Tag Archives: San Francisco

The Loud Voices of a Quiet Print

Seniors of the Women and Gender Studies department at San Francisco State University slowly filtered through the door of room 131 in the Humanities building. Most of the tables and chairs were pushed towards the walls of the room, leaving only two tables in the center. The seniors took their seats around the classroom and chatted with each other. As the room filled with more people, the volume grew and the atmosphere transformed from dull to lively.

The last senior walked into the classroom and Julietta Hua, the W.G.S. department chair and the class’ professor, considered it a que for her to take her position in the center of the class. Her outfit—a blue-knit sweater, a black a-line skirt, and thin-framed glasses—and confident stance displayed her authority over the class.

Starting with the student closest to the door, Professor Hua asked each student how their week went. The class only met once a week on Wednesday afternoons, so she decided it was important to start it by checking-in with each person to see if their physical and mental health improved or diminished from the prior meeting. Her goal is to make sure they felt included, a theme that not only ran the class, but also the entire department.  

Although the class is taught around the idea of inclusion, its overall focus is on the creation of a publication that reflects what is taught in the W.G.S. department.

“Early on there is the collective brainstorm of ideas, themes. And then they decide, sort of what they want to contribute, what role they want to play,” shared Professor Hua. She does not contribute anything to the publication, but she acts as the managing editor by making sure students stay on task and create a piece they are proud to publish.

The department chair has taught the class for a couple of years, but the department started the publication long before she was hired in 2006.

 

Throughout the years the publications became a combination of informative and personal pieces that showed how the students dealt with their own experiences and the experiences of the public, whether it was from a political or social perspective.

“It’s a research based article or its more of a conventional news piece or research piece, but the purpose of the collaboration is to reflect together with a group of your graduating classmates and to think about what-what is a feminist intervention,” explained Hua. “What does it look like and what does it look like when you have to think about it with other people, like collectively.”  

Professor Hua continued asking around the room, finally landing on Shonnon Gutierrez. She perked up, pushed her hair behind her ears and shoulders, and recounted how she felt over the previous seven days. Many of the responses Professor Hua received from her students were short or delved into hardships, but Shonnon was more positive. She explained how happy she was because she had the chance to go dancing the night before, something she could easily be caught doing when she was not commuting or doing homework. With all the adversities that the average American could face, she was glad she woke up to see another day.

At forty-seven-years-old, Shonnon is finishing her last semester at SF State. As she grew up in Los Angeles, she never finished high school and started having children in her early twenties, eventually having a total of two sons and one daughter. When 2014 rolled around, her two older children moved out which left her with less responsibilities and more free time. She knew it was her opportunity to start her academic career again, but she was unsure of how difficult enrolling into a community college could be.

“I didn’t have my GED [General Education Development Tests] and I didn’t qualify for a Pell grant due to that,” shared Shonnon. The fear of being academically held back because of past decisions pushed her to work hard for her GED diploma. She received it in May of 2014 then started community college shortly after that.

Her perseverance did not end with the start of community college. She was able to graduate in the spring of 2016 and was even asked to be a commencement speaker.

When she began attending SF State, she knew majoring in women and gender studies was the right choice for her.

“My parents are from Mexico and my mother had to deal with a lot of machismo from my father. My mother divorced my father and got citizenship on her own,” expressed Shonnon. She continued, saying that her mother’s struggle to be successfully independent and finding her identity guided her to the W.G.S. department and helped her choose a topic for her piece going in the publication.  

“On my own, I’m going to do a piece on identity, on claiming identity, and what that means whether it be gender identity, cultural identity. I identify as Chicana and what does that mean by claiming Chicana, what does it mean by claiming an identity,” shared Shonnon. She decided to format her piece as a letter to her daughter that touches on President Trump and America’s current political climate. Shonnon is also collaborating with other students from the class to create a feminist horoscope.  

“I feel like my piece is important for the publication because it gives voice to those that are hidden and are denied the claiming of their identities because of the binary systems, because of the gender norms, because of race,” said Shonnon.

