In celebration of the charismatic life of Sister Espanola Jackson, a born leader and chosen woman

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A memorial service will be held for Dr. Espanola Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Grace Tabernacle Community Church, 1121 Oakdale Ave., and a homegoing service on Friday, Feb. 5, 12 noon, at Providence Baptist Church, 1601 McKinnon, off Third Street, both in Hunters Point, San Francisco

by La Vaughn B. Moore

Espanola Jackson, veteran of countless City Hall showdowns on the fate of her people, smiles to encourage the younger folks at a hearing on the environmental impact report on the Hunters Point Shipyard on Dec. 17, 2009. At the behest of developer Lennar, the supervisors approved it despite the shipyard’s status as one of the most contaminated places in the country. But with Espanola’s encouragement, the community fights on. – Photo: Carol Harvey
Espanola Jackson, veteran of countless City Hall showdowns on the fate of her people, smiles to encourage the younger folks at a hearing on the environmental impact report on the Hunters Point Shipyard on Dec. 17, 2009. At the behest of developer Lennar, the supervisors approved it despite the shipyard’s status as one of the most contaminated places in the country. But with Espanola’s encouragement, the community fights on. – Photo: Carol Harvey

The day Mama “E” was born, the angels and our Heavenly Father said, “Let there be LIGHT,” and it was so! Introduced to the world was a baby girl who grew into a most honorable and well-loved woman who would change the state of California forever, and in particular San Francisco and the Bayview Hunters Point community.

With Bible scriptures, fearlessness, faith and divine love and dedication planted in her huge heart, chosen and powerfully guided from above, she set out to make changes, for justice, equality and recognition for a city that needed her to make the difference which otherwise probably would not have happened. She fought until the very end.

In our lifetimes, we did once exist as a strong, Black, wholesome, solid, family orientated community with no dependence on any other area in San Francisco, thanks to her efforts and the hard work of her then colleagues.

Espanola Jackson enjoys a Bayview Hunters Point history exhibit at George Washington Carver Elementary School during a tribute to elders by the schoolchildren. – Photo: Lance Burton, Planet Fillmore Communications
Espanola Jackson enjoys a Bayview Hunters Point history exhibit at George Washington Carver Elementary School during a tribute to elders by the schoolchildren. – Photo: Lance Burton, Planet Fillmore Communications

Her political career is unmatched to this day. There is not one person in political office or in any political capacity who did not know her or at least her name. The power this one impeccable woman held was just unbelievable.

She loved her people and the Bayview Hunters Point community unconditionally and reached the pinnacle of “agape love” on her political journey. This was just one of her strongest blessings! And we love her too, forever and a day.

Mama E waited on no one. She solidly built her own wall of empowerment and, because of this exceptional knowledge and strength, Mama E’s God-given abilities thrust forth even when it looked like she was defeated – but never did she suffer the agony of defeat.

At the Carver Elementary School tribute to elders, Espanola is backed by Chester Williams, CEO of CKW Global Enterprises and public relations director of HP-UNITI; Randolph James, president of HP-UNITI; Charles Grays, United Fathers Coalition; and John Smith, member of HP-UNITI. – Photo: Lance Burton, Planet Fillmore Communications
At the Carver Elementary School tribute to elders, Espanola is backed by Chester Williams, CEO of CKW Global Enterprises and public relations director of HP-UNITI; Randolph James, president of HP-UNITI; Charles Grays, United Fathers Coalition; and John Smith, member of HP-UNITI. – Photo: Lance Burton, Planet Fillmore Communications

Mama E’s personality was overwhelming. I met her when I first arrived in San Francisco, a 13-year-old orphan out of Compton, and we continued to share a special relationship from that day forward. As a little girl, I remember my mom saying: “There are three types of people in the world: those who wonder what happened, those who watch what happened and those who make things happen. You will make things happen. Leaders are born not made.”

I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and travel with one of the few that “made things happen.” I attended many meetings with her and if there were 400 people there, every last one of them made their way to her to hug her, kiss her or shake her hand and give her the recognition she earned. It was absolutely incredible to witness this, time after time after time, how one woman accomplished so much through prayer and faith and always stayed ready, never had to get ready.

