by Editor Nube Brown
During an opportunity to stand in unity with community activist Dennis Williams of DC Williams, Inc., founder of No Racism, No Hate and various other endeavors, to highlight the need for Black people to be hired in the City and given the lucrative contracts freely given to other non-Black contractors, at a Nancy Pelosi appearance in the Fillmore District, Dennis gave me a brief update on the $23 million Buchanan Street Mall Renovation Project (more information below), and was able to introduce me to local community entrepreneur Tyrone Mullins of Green Streets, who graciously – and on the spot – gave the Bay View this interview.
Nube Brown: Dennis, can you talk about where this $23 million project is going?
Dennis Williams: [This] $23 million project is the cost of Buchanan Mall. Buchanan Mall is where we stand. It starts at those buildings a block up, which is Plaza East apartments on Eddy Street, and goes to the Cultural Center one block down. So, it’s not a big parcel, but it’s a lot of money and we had to reallocate the money then-Supervisor Vallie Brown allocated to Japantown. Japantown has their own money, and they’ve never allocated money to the Black American community. So, now we have control of the $23 million. We’re just trying to give Black developers like myself, Black contractors, men and women from the community, from the Bayview, to come over here and work and get a meaningful salary.
Tyrone Mullins: My name is Tyrone Mullins, co-founder of Green Streets, a community-owned and operated social and entrepreneurial enterprise started here in the neighborhood, in the Fillmore 12 years ago, based on waste diversion; so it was more recycling and composting and affordable housing that got us in through the door. And then we started getting into mental health, workforce development and a bunch of other pieces because we were hiring people and we were seeing people lose their jobs. So we were like, what’s going on with people?
We started understanding that it’s hard to keep a job when you don’t address some of the things that are going on with you mentally or things that are going on in your environment. So that opened up our lens to get certified to do mental health work. Now we do stuff like RAP: Recovery Action Plan, talking about triggers, action plans around triggers, just having a dialogue around mental health in our communities.
Nube: So, basically, addressing the trauma that our People have experienced, generationally.
Tyrone: Exactly. And a lot of people are talking now about PTSD, and we understand that PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, ‘Post’ is when you’re removed from the situation, but a lot of us are not removed from the situation. We’re dealing with CTSD, which is continuous or chronic, whichever word you wanna use, but that’s what’s going on with a lot of us in these environments.
We’re not being properly diagnosed. We gotta walk out the door where your best friend may have been murdered to the left and another kid you grew up with was murdered to the right, and you’re standing in that environment dealing with that unprocessed trauma.
So Green Streets had the opportunity to be part of a project like this Buchanan Street Mall [Project] – people born and raised here doing activation in community. They wanted to redevelop all five blocks. We said, “Let us go out and lead the outreach on getting feedback from the community so it can be what the community wants to see.” We started with core values, safety, security, agriculture, history and in the community connecting all five blocks. I’m from here. All five blocks don’t connect with each other; there are differences on these blocks. So in that, we knew that was something that we wanted to change. Reconnect.
Year one, the city says, “Show us what you can do.” That’s what became the Domes and the Gateways that you can see. There’s a Dome on Folsom Street and there’s a Dome right there on Golden Gate. The Domes were created by the Exploratorium.
They took our ideas and created a Dome, one that has a garden element to it. And it’s an audio Dome, so you push this button and it has stories about all of it. We interviewed Alice Lane who used to run Virgos right here, and what it was like to be a Black business owner in the neighborhood. She talked about how long the Black dollar used to stay in the community as opposed to now. We had stories about Black women empowerment: A woman who runs Bumpie’s Cookies, I think up on Fillmore Street; another lady was Eva Patterson. We told stories about women in business, the Green Streets story and how we got started was a story that played. What we did on one side of the neighborhood we did on the other side, so that nobody felt slighted.
Then if you pay attention to the Gateways, they show past, present and future images. So, past imagery that came from one of our elders, rest in peace, Ms. Ella Baker. She brought us pictures showing the debutantes, Black women as debutantes. So what that meant at the time was a woman transitioning from her teenage years to womanhood and having that support as she went that route.