Shonnon is not the only student to decide on personal pieces that surround controversial topics. Twenty-two-year-old Ines Diot graduated from SF State in December with a bachelors in women and gender studies. She contributed a piece to the fall 2017 publication that was written as a creative essay.

“I was sitting in my house one day and started reflecting on myself,” explained Diot. She shared that she wanted her piece to be personal by writing about abusive relationships, but it still touched on some heated subjects, such as the monuments of Confederate soldiers being removed. Her essay followed a theme of “out with the old and in with the new.”

Diot not only wrote a piece for the publication, but she also created a video and helped draw the cover while laying out the cover and everyone else’s work. Every publication has followed the idea of being completely student ran. The only part of the process that the students do not work on is the printing—which costs about $200 in total so each student can receive a couple of copies of the final product.

Diot is glad she has a tangible representation of her work at SF State. “I was really, really happy. I loved how it turned out. I keep looking at it because I’m really proud of the work we did,” exclaimed Diot.

As Professor Hua continues teach the class, she pushes her current students to create a piece and publication that is unique to their personal experiences and opinions.

“I think it’s important that at the end of your degree, you’ve had a chance to really take time and reflect on what that degree has meant or the journey you have taken, right? All the different classes, the things you’ve learned and to think about what you’ve taken away from it,” Hua stated.

 

While the end of Shonnon’s time at SF State draws closer, she plans on going back to school to get a master’s in social work to help survivors of domestic abuse and those that are in need.

She shared some advice for the students taking the senior seminar class next semester. “I would say to really get to enjoy the time with your senior class, seminar class, and make those bonds because I know that a lot of the friendships that I made are going to carry on. But also to take a moment to not only focus on getting work done, but to really enjoy it because this is your last semester and it’s the journey that really counts.”

Previous publications from the class can be found online or in the Women and Gender Studies department. The spring 2018 publication will be available in the fall.

City Surf

It was the coldest day of the year in San Francisco. A low pressure system off the coast sent frigid winds and dismal surfing conditions to the shores of Linda Mar beach in Pacifica, California.

In the parking lot, older surfers declare victory-at-sea from the confines of their cars. Many will retreat home with the heater dial turned all the way up.  The waves whimper in the stiff northwest breeze. “Hardly worth a paddle,” a local mutters to his friend.

A van pulls into the lot with surfboards stacked towards the heavens. It is the City Surf Project, a non-profit organization that teaches inner-city kids to surf, and they are paddling out regardless of the wild weather.

Today’s charges are from Mission High school and despite the cold, rough seas, they clamber into wetsuits. It is the day they have been waiting for. Offered as a 7th period P.E elective, the City Surf Project meets with the kids three times a week.

Mondays are for the classroom where they’ll learn more about the sport, culture, and etiquette.

Wednesday, they swim for conditioning and to get more comfortable in the water. Friday, they hit the beach with volunteer surf coaches who will help push them into waves so that they can learn the ancient Hawaiian past time.

 

 

For most of the students, this is the only opportunity they’ll have to access the beach. Before the City Surf Project, some had never seen the ocean before.

Surfing is a giant metaphor for life. It teaches perseverance and patience, as well as respect for nature and oneself. The lessons learned from the ocean are instilled into the City Surf Project by its founder, Johnny Irwin.

“The three pillars to the City Surf Projects Philosophy,” Irwin says to a circle of a diverse group of smiling faces, “are to respect nature and our fellow surfers, health, and personal growth.”

Irwin was inspired to start the City Surf Project by his father, late SF State Sociology Professor, John Keith Irwin.

Each beach outing begins the same. First, the students circle up in donated wetsuits and begin a series of stretches and exercises. Then, they go over safety precaution, with the more experienced students pointing out the rip currents and how to avoid them. Next, they talk about their goals, each student desires to progress.

Each student goes around and explains one example of each. Kevin Campos, a Mission High student who commutes from Oakland, California, suggests not eating McDonald’s and playing soccer, when asked how he was going to maintain a healthy life. In the parking lot, he goes over his soccer drills to warm himself before the plunge.

