By Kristine Mays
A little Black girl in San Francisco, that’s who I was. I was also a kid with a wild imagination, surrounded by a diverse community of people of all colors and cultures. I soaked it all in like a sponge and to this day, some of the experiences still nourish my soul.
I take great pride in saying I was born and raised here even though the city feels nothing like it did when I was a child. Yet, I find myself happy when I say I am here and from here, born in the middle of such a multifaceted place. The smell of incense, weed, patchouli… smells associated with hippies filled my nostrils before I was old enough to comprehend it all. You see, I was born in 1969 and lived with my family only one block over from Haight and Ashbury. My Mom tells stories of hippy neighbors and concerts in Golden Gate Park. Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were a big part of my soundtrack when I was a child, along with Sly and the Family Stone.
A little Black girl in San Francisco, that’s who I was. Wearing a pressed cotton dress, white ankle socks edged with lace, and patent leather Mary Jane shoes to church with family friends. Being told to sit up straight, be still and behave. Sitting in a Baptist church near Hayes and Octavia on wooden pews, I watched stone-faced older women in black-and-white uniforms (like nurses) giving out paper fans. These stern-looking women wore white gloves and walked with their hands behind their backs. They covered women with squares of burgundy fabric when they “fell out in the spirit”. They carried smelling salts to revive those who passed out.