemployment rate in San Francisco is more than three times that of whites. The unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds is in the 40-45 percent range.
“No one seems to want to confront one of the most blatant and visible forms of discrimination affecting African Americans in San Francisco – being shut out of San Francisco’s number one industry, tourism.”
The City’s failure to genuinely address these issues is further reflected in the lack of action by the HRC to implement any of the recommended next steps outlined in the City’s “Report of the San Francisco Mayor’s Task Force on African-American Out-Migration,” published in 2009, or in its “Comparative Review and Analysis of Equity and Diversity” reports by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission released in November 2011. Among the recommendations of this report was the following:
“Establish an African-American economic development district in the city to serve as the center of a new tourism area that will attract tourists in the same way as a Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf or other locations central to the tourism economy.”
Since 1993, the City and County has conducted numerous studies with recommendations on how to support the economic growth of the African American community and slow the out-migration of African Americans from the City. To date, none have been implemented and HRC has paid little more than lip service with special events and recognition ceremonies of community leaders.
Jordan states, “We’ve had enough of the studies and reports that acknowledge the problems but do absolutely nothing to help solve them. SFTA’s biased behavior and City Hall’s attitude of benign neglect has allowed this situation to deteriorate to the point where we have no alternative but to call for a boycott of San Francisco.”
Phase One begins Jan. 1, 2014, and will include requesting all African American associations and organizations not to bring any of their meetings, conventions or conferences to San Francisco.
Phase Two begins Feb. 1 and includes requesting educational organizations not to bring any of their meetings or conventions to San Francisco.
Phase Three begins March 1 and includes informing legal and medical organizations of our boycott and requests that they take their meeting and convention business elsewhere.
“SFTA’s biased behavior and City Hall’s attitude of benign neglect has allowed this situation to deteriorate to the point where we have no alternative but to call for a boycott of San Francisco.”
SFAACC also plans to hold peaceful demonstrations outside all major conferences in and around Moscone Center to bring national and global awareness to the discrimination taking place in San Francisco.
Xochitl Jackson and the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 749-6400.