Irwin’s goal is to spread the gospel of surf to those who otherwise would never have the opportunity. His father surfed without the luxuries of wetsuits and leashes in what was called the Bonfire Era of Ocean Beach because surfers had to stoke a blaze on shore to fight off hypothermia. The City Surf Project is Irwin’s way of thanking his father for passing the love of surf onto him.

Many of the students say they joined the City Surf Project because their friends were enrolled and it sounded fun. The program is offered at Mission, Leadership, Independent, and Lowell High school. By the end of the semester, the students have the knowledge and experience to begin surfing on their own.

Not all of the volunteers are experienced surfers at the City Surf Project. SF State Brenda Gonzalez had never surfed a day in her life before signing up to intern.

“As an environmental science and sociology major, I wanted an internship that would encompass both,” Gonzalez said.

In the shorebreak, Gonzalez clutches onto a Gopro camera tightly. Today, her job is to get photos for the City Surf Projects Instagram. Hailing from Monterey Park in Los Angeles, Gonzalez has never been in water this cold before.

“Just like the kids, my parents didn’t go to the beach so I’d bus it to Venice and spend the day there,” says Gonzalez.

After her job is done, she gets a surf lesson of her own. With a bit of instruction, she’s surfing in no time. And just like the kids, she’s hooked on the free thrill of riding waves.

Comedy Godfather, City Outsider

“Humans! Listen to my face hole!”

Tony Sparks has been on stage long enough to know how to capture attention. He stands behind the mic at a sparsely occupied bar on a Monday night. He is two acts into an open mic show.

“Hey, humans!” Sparks shouts from inside the spotlight. “Even y’all in the back at the bar, ignoring the shit outta me. I need for everybody to give this next guy the big love.”

Sparks hands it off to the next comic. Slowly, people are drawn in. The bar fills up. Some people even come to sit around the stage. Two hours later, just before the show ends, the place is hopping.

Sparks is known as the “godfather of comedy” in San Francisco. He has run comedy events throughout the Bay Area for years. He came to San Francisco in the early 1990s, enticed by the city’s reputation as a nucleus of the comedy scene. Instead, he found himself ostracized from the prominent clubs and people of the day.

“This town was a piece of shit,” Sparks says. “It was really cliquey. So I don’t ever want to be that way with people. Hopefully when people hang out with me they get a sense of, ‘okay, I feel accepted and I can do this.’ I don’t want to do to other people what was done to me.”

Sparks set out to develop a more welcoming community of comics. In April of 1999, Sparks started hosting shows at BrainWash cafe and laundromat in South of Market. Calling the place an eclectic venue would not do it justice. The stage was set up against the huge, wall-high windows of the front of the building. The food line cut right through the tables, so most of the audience was separated from the direct vicinity of the stage. People usually talked at the bar, ignoring the show completely. And people were also there to do their laundry.

“It was more of a social hub than a great comedy spot,” comedian Hunter Stoehr says. “It was not a great place to do comedy, but it was a great place to hang out.”

“For people that were just doing open mics, it was the place you could go every single day,” comedian Graham Galway adds. “For people that were more established, it was a place to get an early set in. It was always a pretty large crowd, and it was a good place to meet people.”

Over the years, the strange hybrid establishment became a fixture of Bay Area comedy. BrainWash held open mics five nights a week, most hosted by Sparks.

“It was a great place. It was the foundation for the community,” Sparks explains. “If you needed to know what to do, and to grow, and where to go, you went to the Brainwash. The staff there was wonderful, the people were nice. They really took good care of me. It was like my family. I mean, c’mon, I spent nineteen years with them.”

 

In December 2017, BrainWash abruptly shut down. The cafe had been struggling to deal with a decline of customers caused by a large construction project next door. It closed with no fanfare, just a note on the locked door. It had been in business for more than thirty years.

The comedy community has been reeling ever since. There are other places that hold open mics in the city, of course, but none of them with the frequency that BrainWash did. Stoehr and other comedians describe the scene as “decentralized.”

