The Myth on Market Street


root - Posted on 29 July 2001

The newest form economic and racial cleansing in San Francisco is promoted by the mainstream media.

by Tiny (aka Lisa Gray-Garcia)

“Hey Tiny …Wassup – how ya Doin?” I was walking down Market Street from Eighth Street. The sun was peeking out from its delicate veil of semi-tropical clouds. Bits of its yellow sheen glistened on the newly washed cement of the wide sidewalk. When I heard that distinctive singsong rasp I knew it had to be Jonny Martinez, a homeless vet and staff writer for POOR Magazine who was sitting at a outdoor deli café drinking his morning latte, all $2.00 of it.

“Hey Wassup Jonny? I’m great, how are you?- ”I answered.

“Oh you know me and my demons… the usual”…he paused to look down “but it is a beeeeuuutiful morning – isn’t it?”

“Fo Sho ..Fo Sho…” I replied using my favorite language, “So Jonny, are we gonna see you at the newsroom this week…I sure hope so”

Before he could answer me Mohammed Mihoo* came out of his deli/café and brought Jonny a toasted bagel” “Thank-you Mohammed, you are the best COOK!!” Jonny squealed in delight

Mohammed chuckled and went back in to his store.

“I’ll leave you to your breakfast -bye for now jonny”

“Bye – and yes you’ll see me this week” he assured me.

“Hey gurrrlll wassup” – a young African-American man in the best do-rags and FUBU gear was winking at a passing girlfriend-

I decided to stop by and say hi to my friend who lived in The San Cristina Hotel – a Single Room Occupancy Hotel run by Community Housing Partnership right in the heart of the Mid-Market area. I walked carefully past an elderly Asian man who was meticulously sweeping the entrance – pausing to repeat one section until it was spotless and dustless.

As I walked out of the building a few hours later it had become “day” in its fullest form- people filled every corner of my horizon. This was my community; old, young, disabled, Asian, African-American, White, Native American, Latino, homeless and yuppie – walking places- walking nowhere, hanging out, flirting, sparechanging, dealing, talking yelling, this was life- life without borders – filled with pathology, sadness, joy, vice, sex, sounds, colors, voices, in essence, LIFE, in all its incarnations- my life – my hood, the T.L.(Tenderloin) –one of the last remaining ungentrified eight blocks of San Francisco.

For the last three months The San Francisco Examiner has been running a series on its front page entitled;The Mess on Market Street –which referred to the Mid-Market neighborhood of San Francisco. The series is part of a well-crafted propaganda campaign in support of the upcoming gentrification-Sweep- New York Style that the Mid-Market Redevelopment Project Area Committee is planning, modeled after the newest embodiment of economic and racial cleansing in the U.S.; The Business Improvement Districts (B.I.D.’s) The BIDs were established over the last ten years by a collective of corporate and private business interests whose main aim is to “sweep” panhandlers, vendors, artists, street newspaper vendors and other micro-businesses owners out of downtown business districts across the US by bypassing the police departments and hiring private security firms to “patrol” these districts.The BIDS are hailed as a triumphant success by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

I was warned once by a respected mentor and veteran of the “American Sweep Wars” that whenever a hygienic metaphor is used to describe human beings you need to watch out, because that means they are saying that the only way to deal with the “MESS” is to get rid of it – i.e., that the unsightly humans are in fact the “Mess” and that the SWEEP notion must be employed. Once the “Mess” is established the “clean-up crew” must be called in, in the form of increased police, and/or more private security forces such as the ones hired by the BIDS in Times Square in New York and Union Square in San Francisco, arresting homeless people, calling young folks “loiterers” and issuing tickets, hot dog vendors and street artists being cited, and shut down, outdoor activities such as chess, Congo drums and other street performers, cited and arrested. Sex shops closed and all small business owners getting 100-200% increases in their rent and losing their leases.

How was this culture of “cleanliness” established in the US? The notion that if anything is not like the GAP model – it is not CLEAN- it is not desirable- it is part of something we have to get rid of.

This week in the Examiner series we were introduced to the person who single-handedly “cleaned up” TIMES SQUARE under the mantle of New York’s Business Improvement District – and as she sat there in all her middle class GAP-like glory – she even conceded that some of the “Life” was gone from Times Square after her clean-up efforts, but oh well…. That’s part of improvement –

Be warned as you read these mainstream media “exposes” folks – life is a multitude of things and beauty comes in many incarnations and just cause you push all the last remaining poor folks out of sight – we won’t go away, our problems won’t be solved and in the end, you the citizens, walking through all the “cleaned” streets won’t be happy, cause you will realize you are bored out of your mind – and if you wanted CLEAN you could have gone to Disneyland

STOP THE MID-MARKET B.I.D.!! For more information call POOR at (415) 863-6306

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