live and direct from san francisco, ca
knowledge + independent hustle
live and direct from san francisco, ca
live and direct from san francisco, ca
knowledge + independent hustle
About 3 years ago I wrote, filmed, and edited a video about gentrification in SF. I wanted to raise awareness in my own community, nationwide and even internationally about what was going on. I never thought that the problem would have gotten this much worse by 2013. Sometimes I think about this and it almost bring me to tears. I live in Oakland now and I hate coming to SF, it’s expensive just to visit. I get crammed into a sardine can BART train, or pay $6 toll and sit in awful traffic on the Bay Bridge, and I look around and at all these faces and almost never see anyone familiar.
San Francisco is now Babylon. The city culture used to be based on community, on diversity, on peace and happiness like the hippies preached when they came in the 1969 Summer of Love. Of course there was always the gap between the really rich and the really poor neighborhoods, but so many people were able to come together within that gap. They are the ones who helped make this city so wonderful that people from all over the world wanted to live here. But now SF culture is based on greed, selfishness, and hedonism. Whereas before you had hippies, artists and community-minded folks flocking to the Bay Area, now you have people who don’t have seem to have much interests besides following trends, making money, drinking, and running through SF like it’s their own personal playground. This is really symptomatic of the kind of sick American personalities based in ignorance, privilege and entitlement that seem to be predominant in most of the 50 states these days. I don’t want any part of it.
One time another SF native and I were walking near the Embarcadero on a crowded Sunday morning. We looked around and realized that the only other black people in the area besides us were homeless. That’s probably quite proportionate to the general city population- the only neighborhood that hasn’t had a drop in its black population is the Tenderloin and 6th St./SoMa area, where most housing for homeless folks is located. This is all part of the plan: the war on drugs, the epidemic of street violence, the prison industrial complex, the constant cycle of poverty- all of that shit has been working like a charm. People always tell me it’s a class issue, not a race issue, but if you’re black or brown you’re born into those types of conflicts. We inherit them. Our ancestors were exterminated and enslaved and the same tactics used on them are more or less being used on us. If you read comments on news articles or social networks, people act like all the minorities just floated away and are now living on some magical island or something. Actually, I take that back, they don’t really seem to care where we’ve gone at all. They just praise how much safer and cleaner certain neighborhoods have become. Well if the city managed to clean up those neighborhoods, why couldn’t they have done so when they were mostly populated by people of color?
Once I was on 4th and Mission, where graffiti used to be pretty common, and I noticed there wasn’t a single sticker posted or tag on the walls. The streets and gutters were spotless. Now, head on over to BVHP and tell me where you can find the same quality of street cleaning. It’s very obvious that the city government is deliberately ignoring the needs of certain peoples and communities while bending over backwards for others. Meanwhile, they will blame and criminalize the residents of those communities for responding to the unlivable conditions that the city itself established.
Another time, I was walking in the actual Mission District, 15th and Mission, and I noticed huge condos being built and advertised. RIght away I thought, “Oh hell nah! We gotta do something to stop this!” Just then I realized that the developmental planning on those condos had probably started years ago; that all the permits were in place; that the time do something about it had long gone. This is consistent with all the other issues and actions related to gentrification. The more research I do, the more I realize that this has plan has been in place for decades. It goes back to redevelopment of the Fillmore and the creation of the “Western Addition;” it goes back to government shutdown of the Hunter’s Point shipyard and the transformation of that area into a toxic waste dump; it goes back to the military internment of Japanese citizens during WWII; it goes back to the massacre of Native Americans by miners and mountain men during the gold rush; and all the way back to when conquistadors touched down from Spain and forced the Ohlone people into the Mission system.
Almost every turn of events related to city politics in the last 50 years has led us to this. The closure of public schools, gang injunctions, metered parking on Sundays, tickets & citations no one can afford, sit-lie laws, the courtship of the America’s Cup, and the endless development of high-price housing- they are all part of this tangled web.