“There was a huge gap, a void that opened up once BrainWash shut down,” Billy Catechi, manager of the bar Il Pirata, says. “That was a real shame. The place was one-of-a-kind.”

For the past twelve years, Il Pirata hosted monthly stand up shows. After BrainWash closed, said Catechi, Il Pirata decided to turn their monthly shows into weekly events. They asked Tony Sparks to host. The shows have been running every Thursday since early February.

Il Pirata sits on the corner of 16th Street and Potrero Avenue. Around 5 p.m. on a Thursday evening, Catechi brings a couple rows of chairs into the cleared-out lounge space and assembles a short wooden stage. In the room are several large booths, a spotlight, and a sound station with mixing boards and a big bank of speakers. This is the setup for the evening showcase of more established Bay Area comedians, which starts at 8 p.m.

Until then, there’s open mic out on the patio. The prep work for this event is less elaborate. Catechi pulls one table back a couple feet then plops a mic and speaker in front of the Jack Daniels dartboard. Mere feet away, traffic barrels by on 16th Street.

One-by-one, the comics come in and sign up for their four minutes behind the mic. Everyone who performs that night is a veteran of the process. Many of them know one another from the BrainWash. They mingle out on the patio until Sparks arrives just before six o’clock to kick the night off.

In addition to Il Pirata, Sparks also hosts a regular Monday night show (along with free pizza and videogames) at Milk Bar on Haight Street. The gigs he runs now don’t come close to matching the sense of camaraderie of BrainWash. Still, he continues to host shows, passionate about preserving venues for burgeoning comics to perform.

“What else am I gonna do?” Sparks says. “I’m an old man. I been doing this since I was 16 years old. I don’t know anything else to do.”

An open mic can be a brutal thing. A show is the only place for an aspiring comedian to hone new material. So they go out on a weekday night and try out their budding jokes in front of an audience made up mostly, if not entirely, of fellow comedians.

“There’s a lot of open mics where there’s no audience, there’s just other comics who have already seen most of your jokes,” comedian Travis Thielen shares. “And you only have a couple new things, so it can feel kind of disheartening.”

At Il Pirata, some do better than others. One comic’s tale about hiding pot from his parents as an adult garners some earnest chuckles, while another’s rant about millenials falls flat. Admittedly, the latter scenario is more common.

This is why the geniality of Tony Sparks is such a key to the success of the night. Even when he delves into darker personal topics, there is a buoyancy to him. Sparks has a way of delivering jabs that feel like both a roast and encouragement.

During a recent show at Milk Bar, Sparks addressed a comic who had just performed a set that was met with silence from the audience. The main factor for the icy response, perhaps, was a complete lack of discernible jokes anywhere in the routine.

“That was beautiful, although I didn’t understand shit you was saying,” Sparks said as he took back the mic. “Don’t feel bad. The rest of them,” he gestured toward the audience, “they were ignoring you very openly.” Then he turned on the audience: “You guys are bullies. He poured his heart out and you shit all over him.”

The ribbing is anything but discouraging. Comedian Tammy Clarke works at open mics and with Sparks to hone her craft. In August she will be opening for shows headlined by comedian and actress Mo’Nique.

“Honestly, I’ve gotten nothing, but love and support in this comedy sector,” Clarke says. “It feels good.”

The moment each comedian finishes their set, Sparks belts out an enthusiastic “Yaaaay!” and prods the room to break into another round of applause. When a brand-new comic comes up, Sparks leads the audience in a short chant of “lots of love” to build up the energy in the room.

“Sometimes there’s one thing that you do in life that just makes you so fucking happy,” Sparks explains. “When I host these shows, or when I get on stage, I’m so happy. I’m so incredibly happy. I have so much fun.”

Still, there’s no filling in the hole that the loss of the BrainWash created in Sparks’s life. His discontent about living in San Francisco hasn’t abated in the nearly three decades of his residency.