When the Redevelopment Agency tried to take control of Bayview Hunters Point, the community gathered 33,000 signatures on a referendum, turning them into City Hall with a “Redvelopment RIP” ceremony on the steps. Referendum campaign leaders include Willie Ratcliff on the mic, Charlie Walker, Espanola Jackson and Ahimsa Sumchai. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
When the Redevelopment Agency tried to take control of Bayview Hunters Point, the community gathered 33,000 signatures on a referendum, turning them into City Hall with a “Redvelopment RIP” ceremony on the steps. Referendum campaign leaders include Willie Ratcliff on the mic, Charlie Walker, Espanola Jackson and Ahimsa Sumchai. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa

She was gospel and gangsta at the same time and got the job done whenever called for duty for the next fight. I loved that the most about her. She never had doubt, never showed any fear, only FAITH. I don’t care how huge her assignment was, she was on it. Always with a positive attitude, she organized to get the results that uplifted an entire community and city, never meeting any strangers.

Over the years, I watched, listened and learned from her. Oh, but she did have a gang – even though she could be a “one woman gang” herself – the Big Five: Eloise Westbrook, Essie Webb, Shirley Jones, Ethel Garlington and, of course, Espanola Jackson, all of whom fought hard as hell. It is a known fact she held the official title of Mayor of the Bayview Hunters Point Community, with Francisco Da Costa, Samuel Murray and Josh Arce by her side as her first lieutenants! No sergeant at arms necessary; she was that too!

She was gospel and gangsta at the same time and got the job done whenever called for duty for the next fight.

Her legacy is so extraordinary, where does one begin? She fought for the WIC office to be brought to the hood. She fought for low-income housing in our community. She and the rest of the Big Five won the funding for all the housing located below the sun dial at the top of the hill in Hunters Point and made sure it was mostly built by community contractors, truckers and workers.

Espanola rouses the community to support Prop F at a May 27, 2008, rally in Mendel Plaza at Third and Palou, the main intersection in Bayview Hunters Point, where she had an office for decades. Prop F would have postponed development at the Hunters Point Shipyard until it is thoroughly clean. – Photo: JR Valrey
Espanola rouses the community to support Prop F at a May 27, 2008, rally in Mendel Plaza at Third and Palou, the main intersection in Bayview Hunters Point, where she had an office for decades. Prop F would have postponed development at the Hunters Point Shipyard until it is thoroughly clean. – Photo: JR Valrey

She was appointed to a commission by former Gov. Ronald Reagan; now you KNOW that was something! She fought for welfare reform, winning by only one vote in 1968 to become the California state president of the Welfare Rights Movement due to her attendance at a welfare rights conference in Los Angeles. Damn, for real? Who does that, a Chosen One!

One of the largest battles she ever fought was to clean up the Hunters Point Shipyard, one of the most toxic former military bases in the country that has plagued our people since the 1940s, before she even arrived in San Francisco. She pushed for Prop F to postpone housing development at the Shipyard until all the toxic and radioactive pollution was gone.

Espanola was as comfortable at the most elegant formal affairs as she was at home in the hood and never hesitated to speak truth to power. Here she is with Francisco Da Costa and Kevin Williams.
Espanola was as comfortable at the most elegant formal affairs as she was at home in the hood and never hesitated to speak truth to power. Here she is with Francisco Da Costa and Kevin Williams.

Earlier she had fought relocation of San Francisco’s sewage treatment plant to Bayview Hunters Point. I have to laugh when I remember how she would say to me, “Everybody’s sh*t from all over San Francisco being dumped over here on us.” One of her most successful campaigns was to mitigate the harm from the sewage plant by forcing the city to also build a community college for her people to get educated, and there it stands: Southeast College, located on Oakdale Street adjacent to the plant.

Whatever you needed, whatever time of day or night you called her, she made time for you and any problem or question you may have had. Mama E was a doer of the word. It was her lifestyle, the word made flesh, and you do not have to be spiritual to know there was something beyond superior and exceptional about her. And the true beauty of it all was she was not arrogant nor haughty and did not claim self-importance. She was just a soldier in the army for her people on behalf of our Heavenly Father.

