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Art, Cultural Resistance & Transformation

Kaleidoscope Energy

By Julianne Malveaux

Growing up in San Francisco was an exciting, amazing experience. I’m grateful that my mom (who did not drive) made sure that my siblings and I spent time at the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum, Chinatown, and parts of the Mission. We explored the Avenues and spent time with people whose cultural diversity surprised us. Sometimes we asked questions. Mostly, we just listened and learned. And we took any opportunity to eat at restaurants near the beach.

There was a Fun House [at Playland, a seaside amusement park in the Richmond district which closed in 1972] and “Laughing Sal” a big old clown, ushered you in. Sometimes we had enough money to enter. Other times, we would just look and laugh at the clown from a distance. We laughed because we could not get into Playland and at least one of us, usually my brother, tried to sneak in.

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Glimpse of the Point

By Johanna B.

Back when I was growing up in Bayview-Hunter’s Point in the 1960s and ’70s we could go out and play morning and night. Bayview-Hunter’s Point had fewer people and was less crowded. More space; more room to roam. There was a sense of connection and belonging.  You were called by your family’s last names—so you were a Brown or a Bridges or Sears.  Families had credit at the grocery stores and clothing stores that were lined up on Third Street. Kids were able to shop for their families and use their families’ credit.

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Remembering the Booker T. Washington Hotel

By Jaqueline Chauhan

The Booker T. Washington Hotel in San Francisco was a world unto itself for Black celebrities in the days of segregation, when Blacks were not allowed to stay at the city’s downtown hotels. It hosted some of the biggest names you could find, and I was right there with them, because my mother worked there. I still remember when James Brown and Hank Ballard sang Happy Birthday to me.

When Duke Ellington came to San Francisco, his band members stayed at the hotel. Dinah Washington, Earl Grant, Nat “King” Cole and his trio, and others in that generation of musicians would rehearse at the hotel during the day. I’d just watch and listen, especially when I was too young to go see them at the Fillmore Auditorium. Most were very friendly to me because I was “Ms. Sadie daughter.” They’d hang around the front desk or in the lobby just to talk.

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Muhammad University No. 26

In Memory of El Hajjah Sabree Sharkir (1949-2015)
By Wanda Sabir

They were impressive, like the sisters in Terri McMillian’s Waiting to Exhale. Sister Nabeehah (Corliss), Sister Munira (Linda), Sister Marva, Sister Rashidah (Joyce 5X), Sister Sharifah, Sister Bayinna, Sister Aeeshah Clottey (Patsy), Sister Muhasin (Leslie)… and Sister Izola in the kitchen.

Their presence was a cool breeze, a breath of fresh air. I thought them giants, Amazons in a San Francisco jungle—guided by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI).

There were Lieutenants and Junior Lieutenants, of whom I was one. We worked directly under the Vanguard Lieutenant and Sister Captain, who were under the Minister. I remember wearing a hot pink, two-piece uniform and showing off our drill steps. We were hot in more ways than one!

We’d have drill competitions in front of the entire community. Sometimes Vanguards from other mosques would compete with us. I don’t remember losing. On Saturdays, we’d have bake sales and oratory contests where we’d memorize chapters from the Messenger’s books and see who had memorized the most. We would also share original work. I remember reciting an essay about the illusion of time. Both girls and boys were encouraged to show off academically and were praised by the ministers and other adults.  We’d have sleepovers at friends’ houses where we’d dance the latest dances and stay up all night talking. The next day, we’d get up early, put on our white uniforms, and go to the mosque where we’d serve as greeters or in the women’s security check room.

 

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Living Black

By Kheven LaGrone

When I curated an art exhibit in Manhattan a few years ago, several artists asked me where I was from. “I am just a little country boy from San Francisco,” I replied. I was born in San Francisco, which felt like a small southern country town. It was family-friendly. I was always somebody’s son, brother, nephew, great-nephew, cousin… Even if I wasn’t related, they knew someone connected to me.

A lot of young African American families and migrants from the South started out in San Francisco’s housing projects. My earliest memory is of living in the North Beach projects near Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown and Little Italy. We rode the cable cars and played in beautiful hilly parks and on the beaches.

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Growing Up Black

By Jarrel Phillips

To the Children of the Next Generation
I grew up in a household with both parents and two younger brothers. All of us are of African American descent. When I wasn’t at my predominantly Black school, church, or after-school program, I was thriving in one of San Francisco’s once predominantly Black neighborhoods—the Fillmore or Bayview Hunter’s Point.

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