“I don’t trust the city, I don’t like it,” Sparks admits. “I don’t like the people. I hate everything about it. Everything. The only thing I loved about it is gone; that was the BrainWash.”

Sparks says he has gotten invitations from venues in other cities to go create his own BrainWash-type establishment. Still, there is something that, for now, keeps him in San Francisco.

As the open mic wraps up at Il Pirata, Sparks thanks everyone for coming out and congratulates them on their performances. Then he goes inside, hops up on the stage, and launches into his next comedy showcase.

The Summer of Love: How San Francisco is Recognizing the Iconic Movement

Visitors peer in on colorful artifacts and psychedelic motifs, some stop to take selfies in a light show room where multi-colored waves splash against the walls, and some are dressed in their own throwback clothes, wearing colorful dresses and sky-high platforms. The “Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion and Rock & Roll” exhibit at the De Young museum brings the past to the present with its display of the era’s most memorable works of art, music, fashion, and everything else in between.

Fifty years ago hundreds of thousands of flower children gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to listen to music, hang out, and spread the love, providing the rest of America with a glimpse into an alternative way of living. A half century later, American society is still dealing with the aftermath of the ideas, art forms, clothing, and music that emerged from that momentous 1967 summer in San Francisco. San Francisco is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of an event that shaped the city’s identity and left a lasting impact on pop culture.

“There was no one Summer of Love experience,” says Colleen Terry, curator of the non-textile pieces for the “Summer of Love Experience” exhibit on display through August 20. “I think that’s something I certainly experienced in my research is that people living a block apart from one another could have had very different experiences here in San Francisco in 1967.”

While the circumstances of the Summer of Love were the start of a new way of thinking for the rest of the country, the counterculture’s Summer of Love was actually the end of what had started as a movement in the mid 1960s.

The start of the countercultural movement began with Ken Kesey’s and the Merry Pranksters’ “Acid Tests”, or parties where guests were encouraged to use LSD and expore the drug’s psychedelic effects. Then in January 1967, the intellectual and radical political activists of Berkeley combined with the social and cultural experimenters of the Haight-Ashbury for the Human Be-In to join forces against the war in Vietnam and to experiment with drugs and new forms of philosophy, art, and music.

This occasion gained national media attention and young people to flocked to San Francisco, this migration culminated in the what we now know as the Summer of Love. Terry hopes that the DeYoung’s exhibit will highlight the extent of the counterculture movement in San Francisco during that time period.

“I think what a lot of people know is sex, drugs, and rock and roll and I think this show actually shows that there is a lot more to it especially in an aesthetic dimension that has really permeated our popular culture even today.”

One of these aesthetic elements was the explosion of color and bell bottoms in the clothing that accompanied the movement.

“There were certain things that just kept coming up,” says Jill D’alessandro, textile curator for the exhibit. “Victoriana, old timey dress, native american dress, the interest in the Pacific Rim, in Asian cultures. There’s also psychedelia and the swirling motifs in prints, handwork, and denim.”

Denim played a large part in many of the styles from this time period and that may have been due to Levis’ close relationship to the city and its residents mentions D’alessandro. “Levi’s had their finger on the pulse of the counterculture,” says D’alessandro, “and actually was like a nurturing parent to the counterculture, looking at what they wanted and providing it for them and making sure to keep their jeans at a low price.”

One person whose clothes are featured in the exhibit are Wavy Gravy’s, an entertainer, comedian, and official clown of the Grateful Dead. Gravy was a prominent figure in the counterculture, or as he calls it “the under the counter culture.” He joined the Merry Pranksters in the Acid Tests and later drove around the country in a painted school bus.

“The seats were all taken out and along the sides were benches that opened up at night into double beds with the storage under the bench so it was like just living in a sailboat,” Gravy remembers. “You had to knock down everything you had to a very minimal amount of stuff and it was very synchronicity building.”

They used the attention they began receiving to highlight issues important to the subculture like Animal and environmental rights.

