Hands off Coltrane Church! Eviction imminent – sign the petition

by Bay View staff

The featured front page story in the Feb. 18 San Francisco Chronicle begins, “The St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, a uniquely San Franciscan storefront ministry dedicated to the music and preachings of the soulful sax man, is facing eviction and may be gone as soon as Sunday’s sermon ends.

Archbishop Franzo King, beloved activist and courageous spokesperson for the Black community, plays saxophone a la John Coltrane with the Ministers of Sound in the world renowned St. John Coltrane Church he founded 48 years ago. – Photo: mswine, Flickr
Archbishop Franzo King, beloved activist and courageous spokesperson for the Black community, plays saxophone a la John Coltrane with the Ministers of Sound in the world renowned St. John Coltrane Church he founded 48 years ago. – Photo: mswine, Flickr

“Archbishop Franzo W. King, who co-founded the Fillmore district church, says he has received a three-day notice to vacate the space in the West Bay Conference Center, a meeting hall for hire. King says the center’s director, Floyd Trammell, has not accepted his rent of $1,600 per month for two years, and King is now waiting for the sheriff to serve eviction papers.

“To build support, the one-room storefront, commonly known as the Church of John Coltrane, has circulated a petition through its website and claims 1,174 (now 1,392 and growing) signatures.

“‘As a community here, we might be looked at as one of the last cultural voices that has a certain social consciousness that leads toward the favor of the oppressed,’ said King, 71, in an interview Wednesday at the church.

“Founded in 1968, the church is said to be the only house of worship in the United States dedicated to the message and music of John Coltrane, the pioneering jazz musician who died in 1967. The sanctuary looks more like a jazz club than a church, with only glass doors separating the 50-seat room from the pedestrian traffic on Fillmore Street.

“Once aligned with the Black Panthers, the church preaches its gospel in a weekly radio ministry on KPOO-FM, and sponsors food and clothing giveaways. But its main event is a Sunday morning meditation on Coltrane’s signature work ‘A Love Supreme,’ followed by a sermon punctuated with musical accompaniment by the ensemble the Ministers of Sound.

“‘As a community here, we might be looked at as one of the last cultural voices that has a certain social consciousness that leads toward the favor of the oppressed,’ said King, 71, in an interview Wednesday at the church.”

“This church in its own unique characteristics is an institution that belongs to San Francisco,” King said. … First went Marcus Books, which the Coltrane Church fought to save, and now it looks like the church is on its way out.

“‘Our concern primarily is what is happening to the African American community,’ King said.”

Hoodline reports: “This isn’t the first time the Coltrane Church, founded in 1969 as ‘the oldest and only church born out of the music of John Coltrane,’ has had to relocate due to a rent hike. For 29 years, it was located on Divisadero Street, until a steep rent hike forced the church into its current space on Fillmore.”

An avalanche of signatures on the Change.org petition could save the church. The petition reads:

“The ‘Coltrane Church’ has been in the Fillmore since 1971 and is the oldest and only church born out of the music of John Coltrane. The present political climate of profit over people continues to devastate the African American population of the Fillmore, leaving the Coltrane Church to stand alone as the sole historic proprietors of the music and culture of jazz as a means to enlighten. The managers of the West Bay Conference Center are seeking to DOUBLE the amount of our rent and our lease is up, leaving us with our backs against a wall.

“Tell the West Bay Conference Center to honor their community subsidized rental rates and KEEP THE COLTRANE CHURCH IN THE FILLMORE.

“The San Francisco Fillmore district formerly known as the ‘Harlem of the West’ and the African American population in the district of ‘The Fillmore’ contributed to the culture of blues, jazz and gospel music. Presently the population and culture of the African American community has been all but destroyed, along with its learning institutions, churches and venues of musical expression. The Coltrane Church has and will continue its stance against this kind of injustice.

“Tell the West Bay Conference Center to honor their community subsidized rental rates and KEEP THE COLTRANE CHURCH IN THE FILLMORE.”

“As the Apostles of Sound and Agents of Social Justice, the John Coltrane Church is the last voice for justice and equity on Fillmore Street. Let your voice be heard by signing the petition in full support of the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church remaining in the West Bay Conference Center.

“2016 brings us into our 48th year of service. Thank you for signing the petition and helping us to continue serving the global community.”

To learn more, visit http://www.coltranechurch.org/.