Maybe this sounds extreme to some but now I relate to those Native Amercians. I relate to the Palestinians. I relate to anyone that’s had their homeland taken from them by people who look at you and everyone like you as inferior. These yuppies, hipsters and tech-types don’t care about struggles of poor, working class people. If anything they are disgusted by poverty; they look at homeless people as a nuisance, young black men as a fear, and outspoken Latina women as a threat. They are conveniently sheltered from us in nice Victorian homes we used to populate, and watch us from shaded outdoor patios at expensive trendy restaurants. To be an outsider in your own home is a terrible experience that I don’t wish on anyone.
Unfortunately this experience is not limited to San Francisco. What’s most disturbing is that this cycle of gentrification is common nationwide. My patna from New York laments about how whack Brooklyn has become. My homegirl from South Central LA is shocked to have white neighbors for the first time in her life. Even my folks in Asheville, North Carolina talks about how trendy hipsters have invaded the town. So, now I pose the question: what exactly can we do?
The sad answer is that, at this point, I simply don’t know. Honestly most of me has given up on San Francisco. I love living in Oakland, and these days that’s where I prefer to spend my time- something I never thought would be the case. But I know in my heart that I can’t just sit idle and start over here. Even if it was possible for me to fully abandon SF, I know that Oakland is experiencing the same type of change as we speak. I’m afraid that just as I get settled here, the Oakland natives that I know and love will be replaced with more of these modern-day colonizers. I’ve already seen it happen in just the short year and a half I’ve lived here. I don’t want to just lie down and accept it.
I want to be face-to-face with Mayor Ed Lee, look him in the eye and force him to address these truths I want to gather the displaced and soon-to-be-displaced residents of SF and force city politicians to give us a real answer. I want to call out some of the authors and publishers in the SF Chronicle on their biased articles. I want them to see, understand, and embrace how the true heart and soul of San Francisco is really living. I want to see some of these media and tech giants that have found success in our city use their massive revenue to help families and working-class people keep living here. I want people of privilege to empathize with our struggle instead of calling us lazy or accuse us of not working hard enough to keep up. More than anything, I want the same thing I wanted 3 years ago- I want the people who can really step up and do something about this to wake up- that means YOU.
Love is a powerful force. Love can reinvigorate your emotions and fill you with energy. Love can consume you so much that you can become blind. A woman could decide to stay with her abusive husband after he beat her for the 100th time because she has convinced herself that she loves him. She remembers the good in him, the good that she is convinced she can bring out of him. She has told herself that he is her one true love, that she made a vow of marriage with him on the strength of that love, and because she pledged her love to him that bond must not be broken.
The American public just fell back in love with Barack Obama. Many have never stopped loving him, but there were those who, during the later years of his first term, started wondering if the President really meant all those things he promised. Questioning whose best interest Obama really had in mind. But then Mitt Romney came along.
Mitt triggered PTSD symptoms from those who witnessed the corruption, incompetence of the Bush administration. His women-hating, backwards, extremely conservative politics had many Americans in fear of a country being run into the ground by a pasty, white, Mormon billionaire. Meanwhile dumbass red-staters and Middle Americans jumped for joy at what they perceived to be the great white hope. For liberals and people with an ounce of intelligence, Obama looked like a pretty damn good alternative to this Romney jackass. Just like that people ran to do whatever they could to get him reelected.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m glad that a guy named with the name “Mitt” didn’t become the next President. But the people Romney is connected to- his billionaire, corporate, conservative friends, campaign donors, and peers- are still very connected to the heart of American politics. I witnessed George W. Bush cheat his way into the Oval Office, and back then my little 8th grade self figured that if one guy could rig an election, who’s to say that all elections don’t go down that way? If George W. Bush was so clearly an incompetent figurehead, a complete puppet, who’s to say that the puppet-masters aren’t still holding the strings? Why would they just go away just because Bush was gone?
