We Shall Not Be Moved!
The People of the Bayview gather to resist the lies of corporate and City-sponsored displacement and 21st century Negro removal in Black History Month.
"The plan they have for us is war it's the same thing they are doing in Darfur, and in Palestine. They want our land, push us out, and that's their plan. I don't care how many other lies that they come up with; check their past, and see what they are doing right now," Willie Ratcliff, member of the Bay View/Hunters Point community and publisher of the Bay View Newspaper, called out to the crowd of Bayview Hunters Point residents gathered outside The Whitney Young Child Development Center for a press conference and rally held outside a Town Hall meeting called by Mayor Newsom on last Saturday's cold wet morning.
POOR magazine and the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper hosted the press conference and rally calling for an end to government sanctioned evictions promoted by the Mayor under the banner/guise of "redevelopment." The voices of Bay View/Hunters Point residents and other community members rang out on this, a Saturday in Black History Month, calling for action to stop redevelopment, stop the displacement of poor folks and folks of color and most importantly stop the lies promoted by the Mayor and his corporate developer friends about the destruction of our communities; the Black community, the Latino community, the Asian community, in other words, the real people of San Francisco.
Willie concluded his powerful speech citing the findings released in a recent study on Black California, "The Black Caucus of California reported San Francisco is the most economically racist city in the state of California."
Tiny, from POOR Magazine first words as she approached the crowd and reiterated throughout the conference, "This town hall meeting does not represent the Bay View community. We are here to make sure the community voices get heard."
The most recent attack on the Bay View/Hunters Point is the proposed closing of the Alice Griffiths house. Alice Griffiths is a public housing unit. The Alice Griffith Housing Project, also known as "Double Rock" was built in 1962 as military housing for Hunters Point shipyard workers and was transferred to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and then the Housing Authority in 1974. The proposed redevelopment plan calls for bulldozing the Alice Griffiths house and replacing it with parking spaces for 49ers fans. This plan is part of Mayor Gavin Newsom's attempt to get the 49ers to stay in San Francisco.
The plan says it would include housing for the current Alice Griffith tenants, although many of the speakers Saturday reminded us that the promise of new homes is rarely followed through. Tiny recalled past broken promises. "Between Lennar Corporation, the John Stewart Corporation, HUD HOPE IV., the City's Housing Authority, Redevelopment, and the Mayor," said Tiny, "there won't be any Black or poor folks left in San Francisco. These companies and their city counter parts have systematically destroyed many of the public housing projects with the promise of one unit housing replacement for one unit demolished. The problem with that lie is it never happens." Tiny cried out to the crowd.
One sign held at the rally read, "Remember Valencia Gardens." Valencia Gardens was redeveloped and almost no one who lived there before the redevelopment was given housing in the new one. Tiny was adamant that people not forget the history and herstories of destruction and forced diasporas of the Fill-no more, the Mission and most recently, Valencia Gardens Housing Project.
More than 700 residents of Alice Griffiths face eviction, many of whom have lived there a long time. A lawsuit was filed against the Bay View/Hunters Point Redevelopment plan, which more than 33,000 San Franciscan residents have signed. The redevelopment plan has a contract with Lennar Corporation. Lennar has promised to provide "affordable" housing, but their current homes in the Bay Area start at above $650,000.
As Byron Gafford, staff writer with POOR Magazine, poet, and life-long Alice Griffith resident said, "If this deal goes through, me and my family will have nowhere to go. They have been trying to get rid of Black folks up here for a while."
The City has given Lennar, a Florida-based company, hundreds of acres from Candlestick Point to Hunters Point Shipyard. Many community based organizers like POOR and The SF Bayview believe that most of these redevelopment efforts are unnecessary in the first place and then if any do happen that San Francisco needs to give these contracts to more neighborhood-based developers who have proven expertise in building affordable housing and community based relationships of truth.
Within the Bay View/Hunters Point Community there are many lies being promoted to the point that some people feel the redevelopment plan will be a good thing for the neighborhood. For some who are homeowners the redevelopment plan is an opportunity for greater land value. But for many who are renters it will mean displacement as property value and rents increase.
Espanola Jackson, homeowner and community activist in the Bay View said, "There is no danger of displacement in the Bay View. The plans are in court, until that happens there is no redevelopment for this area. I am a homeowner, since 1968 and no way will I allow this community to happen to be run over the way the Western Addition was." Some in the Bay View are more trusting of the court system and the redevelopment plans than others.
