by Vince Echavaria

Excited to see the lights blazing at the Fillmore Heritage Center once again, people flocked to the elegant 1330 Fillmore St. venue for the Community Open House dubbed “Rebirth of the Fillmore Heritage Center” on Nov. 16. – Photo: Gloria Berry

San Francisco – Dedicated to ensuring the historic Fillmore neighborhood has an economic and cultural anchor to call its own, District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown and a group of nonprofit and African American community leaders have initiated a collaborative campaign to reactivate the Fillmore Heritage Center. Beginning Nov. 5, the collaborative is offering live music, community events, and housing and financial empowerment workshops at the former Yoshi’s site.

“This is all about offering a shot at equity for the Fillmore community,” said Supervisor Brown, who pointed to access to housing as a key focus for any long-term plan. “I am thrilled that we will be reopening the Fillmore Heritage Center as a source of long-awaited cultural and economic opportunities for the community, which will enable residents and merchants of the surrounding corridor to thrive.”

Supervisor Brown also stressed the importance of community inclusion and collaboration in the activation of the Fillmore Heritage Center in determining the future of the long-vacant site. “This gives us an opportunity to work with the local community to test options and assess what really works to hopefully inform any comprehensive community benefits for the future operation of the site,” said Supervisor Brown.

Members of the New Community Leadership Foundation (NCLF), an African American-led nonprofit, the San Francisco Housing Development Corp. (SFHDC), a 30-year-old nonprofit affordable housing developer, and Hard Hitta Promotions, a boxing, music and special event production company, are partnering with the Office of Supervisor Vallie Brown and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to operate the Fillmore Heritage Center property at 1330 Fillmore St. for at least six months.

“The Fillmore community deserves a space that reflects the deep history of the neighborhood and provides a new way for local residents to benefit from financial empowerment services and community focused entertainment,” said Joaquín Torres, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “We are proud to partner with Supervisor Brown and community leaders to reactivate the Fillmore Heritage Center in an equitable and inclusive way.”

The Fillmore Heritage Center Equity Board, now able to convene inside the center, holds a meeting on Nov. 2 to implement plans for events and programs that will enable them to gain permanent control of the complex beyond their current six-month trial period. – Photo: Kevin N. Hume, SF Examiner

The Fillmore Heritage Center Equity Partners (FHCEP) – which includes several Fillmore natives, some whose families were displaced as a result of redevelopment, and others with longstanding ties to the Fillmore – has come together to preserve the vacant 28,000-square foot heritage center specifically for the communities of color it was intended to serve.

Asserting its commitment to “ignite a new era of economic and cultural revitalization to the Fillmore District,” the FHCEP will begin the activation effort by hosting a combination of promoter-led and community partner-organized events at the former Yoshi’s site throughout the six months.

“This partnership is the result of a long, hard-fought process, in cooperation with the City, to make sure that the reactivation of the Fillmore Heritage Center is represented by stakeholders from within the Fillmore who are committed to providing an equity plan that will serve this community long into the future,” said Majeid Crawford, NCLF’s communications director.

FHCEP’s activation plan calls for presenting a wide range of daytime and nighttime programming events, from live music and comedy, to gallery openings and poetry slam competitions. Programming offered will include financial empowerment workshops, housing counseling, on-site job training and voter registration services.

San Francisco Housing Development Corp. (SFHDC), a nonprofit that provides affordable housing, community development and financial empowerment services to low-income communities of color in both the Fillmore/Western Addition and Bayview Hunters Point, will spearhead the access to housing component with staff counselors who will work on site to manage workshops on credit repair, rental readiness and first-time home buying.

Black community control of one of San Francisco’s most prominent venues was evident in the selection of the Fillmore Heritage Center as the venue for the first commemoration of the Jonestown genocide ever held in San Francisco: “40 Years After Jonestown” on Nov. 18. Here, Jameel Patterson, president of the New Community Leadership Foundation (NCLF), leads a chant, “Unite the City,” after reminding the crowd: “Even after Jim Jones, after gentrification, this neighborhood elected a mayor from its own neighborhood – London Breed. … We have a legacy to preserve, and we must work together to unite the City.” – Photo: Ching Wong, SF Bay

“Our organization was founded in the Western Addition to combat the widespread displacement that has disproportionately affected African Americans and other people of color,” SFHDC CEO David Sobel said. “We are grateful to have this opportunity to ensure that the activation of the Fillmore Heritage Center serves the economic interests of the surrounding community and provides vital housing counseling services so that low-income residents can continue to call San Francisco ‘home.’”

According to FHCEP members, the success and community integration of the Fillmore Heritage Center is critical to ensuring that current and future residents have access to goods, services and jobs in their neighborhood. Collaborating with small businesses will be a part of bringing these opportunities and new life to Fillmore Street.

“The Fillmore Merchants Association and many other businesses are ecstatic about the opening of the Fillmore Heritage Center,” said LaTonia Grice, owner of neighboring Jazz’z salon and vice president of the Fillmore Merchants Association. “The reopening of this Center will increase the economic viability of our neighborhood; clustering all of our activities will bring back a well-lit Fillmore corridor.”

The FHCEP hosted well-attended community meetings to introduce the activation and solicit input from local residents on Nov. 9 and 12 at 1330 Fillmore St. At the Community Open House celebration, “Rebirth of the Fillmore Heritage Center” on Nov. 16, the community had an opportunity to learn about the activation and tour the venue.