And then Raymond Wade gave us imagery from the Black Panthers’ food program. He volunteered there when he was a youngster at the location on Fillmore Street, and he talked to us about what those times were like and how the Breakfast Program turned into what we now know as WIC (Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children). If they hadn’t done that Breakfast Program, kids today wouldn’t even be able to go to school and get breakfast and lunch freely. That’s how you can create something in your community that has longevity connected to it, sustainability connected to it.
Nube: And the Black Panther Party’s Breakfast Program was run by the People, whereas WIC is run by the state.
Tyrone: Exactly, we gotta get back to there – for us, by us. So, the leadership on this project was to show the City how we could come up with a design that could benefit communities. We worked with the office of Cheryl Barton and created a design for all five blocks that was based on the core values that’ll have a new stage, a new garden, seating areas, multi-generational workout equipment.
We even worked with Rec and Park, who’s the landlord of this area, to hear back from the tenants in Plaza East, who said they wanted barbecue pits. And they don’t allow barbecue pits on their land, but they made an exception for us because that’s what the community is pushing to have. So, just a whole new design that is really from what the people wanted and the feedback we got from doing service.
We started with core values, safety, security, agriculture, history and in the community connecting all five blocks.
We’ve been doing this for nine years to make sure we collected all of this information. Then once we got the funding – because there were years we didn’t have any funding – when the funding started coming through, it felt good. But then everybody started feeling like they were grabbing at it too, to where somebody like myself – it keeps me up at night trying to uphold the integrity of the project to make sure it’s for us, by us.
This arrived on Tuesday (Tyrone is pointing to a small shipping container) … so this is going to be called the Opportunity Hub, right. We’re working with Josh here; he worked for the Exploratorium and helped us create the vision for this, you feel me? Because I’m not a designer …
Nube: Yeah, but you’re a visionary!
Tyrone: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, thank God for that! But we’re going to create an extension to it, and what we want to do is paint it and I’m thinking in my head to pay some kind of homage to Virgos because that’s the last time we had Black commerce here; to pay homage to Virgos somehow and have community come out, paint it, etc.
We have the windows. We actually got solar that goes on top (we took it down so it doesn’t get stolen). And then we’re gonna customize some shelves and stuff in there. So my brother, who was working with me, Jason Morgan, once we decide the shelves and the look and stuff like that, we’re talking about the Opportunity Hub. The idea behind this is to be able to have a location where the community can activate space for us, by us, feel me?
We have shelves where you can put your merch up; you come here and do a transaction, something like that. We’re working with Rec and Park to bring food here, because as long as it’s prepackaged in the commissary kitchen, they’ll allow us to do some kind of food sales here. And then we got funded to do Pop-ups in this location. Rec and Parks said we could use the basketball court area, we could repaint the court if we want to, and have Pop-ups here where we could bring entrepreneurs and businesses out and bring some music and have a platform to operate our businesses.
Nube: And this will operate seven days a week or whatever your hours are?
Tyrone: The Phase 1 plan of it, I’m working this out. This is the stuff I love doing, but this is also the stuff that keeps me up. So, the Phase 1 plan is to start with three or four days for about four to six hours of those days; have the Green Streets presence here to set up seats and tables, whatever the final design is to be able to operate and have a presence so people will feel safe.
And then we have the community working, and the entrepreneurs, but also … a great example of this is my boy Demario Carter, he runs Ministry + Muscle. He goes up to Kezar and he works out with the community – kids, their moms, elders, he gets them all working out – health is wealth – to get their bodies in the right place, right?
So if we could bring that down here, people don’t have to go up to Kezar, they could come down here. People could be working out; it’s the mom, it’s the kid. Someone could be doing Zumba or yoga, something like that, coming here to activate the space. So, now people are coming back to the space with a positive energy behind it, you know what I’m saying? You know, put on some basketball tournaments for the youth, or something like that. Where now people understand – and they see people like myself.
I missed a part in this. In 2006 I was involved in a shooting that took place on 14th Street and I shot another Brother. And in 2009 I was convicted of that and I went to prison. Part of my redemption when I came back here was to understand what I took away from here, you feel me?
So I know my age group – I’m 37 now – my age group.
In 2000, we lost Devin Gross right there. He was shot one time in the chest. He was the first person I ever saw murdered – I was 15 years old. And from that time on there’s been a bunch of gun violence that has taken place in this specific corridor. When that occurred with Devin, that was a time where we all started carrying guns and getting into violence because you saw that someone could kill you; you could die here. So it changed the energy of how you stepped out of your house every day. I got a tattoo on my arm of 10 friends that were murdered, and in that time since I got that tattoo, I got another 12 people that have been murdered, you feel me?