It has been one of the most important parts of my journey to have had the privilege of meeting her at such an early age, watching, listening and learning how, when you submit your life to the Father Yahuwah, what you will see a perfect example of how we should all love and care for each other as we all saw her live. I am so thankful and blessed to have been a part of her life for such a long time. She will live on in my heart and I pray the hearts of many others. You only get an experience such as this once in a lifetime, knowing and loving someone so dedicated, directed and chosen who loves and assists others. Mama E showed us all – the word made flesh.

In July 2006, Espanola and Lisa Shelby stand outside the LaSalle Apartments, one of the HUD-subsidized complexes she and the Big Five won for the people of Bayview Hunters Point. Years later, in the early ‘90s, she led a revolutionary movement to implement a little known federal law enabling residents of public and subsidized housing to take over management and ultimately own their complexes as co-ops. Under her leadership, San Francisco pushed the process further than in any other city, but the movement was brutally put down. That was when the youth, their dreams destroyed, responded to the simultaneous invasion of crack into the hoods with turf wars.
In July 2006, Espanola and Lisa Shelby stand outside the LaSalle Apartments, one of the HUD-subsidized complexes she and the Big Five won for the people of Bayview Hunters Point. Years later, in the early ‘90s, she led a revolutionary movement to implement a little known federal law enabling residents of public and subsidized housing to take over management and ultimately own their complexes as co-ops. Under her leadership, San Francisco pushed the process further than in any other city, but the movement was brutally put down. That was when the youth, their dreams destroyed, responded to the simultaneous invasion of crack into the hoods with turf wars.

Most importantly, I want to say to the family of this incredible leader, friend, loving mother to her own and others such as myself, you must know that you are the proud lineage of a queen. It hurts to lose her, I know, but with prayer, time and very special memories, she will always live on.

My Bible tells me the greatest gift one can give is the sincere sacrifice of yourself for others. Your mother did that every day for an entire city and thousands of others, people she did not even know! Only one other has done that – and shed His blood, remember?

You must know that each of you are very special yourselves. Continue to press through and make her extremely proud from the heavens to see each one of you proceed in life in a manner that will continue to be pleasing in her sight and always represent her in the highest of honor. Much love to all of you, and I will keep you in my prayers always.

Longtime economic justice advocate and writer La Vaughn Moore can be reached at mbeasley@sfbayview.com.

Salute to community activist Espanola Jackson

by Wade Woods

On April 24, 2008, Espanola smiles after being presented with an award at City Hall from the Human Rights Commission.
On April 24, 2008, Espanola smiles after being presented with an award at City Hall from the Human Rights Commission.

Since moving to San Francisco in 1943, Espanola Jackson has been in the forefront of advancing the cause of African Americans in the City. Born in Shiro, Texas, since coming to San Francisco, she has been a resident of the Fillmore, Chinatown, South Park and Bayview Hunters Point. Her family was the first to integrate the Oakdale public housing projects in 1954.

Espanola is the mother of six children and she has 22 grandchildren, 44 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild. She attended Geary Elementary School, Girls High School and San Francisco State University.

Her accomplishments and struggles in the area of civil rights for African Americans in San Francisco include participation in demonstrations protesting the lack of Black managers and clerks in banks and grocery stores in Bayview Hunters Point and Black car salesmen on Auto Row on Van Ness Avenue.

Espanola, unphased by officials bent on insulting her and her community, took it in stride when the School Board barred her from testifying on Feb. 12, 2013. She had been protesting abuse of Black children by the principal of Martin Luther King Middle School and the exclusion of Black contractors and workers from reconstruction of Willie Brown Academy. – Photo: Labor Video Project
Espanola, unphased by officials bent on insulting her and her community, took it in stride when the School Board barred her from testifying on Feb. 12, 2013. She had been protesting abuse of Black children by the principal of Martin Luther King Middle School and the exclusion of Black contractors and workers from reconstruction of Willie Brown Academy. – Photo: Labor Video Project

In response to these demonstrations, then Mayor Shelly set up the San Francisco Human Rights Committee. The committee became what is today the Human Rights Commission. After organizing residents for welfare rights in 15 public housing projects, Espanola Jackson became the first California state president of the Welfare Rights Movement. She was also responsible for the citywide free lunch program.