As we stood in front of the child development center looking out over the Bay, one could not help but recall the past. Bakara Nutungi, from the community organization Uhuru in Oakland reflected and said, "America was founded on people stealing the land we standing on today, so it's the same situation. They brought black people from down south in the 1940's to build the ships. That's how black people got to Hunters Point to begin with. And now that they don't have no ships and no shipyards they kicking black people up out of hunters point, because its nice property, so white people can have a nice view of the bay..It is time for the African community to stand up and fight just like we did in the 60's, with the black power movement."
The words of residents from the community rang out demanding to be heard and demanding an end to the lies of redevelopment and an end to evictions. Laure McElroy from POOR Magazine said, "Redevelopment is a joke, a killer joke, people like me, a mother, disabled woman, being shuffled from place to place, 'cause we can't afford the rents... I don't want to see people who can't move, who are disabled, and the elderly displaced by these corporate takeovers, this is murder. " Laure's words struck a chord and stayed for a while; hanging in the air.
Marie Harrison, a member of the Bay View community said, "Together we can stand, together we can save San Francisco, and stop the mass move on Alice Griffith and Bay View. There will be no San Francisco of tomorrow, San Francisco will be a city of the rich and the richer." Since 1970 San Francisco has lost one-quarter of its Black community: 25,000 people. Marie continued on to say, "never mind that the rich are standing on our shoulders, San Francisco, built by poor folks, that shipyard, managed by poor folks, Alice Griffiths filled up with poor folks who need to have a place to live. Don't get suckered into that dream they are passing around about becoming homeowners, if your income is $18,000 and under, there is no way in this city you will become a homeowner. People in San Francisco need to stand together and draw the line in the sand to protect San Francisco."
Marie made clear the reality and pressure poor folks face in this city. This city where so many people want to live, this city where poor folks are being evicted to make room for people with bigger wallets. As Marie said, unless we take action, this city will be a city of the rich and richer.
Vivian Hain from POOR Magazine recounted her struggle living in poverty in the Bay Area. "I am a native San Franciscan, my family was evicted out of our community in the Mission because of gentrification, we couldn't afford it anymore. So we ended up put out in the pasture, in some place with no jobs or economic security. What's going on is social and economic genocide. So, Mayor Newsom, it ain't about wine tasting across the Bay, it's about housing our low-income families, and ensuring their ability to do right by their children."
Julian Davis from the San Francisco People's Organization spoke. He gave perspective about the lack of dialogue in Newsom's town meetings. Julian said, "Newsom's meeting does not represent the people, it is not a model for substantive dialogue. Newsom prefers pre-scripted public gatherings to genuine community dialogue and civic engagement."
Where was Newsom for the press conference and rally? The SF police department was standing by making sure the entrance to the building was not blocked. Behind the speakers a metal fence stood and beyond that one could see a poster reading, "San Francisco Police Department now hiring." Why were the posters and signs of community members not inside the gate?
Just as the rally was ending the rain started to come down. A chant began, saying together, "We shall not be moved." The police checked everyone for signs and made people leave the signs at the gate.
Inside the hall, Newsom started his speech by saying, "This meeting being held at the Child Development Center is symbolic because the center is not what it should be." Gavin, the police officers prohibited people from bringing signs into the meeting. This is symbolic of the systematic silencing of certain groups of people, and of certain viewpoints. A child's development is intrinsic on self-expression. The silencing of our opinions is symbolic of the lack of democracy and lack of dialogue in your community meetings. You may take signs away, but voices, never.
As Tiny said, " We must demand to be heard. We must ask our questions about displacement, and corporate development. We shall not be moved." Tiny and many others stood up in Newsom's meeting, and asked, "Why are you stealing our homes, our land?" Newsom did not respond. Some people present at the meeting booed the questions, and booed the interruption.
Within the Bay View/Hunters Point community a consensus has not been reached on the issue of redevelopment. Other voices in opposition to the rampant redevelopment facing the entire Bayview Hunter's Point were members of ACORN, standing in solidarity with flyers that read; WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED! As well as members of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), some of whom attempted to be heard about the wrongs of this gentrification effort and others who stood with their mouths taped shut representing the silencing of the community members while their homes are taken away.
Standing outside in the cold, in front of the building where Newsom held his "Town hall meeting," we heard many powerful voices and testaments to the lies being told around redevelopment. We heard voices recounting the history of the Bay View/Hunters Point. As we left, I looked out over the Bay thinking so this is what developers want, this land, this view of the bay. This ground where black folks worked on the ships. The same place where in 1966 there was an uprising resisting police brutality.
As Tiny said, "Eviction is the ultimate capitalist crime, insidious, and when it happens, and the way it happens, we disappear, the poor folks and folks of color."
One of POOR Magazine's responses to the ongoing displacement and evictions is to hold teach-ins in the community around de-gentrification and resistance to the lies of redevelopment. For more information please contact (415) 863-6306