“We traveled on a bus that was taken on a freighter to Sweden for the United Nations conference on human environment where we actually turned the bus into a whale and drove into downtown Stockholm during rush hour and got the UN to pass the resolution against the killing and hunting of the grey whale,” remarks Gravy.

The counterculture movement that spurred the Summer of Love was also known for it’s political activism and the birth of many social movements such as the environmental movement, the women’s movement, and the anti-war movement. One social issue that has a complex relationship with the counterculture movement is the gay rights movement.

“We think of the gay movement as a political movement, but really it was always a social and cultural movement,” says curator of the “Lavender Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love” exhibit Joey Cain.

The exhibit is a “look at the LGB folks who were significant in the summer of love in 1967 and I look at Allen Ginsberg, the poet, and the underground, avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, Janis Joplin, and someone who most people don’t know astrologer, philosopher Gavin Arthur,” says Cain. “I give a little bit of history about their background and what their involvement was in 1967 and I look a little bit also at how what was happening then influenced the homophile community that existed at the time.”

While the summer of love is associated with “free love”, the movement wasn’t as accepting as it might seem at first glance.

“The Summer of Love stuff tended to have very old gender role ideas. The women were to make babies and take care of the home and be nurturing and the men were to be out there fighting on the barricades. While there were a lot of gay people around in it, it was not something that people really talked about,” Cain explains.

He does acknowledge, though, that the summer of love did have a significant impact on the LGBT community’s sense of self.

“Where it influenced the LGBT community heavily was there was a great emphasis placed on personal authenticity that instead of being who your parents want you to be, who your teachers want you to be, who the society in general wants you to be, you need to understand who you are and be that person,” Cain says. “That was a huge part of what was being promoted and talked about and encouraged in the summer of love. And that has always been the bottom line of coming out.”

Personal authenticity, sexual freedom, and drug use were factors that influenced the LGBT community as Cain mentions with a laugh, “It’s really hard to stay in the closet while you’re on LSD.”

Cain points out that what many remember as a summer of kindness and sharing also included many struggles with the police.

“If not every weekend, every other weekend, the police would come in and there would be mini riots here in the Haight with the police trying to clear people out and trying to control them,” Cain says. “Imagine a hundred thousand refugees flooding into a neighborhood, mostly made up of people between the ages of 13-23 who couldn’t take care of themselves. It was a disaster zone and part of the thing that destroyed it was media exploitation around what was going on in the neighborhood. It had this double edged effect in that it took the ideas that were being worked on here and sent them out across the country. But it also made everybody want to run away from home and come to San Francisco.”

At the time, much of the mainstream media framed the movement as a “cute” social movement, instead of examining the very real issues that young people were talking and protesting about.

“It wasn’t just peace and love. There were attempts to address really deep seated social issues like racism, poverty, class inequality. That gets glossed over in the tie dye and beads concept of the summer of love,” Cain explains.

One commemorative celebration this summer hoping to examine these issues is an Academic Conference on the Summer of Love that will take place this July from NorthWestern University. The conference will feature talks and panels from professors around the Bay Area, including Peter Richardson and Steve Savage from SF State, to present their research about the Summer of Love.

“I’m doing the conference for students today to figure out what the right kind of framework is to understand those events fifty years ago, so that the meaning of them is powerful to young people today,” says NorthWestern University Professor and head of the Summer of Love Academic Conference Planning Committee.

The conference is free for any grad students attending a university in the Bay Area. The conference will feature information about the role of cyberculture in the counterculture movement, women’s roles, the Black Panther Party, drugs, and “social theorists whose work on critiques of American Society provided young people with a framework for critiquing American society and looking for an alternative to it,” says Lewis.

While there were many counter cultural movements taking place around the world that year, “they especially converged in San Francisco because it was a more open kind of society and had a long tradition of welcoming offbeat people to it being a beautiful place to live for artists, musicians, and poets,” explains Lewis, who also mentions that San Francisco’s original founding was during the Gold Rush of 1849.

“San Francisco had this unique quality of lots of new people coming there, lots of people trying to find a way to live together, and lots of them pursuing a dream. That’s built into the DNA of the city,” Lewis says.