Jackson worked with then Supervisor Harry Britt to incorporate into the domestic partners legislation all partners, both heterosexual and homosexual. She served on the Joint Housing Committee, the Economic Opportunity Council and the Southeast Facility Commission. She served as vice chair and was the first African chair of the San Francisco Democratic Women’s Forum and she was president of the District 7 (now District 10) Democratic Club.

Her other accomplishments and awards are too many to list. The African American community owes her our thanks and gratitude for her fight for our rights in this city.

This story first appeared in the Oakland Post on Feb. 6, 2008, marking Espanola’s 75th birthday. Wade Woods can be reached at wade2woods@yahoo.com.

Supervisor London Breed, now president of the Board of Supervisors, greets Espanola and her family at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20, 2014.
Supervisor London Breed, now president of the Board of Supervisors, greets Espanola and her family at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20, 2014.

The stalwart Espanola Jackson, Bayview Hunters Point advocate

Excerpts from an article by Francisco Da Costa

Espanola Jackson and Willie Ratcliff stand with their pastor, Bishop Ernest Jackson, after being awarded honorary doctoral degrees in humanities by the Sacramento Theological Seminary on Oct. 28, 2012. Seminary director Bishop McBride told the assemblage that the doctorate Martin Luther King used with pride was also an honorary degree. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
Espanola Jackson and Willie Ratcliff stand with their pastor, Bishop Ernest Jackson, after being awarded honorary doctoral degrees in humanities by the Sacramento Theological Seminary on Oct. 28, 2012. Seminary director Bishop McBride told the assemblage that the doctorate Martin Luther King used with pride was also an honorary degree. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa

Espanola Jackson has for years stood up for what is totally right. She not only stands up for what is right but she speaks her mind. …

The celebration of her 75th birthday was held at Grace Tabernacle Community Church, where she is now revered as Mother Jackson. … [Francisco lists many of the same accomplishments noted by Wade Woods and adds more:]

She represents the First People, the Muwekma Ohlone of San Francisco and the Bay Area. She helped organize the first Earth Day in the Bayview Hunters Point.

She was instrumental in hiring paraprofessionals working with the SF Unified School District, including hall monitors and classroom aides in San Francisco public schools.

Espanola serves on the Executive Park Advisory Committee and has served for over 30 years with distinction.

She was honored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, and the Federal Women’s Program. She has been recognized and honored by the last six mayors of San Francisco. …

Bishop Ernest Jackson, Espanola’s pastor at Grace Tabernacle Community Church, preaches beneath a banner wishing her a happy 75th birthday, on Feb. 9, 2008. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa
Bishop Ernest Jackson, Espanola’s pastor at Grace Tabernacle Community Church, preaches beneath a banner wishing her a happy 75th birthday, on Feb. 9, 2008. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa

A long time ago she worked with Rev. Duffy of Self Help for the Aging in implementing a partnership with Muni for a 5 cent senior bus fare and with Fosters and Manning Restaurants for seniors to purchase meals for 50 cents. Does that tell you how long and how deep Espanola Jackson has been involved in the making of the history of San Francisco? …

It has been my singular privilege to know Espanola Jackson as my best friend. I value her friendship shown by her genuine deeds. For years we two have gone before so many chairs and meetings and have fought for the community. Had it not been for Espanola, Bayview Hunters Point would be poorer. Her voice makes a difference and is heard.

Francisco Da Costa, director of Environmental Justice Advocacy, can be reached at fdc1947@gmail.comThe full story is on his website, www.franciscodacosta.com.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for being there by the people for the people truly this is what my family is made of we are going to miss you . You go ahead and rest now till we will meet you on the other side

    Love second Cousin Dorothy from Fremont CA

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