I didn’t gasp and panic at this 2012 election, watching it like it was another World Series game on the boob tube, cheering for Obama and booing for Mitt. I knew months ago that there would be no way Mitt Romney would win this election. I just knew! I feel like he was a patsy, like a boxer managed by mobsters who knows that he must go down in the 5th round- but still has to make it look like a good fight. Mitt Romney talked his bullshit, scared the shit out of liberals and foreign countries, and the election came down to a hair- 1 percent difference! The ultimate ending to the soap opera that was Election 2012- the next episode will air in 2016 (if the world doesn’t end by then). Conservatives will be pissed but quickly go back to their regularly-scheduled conservative fuckery, while Liberals breathe a sigh of relief and reinvest their hopes into the hero of the election.
Many people will read this and think I’m trippin, that I might be crazy, a conspiracy theorist. If you are one of those people then slap yourself in the face right now- hard. Now the rest of you, hear me out. I made reference earlier to puppet-masters. Some say they’re politicians, some say they’re “Illuminati,” but for present purposes I will call them the financial and economic powers behind our country. Bankers, corporate executives, and industrialists. Their businesses are all connected, they own and operate monopoly companies that branch into many different areas. A majority of US politicians have either worked for these types of corporate entities, founded them, or they are very friendly with them. But it’s in their best interest to keep the public ignorant to the fact that they’re fucking us on a daily basis- and it becomes much harder to do that when people see a guy like Mitt Romney calling the shots. On the other hand, Obama has swept Americans away, leading them towards their own destruction on a road paved with hope and false promises. Not just any Americans, he has won over the Americans more likely to be resistant and intolerant of political oppression. Meanwhile, Black America has become politically docile, confident that the President with their same skin color will finally lead his people towards some real social justice and equality.
Obama is cool. He’s a great speaker. He’s handsome. He’s black. He has a beautiful black wife and together they have beautiful black daughters. He tells jokes. He drinks beer. He supports gay marriage (but only mentioned it just a few months before the election).He sings Al Green. He is also the commander-in-chief of a military that is killing people in foreign countries all over the world as I type this. He is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who takes credit for the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Momar Ghaddafi and used them as reasons he should be re-elected. He claimed sympathy for undocumented immigrants but also authorized the National Guard to patrol the Mexican border. He signed the NDAA, which gives the government to indefinitely detain Americans accused of being associated with terrorists (it’s like the Patriot Act on steroids). He has helped bail out the banks and financial institutions that caused the most recent recession. His promises of nationwide free health care have been nothing more than that- promises. If you really take a look at his politics, you will see he is quite the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Today, I’m going to go back to work in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, a city where the black population which Obama claims to represent is under 4%, and over 50% of them are living in public housing. As I walk through the Tenderloin, I’ll see the same drug addiction, poverty, violence, and homelessness that was there yesterday. US troops will still be attacking foreign countries. Police will still be targeting, harassing and murdering black and brown youth. This richest 1% of this country will still control the majority of the world’s wealth. These things were going on before this election, they were going on before Obama was in office, they were going on before George W. Bush was in office, before Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, etc.
If you truly understand those issues, then you will understand that those things are the real elements of the American way. It has been proven and documented that the CIA & this government- is responsible for introducing heroin and crack to our country. America has been in military conflicts in other countries consistently since it was formed (it’s only every decade or so that we actually declare war, the rest of the time we are “intervening”). Police and the justice system have constantly oppressed black and brown communities since slavery was legal. American industrialists have used political influence to keep a tight grip on their economic power through our military and foreign policy, killing and enslaving people to get their way. To me, that is what President Obama represents, and until he honestly admits that and commits to a real change, I will never trust, respect, or admire him or any other US President.
Many have been wooed by Obama. They will gush over pictures of him and his wife. They will feel a swell of pride and joy that a black man is still the President. They will hear his promises of change and equality and believe them with all their hearts. They will watch as he destroys foreign countries and think that he’s actually protecting us when he does. They will be blinded by their love of this man. They will rejoice at the fact that he defeated the bad guy Mitt Romney. They will feel proud to be an American, but that is something I will never feel. Once you understand the deceit, genocide, suffering, violence, and poverty that the US is directly responsible for, the notion of supporting an American president- ANY American president- becomes foolish. Many feel like you voted for the lesser of two evils, but don’t forget that the lesser evil is still evil.
