29 years ago today, we took the Bay View torch, and today we pass it on

The beautiful two-day fundraiser for the Bay View held online and in person at Mendell Plaza, across the street from the Bay View’s office, was the occasion for the Ratcliffs to pass the torch to Malik Washington, the new editor. Malik, Dr. Willie Ratcliff and Jeremy Miller, longtime writer for the Bay View, signal their commitment to the community with a Black Power salute. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Twenty-nine years ago today, in November 1991, Muhammad al-Kareem sold the New Bayview newspaper he’d founded in 1976 to the Ratcliffs. The Bayview Hunters Point community was under attack by the same City Hall that had flattened the Fillmore, a major center of Black culture known as Harlem of the West, to drive Blacks out of the city.

San Francisco has never been friendly to Blacks, and we hoped that a newspaper would amplify Black voices crying, “We can’t breathe!” Seeking allies throughout the city, the Bay Area and the Diaspora, we renamed the paper the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, but our primary focus never strayed far from home.

The people of Hunters Point, long known as the fiercest hood in the Bay, have always had to fight to survive. The land we live on and love is the highest priced real estate in the world, and our part of town has the best views and the most sun in San Francisco. Powerful people want us out of here!

Their main weapons, besides a brutal, ever intensifying lockout from the economy, have been poison and police. The police were a deadly occupying force until we were no longer a majority Black neighborhood. 

While enslaved, Malik’s journalism targeting deadly heat, contaminated water – on top of the brutality and dehumanization of prison life – won major changes in the system and nationwide esteem for Malik.

The poison comes in addictive drugs that the US government deliberately hooked us on and in environmental contamination coming from the old PG&E plant that local activists shut down, from the city’s sewage treatment plant and from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard – its hundreds of acres laced with radiation. We challenge you to find a family in Hunters Point that has not been devastated by cancer and other deadly diseases traceable to the shipyard, an issue the Bay View newspaper has covered vigorously for over a quarter century.

It was the lockout of Blacks from jobs, contracts and other opportunities to build a self-sufficient, thriving Black economy that Willie and I had intended to be the Bay View’s flagship “cause.” Willie, owner of Liberty Builders and organizer of Black contractors, for many years was the mainstream media’s favorite Black spokesperson decrying economic racism. 

Our epic battle against police terrorism and mass incarceration – present-day slavery – came to share the spotlight for their threat to the very existence of the Black community. And to remind us we have the power to overcome those existential threats, the Bay View covers the Black arts and artists who win the world’s hearts.

Now it’s transition time. Led by our longtime arts and culture editor Wanda Sabir and the Black law firm Sustainable Economies Law Center, the Bay View is reorganizing as a cooperative owned by its staff, writers and readers. Imagine a newspaper owned by the people to empower the people!

Today we pass the Bay View torch to our new editor, Malik Washington, a most worthy successor, whose brilliant mind and strong yet loving heart were forged in the fire of 20 years in prison. While enslaved, his journalism targeting deadly heat, contaminated water – on top of the brutality and dehumanization of prison life – won major changes in the system and nationwide esteem for Malik.

Together with the superstars who make up the new first-ever Bay View staff – Nube Brown, Griffin Jones and John Corcoran – and the countless friends and allies who have brought the Bay View this far and feel like family and all the new comrades Malik has gathered in the short two and half months he’s been free, Willie and I are certain that Malik will lead a fighting force so powerful as to make every struggle for justice victorious. 

In the Bay View’s nearly 45-year-long tradition, Malik has the courage to tell the truth. Long live the SF Bay View!

Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff can be reached at 415-671-0789 or mary@sfbayview.com