Nube: Twenty-two people in your very short lifetime. OK, so your mission, that’s why it’s so visionary.
Tyrone: I’ve been to prison three times. I got two strikes, so I know if I mess up again it’s over. I got a part in Green Streets where we hire people with barriers to employment. We meet you where you’re at and try to help you take those steps to better yourself so you ain’t gotta throw your life away to the system or feel like you gotta take somebody else’s life.
It’s not just about the dollar signs that come with this – it’s about the people – t’s about touching the people.
So I’m doing this work. It has the integrity and the history behind it because I know the richness of the place but also the redemption from what me and the others took away from the space and how we made it safe for people who want to come outside and sh**, you feel me? So I don’t want to see nobody’s kid die and sh** like that. I don’t wanna see that sh** continue. I got kids. My brother’s been shot in the head. We get through it, we live this. So we know the traumas, the fears and what’s been taken away from such a beautiful space.
My grandmother Louise Harvey was best friends with Maxine Hall, you know the health center? Maxine Hall lived on Folsom Street. She lived three doors down from my grandmother. She was murdered right here, Oct. 10, 1983. Walking to work she got hit with a stray bullet. These are things that I know, that I live with, that I carry.
So I know the purpose behind the work that we’re doing. And it’s not just about the dollar signs that come with this; it’s about the people. It’s about touching the people. It’s about touching the earth. It’s about making a difference where you’re at and creating sustainability so the kids that come behind us don’t have to go through what we went through.
So even when you look at the Gateways, all the Gateways got a picture of a kid looking at all that imagery. So, when we show the debutantes or the Panthers or something like that, it’s a youth looking at that picture understanding that you’re much more than what they show you in this space. We’re way much more than that.
The artist that did this painting right here (pointing to the Juneteenth mural) is named Eugene White; he’s from the neighborhood. He passed a couple of years ago, but he was a revolutionary. He sat down and talked with me and he told me the youth are the way of the future.
So, even as I emerged into fatherhood and things like that, it’s setting a table for the youth that are coming behind me so that they can be empowered to know you ain’t gotta just be this box that they put you in. You ain’t gotta just be thuggin, you ain’t gotta just be stealing out the malls and sh**, but you could really have a business idea and really see that come to fruition.
I’ve been in business for 12 years and I’ve been in prison. I know what it’s like standing in a cell and knowing it only extends like this (Tyrone spreads his arms); my other arm’s gonna be able to touch the wall. And then I also know what it’s like to come back here and get somebody a job and they hug you because they’ve never gotten a tax return before. Or they never had legit money before. That’s what makes a difference.
Check out Green Streets’ work here: https://citizenfilm.org/portfolio_page/green-streets-gates/
Buchanan Street Mall Renovation Project
Following are portions of the official project description, at https://sfrecpark.org/1134/Buchanan-Street-Mall-Renovation-Project:
After extensive engagement activities and workshops, the Buchanan Street Mall Vision Plan was generated by the Western Addition community and published by the Trust for Public Land in 2017. Rec and Parks then continued working with our partners Citizen Film, Green Streets, and TPL, to create a conceptual design for the entire five blocks of the park. The concept plan – developed by the Office of Cheryl Barton, with support from Studio MLA – was approved by the Recreation and Parks Commission in April 2020.
Key Project Goals
- Safety, lighting and beautification
- Connect all blocks and unify the community
- Tell the story of the community and the neighborhood
- Social interaction and multi-generational recreation
- Skills training and jobs creation
The concept plan was used to seek additional project funding and guide future capital investment as funding becomes available. The Recreation and Parks Department has contracted with SF Public Works for design and construction administration services for Phase 1, which includes full renovation of the Eddy to Turk, Turk to Golden Gate, and the McAllister to Fulton blocks, as well as improvements at all four segmenting intersections. Rec and Parks is also collaborating with the SF Public Utilities Commission to deliver green infrastructure that will better manage stormwater in the area and beautify the intersections along Buchanan Mall.
Phase 1 (Eddy – Turk, Turk – Golden Gate, McAllister – Fulton, and all intersections)
Design April 2020
Construction April 2023
Open to Public June 2024