On MLK Day, Black San Franciscans demand new measures to hold the City accountable

Martin Luther King Jr. promotes his book about the Birmingham Campaign, “Why We Can’t Wait,” at a press conference June 7, 1964. In his immortal “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he wrote that he was in Birmingham because “injustice is here” and that he was demanding immediate change because “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.'” In San Francisco, injustice is here, and we can’t wait for justice until after the last Black San Franciscan has been pushed out and over the bridge. – Photo: Walter Albertin, World Telegram & Sun

by Phelicia Jones, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community – Justice 4 Mario Woods

As San Francisco politicians gather on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to celebrate their work over the last year, we are left wondering what there is to celebrate. Black San Franciscans have been and are still subject to inexcusable disparities in every aspect of life – including law enforcement, housing and employment.

Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community – Justice 4 Mario Woods founder Phelicia Jones demands that the leaders holding this annual event set actionable annual goals with the input of the community, work on them throughout the year, and present their progress on them at each annual MLK Jr. Day Breakfast event. Only by achieving goals that improve the lives of Black San Franciscans will there be anything to celebrate regarding racial equity in San Francisco.

Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community – Justice 4 Mario Woods is joined at this event by ally groups Democratic Socialists of America (SF), SF Berniecrats as well as San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, other Black community members and more.

San Francisco leaders have “said that they’re working on these issues, but after three reports in 55 years studying Black people in regard to racism, Black San Franciscans are worse off than ever before,” Jones stated. Jones acknowledges that the Board of Supervisors recently created a new department to study racial inequality; however, she notes that it fits into a long-standing pattern of the City gathering data, rather than taking action.

“My hope,” said Jones, “is that this will not be just another department with a catchy name which provides no equality, no equity and no justice for Black San Franciscans.” It is now past time for action, not more studies.

Dr. King said, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation … for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.’”

Surrounded by supporters, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community – Justice 4 Mario Woods founder Phelicia Jones, speaking at a City Hall press conference on Nov. 27, 2018, condemns racism in City employment. In many City jobs that Blacks fought long and hard for, such as Muni driver, they are now rarely seen. Raising such basic issues and demanding they be addressed and resolved is the work she wants more City leaders of all colors to join in. – Photo: Kevin N. Hume, SF Examiner

Statistics show appalling disparities for Black San Franciscans, and no significant improvement:

  • In 2019, the average Black city worker made 73 cents for every dollar a white worker earned, which was identical to the rates in 2018 and 2017;
  • Black San Franciscans were arrested at a rate 10 times higher than white people in 2019, worse than the 9 times ratio in 2016, when the data was first collected;
  • Black San Franciscans were targets of police use of force 13 times more often than white people in 2019, little improvement from the rate of 14 times in 2016, when the data was first collected;
  • In 2019, Black people accounted for 37 percent of the homeless population (while representing less than 5 percent of the overall population), worse than the 34 percent rate in 2017;
  • In addition, year after year, Black people have made up a disproportionately high number of those booked into San Francisco jail, serving longer time and harsher sentences.

“We demand that City Supervisors work to keep Black folks in San Francisco and to improve their quality of life. We demand that they pass policies to immediately relieve the disparities. We demand that the City show us what they have or have not been doing. Just ‘collecting data’ isn’t good enough,” Jones said.

A press conference will be held before the annual breakfast, at 7:30-8:00 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, at the Marriott Marquis, 780 Mission St., San Francisco.

“Let nobody give you the impression that the problem of racial injustice will work itself out. Let nobody give you the impression that only time will solve the problem.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contact Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community – Justice 4 Mario Woods founder Phelicia Jones at  mwjusticenow@gmail.com.