Your input wanted and needed: Community Forum on the African American Cultural District, Wednesday, March 21, 6 p.m., Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St., BVHP, San Francisco
by Merchants of Butchertown
Designated cultural districts in San Francisco are becoming increasing popular, as we have seen the popularity of the two cultural districts designated so far, Calle24 in the Mission and SOMA Philipinas, South of Market.
“San Francisco continues to be on the forefront of preserving and enhancing neighborhood character, identity and diversity,” said former Mayor Lee. “These important cultural assets are a testament to the work of our partners and residents who embody the values of San Francisco. These communities will shape the future of cultural districts in the state and beyond.”
The Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, http://www.calle24sf.org, in the heart of the Mission, is anchored by the 24th Street corridor (Calle 24), a vibrant, commercial, tree-lined corridor known as “El Corazón de la Misión” or “The Heart of the Mission.” The Mission District in San Francisco is known worldwide for its bounty of colorful murals and is considered the birthplace of the regional mural movement.
The 24th Street corridor, with nearly 200 small businesses, is a bustling enclave of Latino owned and operated shops, including colorful specialty stores, restaurants, taquerias, Mexican bakeries, fresh produce grocers, butchers, cafes and art galleries. Calle 24 hosts some of the largest annual festivals in San Francisco, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the community.
South of Market (SOMA) Pilipinas, http://www.somapilipinas.org, San Francisco’s Filipino Cultural Heritage District, serves as the cultural, social, arts and service hub for Filipinos throughout Northern California. Home to thousands of Filipino families and seniors, SOMA Pilipinas preserves the rich history of Filipinos in San Francisco and acts as a gateway community for newly-arrived Filipino families.
It is home to unique cultural institutions such as Kularts, one of the nation’s premier presenters of contemporary and tribal Filipino arts, and Bindlestiff Studio, a renowned, community-based performing arts venue dedicated to showcasing emerging Filipino American and Filipino artists. SOMA Pilipinas is committed to socio-economic equity and community empowerment.
Recently a conversation started within the merchant groups of Bayview Hunters Point. April Spears of Auntie April’s, who co-chairs the Merchants of Butchertown, reached out to have a discussion designating the Third Street corridor as the African American Cultural District. The level of community interest has been tremendous; people are concerned about preserving the cultural aspects of the neighborhood and ensuring that people are not displaced during efforts to revitalize the Third Street corridor.
So far there is a complete buy-in from the community, but what would an African American Cultural District look like? The answer lies with the community and how the community wants to define and preserve its unique characteristics, such as art, signage, murals, festivals and properties and businesses that are owned and operated by community stakeholders. Everything is on the table for discussion.
With two African American owned businesses, Sam Jordan’s and The Jazz Room, already designated as Legacy Businesses and both still owned and operated by the same families, this is a significant start to enhance the legacy of what was once a thriving African American business district. Within the last year, five new African American owned businesses have opened or are opening soon: Luxurious Nails, BOUG Creole, LaWanda Dickerson’s U3Fit, Tallio’s Coffee and Cafe Envy, formerly the Monte Carlo Club.
Another very important component is the preservation of art that defines a cultural aspect of the African American neighborhood. Part of the discussion is to launch a fundraiser to restore the beautiful mural painted on the side of the former Dollar Store at Third and Palou. The Tazuri Watu mural turns 30 years old this year. Recently it has suffered from major vandalism. A plan is underway to raise funds to restore this significant mural along with other beautiful murals along the corridor that are in need of restoration and preservation.
One of the greatest strengths of a cultural district is that it is formed by the community. No one really will know what it will look like until all of us are part of the discussion and merchants and residents all agree what it should be. This is a very exciting opportunity for us in Bayview. Let’s begin an inclusive community engagement process to define our African American Cultural District in Bayview.
You are cordially invited to begin the discussion and planning at the first Community Forum on the African American Cultural District. It’s Wednesday, March 21, 6 p.m., at the Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St., Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco. Your input is welcome, wanted and needed!
To learn more and get involved, contact Merchants of Butchertown co-founders, April Spears of Auntie April’s at firstname.lastname@example.org or Barbara Gratta of Gratta Wines at email@example.com.