About the Fillmore Heritage Center

The Fillmore Heritage Center opened in 2007 as Yoshi’s club and sushi restaurant, with the promise of revitalizing the surrounding Fillmore corridor, which was once known as the “Harlem of the West” for its dozens of jazz clubs and African American-owned businesses, but was drastically altered after thousands of local residents and businesses were forced out during the Redevelopment Agency era. The property has stood vacant since 2015 after the former owner declared bankruptcy, and the City has since sought a new owner who will provide a combination of economic, cultural and community benefits catered toward the neighborhood.

Vince Echavaria, communications director for the San Francisco Housing Development Corp., can be reached at vince@sfhdc.org.

Fillmore Heritage Center

by A. Jacquie Taliaferro

On Nov. 16, the Fillmore Heritage Center, former home of Yoshi’s, held an Open House for the community. About 150 folks – an impressive gathering of entrepreneurs, artists, community activists and supporters – came through for a super time of food, drinks, music and fun.

Jac Taliaferrro, Danny Glover and Lily Robinson, vice president of NCLF, enjoy the Fillmore Heritage Center premiere of Glover’s film, “93 Days,” about the Ebola crisis, hosted by the SF Black Film Festival and LaHitz on June 15, 2016.

The center had been closed for over two years, briefly opening for the premiere showcase of Danny Glover’s film, “93 Days,” which my company, LaHitz TV-Media, hosted with the San Francisco Black Film Festival on June 15, 2016.

For the last two years Ken Johnson along with Majeid Crawford and a handful of others, including myself, met at the Coltrane Church when it was on Fillmore before moving to Turk and Lyon. Out of that collaboration came the New Community Leadership Foundation (NLCF). Majeid is the communications director, Lily Robinson is the vice president and Jameel Patterson is president.

“This community has suffered for decades since the City’s ‘redevelopment’ projects displaced thousands of African Americans and destroyed countless Black-owned businesses,” says Robinson. “We were told that the Fillmore Heritage Center would be an anchor point for rebuilding our neighborhood economy. We expect and demand for that to happen.”

At the Open House I saw lots of people jumping on the bandwagon as they can see the tremendous possibilities that could come from the revitalization plan FHC is embarking on.

Newcomers to the collaboration are the San Francisco Housing Development Corp. (SFHDC) and local celebrity boxer Karim Mayfield. They were bought in by the city to help or hinder depending on who you talk to.

Two days before Thanksgiving, the Warriors sponsored a turkey giveaway at the Fillmore Heritage Center. Superstars Mayor London Breed and Warrior Kevin Durant were all smiles as they prepared to hand turkeys to happy families. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

The Fillmore Heritage Center is “an entertainment venue with potential to be an economic engine of the lower Fillmore corridor,” SFHDC CEO David Sobel told the Examiner. SFHDC was founded in 1988 by legendary economic justice organizer Geraldine Johnson in the Fillmore, though it is now headquartered on Third Street in Bayview Hunters Point.

Karim Mayfield, as head of marketing, promotions and community outreach at the Fillmore Heritage Center, will work through his company, Hard Hitta Promotions, to offer jazz, R&B and old-school hip-hop shows to the community. Mayfield told the Examiner, “The ultimate goal is to ‘lift the community up’ and offer the long-promised benefits.

“’What’s lacking is equity,’ said Mayfield. ‘At the end of the day, everything is centered around equity and being able to capitalize on what’s going on around you.

“’Being born and raised here – and I’m speaking for the community in this role – we wanted to put skin in the game to get this place operating and functioning.’”

The partners have six months to prove they can make FHC economically viable. SFHDC’s Sobel says they intend to “make a strong showing of this initial activation to the point that we can continue laying a foundation for a community-driven, permanent plan for the site.”

Many are asking how is it going to be financed and maintained. Looking at other models for precedents, consider how Lucas Films got Lettermen’s Hospital and the Asian Museum got the old Main Library in the Civic Center for one dollar.

At one of the numerous meetings during the years since Yoshi’s departed, leaving the Fillmore Heritage Center nearly empty, then supervisor London Breed asked, “If someone knows how I can get the building for a dollar, please let me know.” There must be someone in City Hall who helped put those deals together; please ask them.

NCLF had written a 10-point community benefits plan that the City had incorporated into a request for proposals seeking a buyer for FHC. “Our position was we didn’t care who bought the building; all we cared about were the community benefits,” said Majeid Crawford. “Whoever was willing to give them to us, we would support.”

In October, the City’s selection committee rejected all bids for failure to meet the financial requirements and NCLF’s community benefits package. “The space had been dormant too long,” says Crawford, so NCLF asked for community partners and approached the City with its own plan for reactivating the center.

A table groaning under the weight of so many turkeys promised Fillmore families a Happy Thanksgiving dinner. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

While the City will pay to maintain the building during NCLF’s trial period, community ownership will take major funding. When he was city manager, Ed Lee called for an investigation into corporations doing business in San Francisco that profited from slavery. That information must be dusted off and reparations required.

Those corporations are long overdue in repaying the money they made off our ancestors’ slave labor. Many Black-owned businesses as well as the Fillmore Heritage Center can make excellent use of that money to grow plus help start new companies. With the promise of real economic opportunity, the tragic Black exodus from San Francisco will reverse course.

At FHC two days before Thanksgiving, Mayor Breed along with the Golden State Warriors gave away over 200 turkeys. The happy crowd suggests that big things are coming to the Fillmore Heritage Center.

A. Jacquie Taliaferro, San Francisco filmmaker and director of LaHitz Media, can be reached at lahitzdigitaltv@gmail.com. Visit his YouTube channel and Lahitzdigitaltv.blogspot.com.

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