So, on November 6th, as I heard my neighbors cheer and my social network timelines began to fill with countless celebratory statuses and humorous memes, I continued to face the struggle. I promised myself that I will never put my faith in a politician over myself and my own community and what we can accomplish. I am prepared for more police and military oppression, for more invasion and destruction of Middle Eastern countries, for the continued wage-slavery of 99% of this country, and for the weatlhy to continue to fight to protect their investments- one of which is named Barack Obama. Recognize that or keep staying in that abusive relationship at the hands of the man you love so much.
But hey, at least Mitt Romney’s not President! Right?
Please read it the whole post (especially the last paragraph) before you fully make your opinion on it, and feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken on any stats I brought up or facts I mixed up.
Obama gave his State of the Union speech last night.. I didn’t care to watch it. I dropped a video for the song "Letter To The President" off my album so I figured most of the people that know me already know where I stand on presidential affairs and I didn’t feel like speaking on the address. That was until I logged into Facebook and saw this:
Several other people had copied and pasted the same thing, word-for-word. I feel it’s so obvious what’s wrong with those people doing that that I shouldn’t have to break it down, but I will anyway. To touch on some of those points:
Now, if you’re still with me, I’m not writing this because of my political affiliation, or even because I don’t like Obama. I’m writing this because I’m absolutely heartbroken at the lack of motivation people have to question the information they receive. The whole point of the State of the Union speech is to reassure you that everything’s going fine- not necessarily to tell you things as they truly are. This is an election year and Obama has to make himself look good and his Republican opponents look bad, plain and simple. People have been blindly copying and pasting that Facebook status I showed you, but I was able to easily counter most of those points by drawing on facts I was previously informed of and by doing just a few minutes of research. I doubt that anyone posting that status took the time to verify anything that it said.
I thought that was bad - until I hopped on Tumblr and decided to search “Obama.”
I saw images like this one:
I also read countless “I love Obama! He’s so cool!” type of posts that really disappointed me because no one was breaking down the facts and researching the claims he made in his speech- well, except these guys: http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/ If you looked at their website at a glance, I guess it’s pretty impressive. According to the site’s operators, he signed some pretty cool bills this year. This one stood out to me: “Issued executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” Last I checked, in 2012 Guantanamo is fully operational. I clicked the link the website cited. It was from 2009 and said that he had ordered the prison be closed within one year. Kind of an epic fail on this website’s part. But countless people are going to websites like these, looking at images like the one above, and reading tweets and status updates like the one in the beginning and taking their word for it.
At the end of the day, I’m not writing this because I think you should vote for another candidate in the next election- even though the main purpose behind this speech was to persuade you to give him your votes. I can honestly say I prefer Obama over someone like Mitt Romney. But in the end, if you really look at history, every American president has served the ruling class and their agenda. They might throw us a bone here or there and sign some bills that appear to benefit us; or sing Al Green or play the sax like Bill Clinton; or deliver some really inspiring speeches (most of which are written for them by their staff), but in the end every president we’ve ever had has allowed (if not perpetuated) the same social inequalities and imperialist conquests that America has been responsible for since it was created.
The point I’m trying to make is that the president and the government aren’t the ones who are going to make this world a better place for us- we are. The function of the government is supposed to be to serve the people. If we accept everything the government tells us and don’t let our own voices be heard, how will anything ever change? In college I was taught that often, students learn about the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and are given the impression that social change was achieved because John F. Kennedy and Congress passed some bills and made reforms, when really social change was made possible by the people who went out and demanded it. I urge you to go out and do the same, and to become informed on the issues we’re dealing with today on your own. Do your own research, don’t blindly accept the things people tell you- including me. If you can prove me wrong, go for it.
And if you do think things are changing for the better, go visit some of the communities all over the country that have suffered the same for generations under Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Reagan alike.