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Art, Cultural Resistance & Transformation

Her Arkipelago

By Christine Joy Ferrer

Interview with Marie Romero, founder and owner of Arkipelago Books, the only Filipino Bookstore in San Francisco, with a foreword by Beatriz Datangel, her daughter.

Marie Romero. Courtesy of Kanlaoan/anthropologist.wordpress.com.Arkipelago Books has thrived in San Francisco’s SoMA district for over 20 years. It has a wide selection of readings, from fiction and nonfiction, to poetry and children’s books, as well as historical text from a wide variety of Filipino and Filipino American authors. There used to be a larger population of Filipinos in San Francisco. In the 1960s, San Francisco was home to a vibrant Manilatown, which stretched almost 10 blocks along Kearny Street near Chinatown. Then, Filipino businesses and residents were forced out after the expansion of the Financial District in the late 1960s. And in 1977, many Filipino tenants faced eviction from the International Hotel. In the aftermath, some businesses and residents left the city altogether, while others migrated to the South of Market, filling the residential hotels and small apartment buildings along the district’s many alleyways. In 2017, the struggle for cultural communities to hold space in San Francisco continues.

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Kristine Mays

Kristine Mays c. 2016 Jarrel Phillips

"I refer to San Francisco as my city, my love or as my baby. My baby is in an awkward position right now. I feel like it’s in some awkward teenage stage where… you know, when you see an adolescent kid and they haven’t quite formed into anything yet. I question myself over and over again as to why I’m here in San Francisco. Why don’t I just throw in the towel and go somewhere else? Yet, I’m still curious to see what’s going to happen. What’s going to come out of it?..."

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I Am San Francisco: Black Past and Presence

Samoel “Mestre Urubu Malandro” Domingos © 2016 32k Productions

This interview and the excerpts that follow are portions of an on-going project called I Am San Francisco: Black Past & Presence (IAMSF). Created and curated by Jarrel Phillips, IAMSF was presented as an art exhibition at City College of San Francisco’s Rosenberg Library last year. The purpose of IAMSF is to recognize the depth, beauty, complexity and abundance prevalent within ‘Black Life’ in San Francisco—culturallly, communally and individually. For more information, visit avesidea.org.

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