For Boots Hughston, his dream is to honor the original summer of love by throwing a commemoration festival this summer, featuring many of the same speakers and musicians that were present at the first one. Hughston attended the original summer of love as a teenager.

“It was like everybody woke up all at the same time,” he says of the celebration.

Hughston has put on other commemorative anniversaries for the Summer of Love, but has had trouble getting permits for this anniversary occasion.

“At fifty years, we’re passing it on, this is our last hurrah. We’re all in our 60s, 70s, 80s. There won’t be many of us around for the next 10 year anniversary. We’re passing it on whether we like it or not,” Hughston says.

He was denied a permit for his original plan of having the event in Golden Gate Park in June or July by the San Francisco Parks and Rec Department. Despite the negative response of the city, Hughston is continuing to apply for a September or October event.

“I hope it doesn’t go back to the same hassle we just had that’s what I’m worried about it. So I took myself out of it I didn’t apply for this permit I took myself out of the loop and I passed on to Sunshine Powers. She’s applying for the permits now. So we’re pretty much ready to rock,” he said.

Hughston has been frustrated by the amount of money required now to put on an event in the city. He mentions that when he was young, it was only $150 for a permit, but now to put on a large affair, costs will total around $450,000-$500,000.

“It’s almost impossible for a young person to go out there and try to do a large free event,” Hughston sighs, “The summer of love 50th anniversary is free. The reason why it’s free is because we want anybody to be able to come. Anybody who can come whoever wants to come.”

It was also very important for Hughston that the celebration take place where it all started: Golden Gate Park.

“It started here, it needs to be represented here. It’s a humanity movement too. It’s not a money movement or about egos or anything, it’s basically a spiritual movement that started right here in San Francisco,” Hughston says.

Parks and Rec official Joey Kahn worries that the event’s big scale might be a danger to all those attending, “As the agency responsible for stewarding and permitting San Francisco’s parks, it is our responsibility to ensure that events are safe for the public to attend. That means making sure there is an adequate emergency/medical plan, proper infrastructure to support the number of people expected, adequate transportation and public safety staff, including Police and Park Rangers on-site to respond to an emergency. While it is not sexy, it is incredibly important that all these elements be in place. Without them, the results can be catastrophic.The multiple city agencies involved in signing off on this permit agree that, as a result of Mr. Hughston’s repeated misrepresentations, he could not be entrusted to ensure public safety and limit damage to the park. Despite our many attempts to work collaboratively with Mr. Hughston, and the multiple chances he was given to rectify the situation, he continued to falsify his responses.”

Hughston continues to claim that he completed everything required of him and in a timely manner. Though Hughston’s dreamt up event might not come true, some San Francisco organizations are already helping to commemorate the anniversary with the combination of Sunday Streets and It’s Your District to create a themed Summer of Love for Sunday Street events this summer.

“We want to celebrate what is special in each neighborhood and remind people why they love San Francisco,” says Liz De Nola, the director of operations for It’s Your District, which promotes non profits in San Francisco. “We want to highlight the values that emerged from the summer of love. To us, that means community building and creativity and so at each event we have lots of music, we have art, we we have giant puppets and stilt walking, and lots of entertainment for the whole family.”

Executive director for It’s Your District, Yves-Langston Barthaurd, wants to showcase the great organizations and groups working in various San Francisco neighborhoods, “A lot of these organizations that we feature are in the neighborhood and a lot of people don’t realize that they’re there,” she says.

Barthaurd also thinks that this nod back to the original summer of love couldn’t be more timely.

“This year, we’re seeing more people out on the streets and protesting and wanting their rights and their voices to be heard than in years past, basically since 1967,” Barthaurd says. “We’re in another era where people feel like their voices aren’t being heard and that they need to get out on the streets and really push the narrative into the direction that they want to see.”

Michele Rebelle, sixty-three, was a teenager back when she attended the original summer of love.

“Back then, we were all politically motivated. I have burned my bra marching down Market Street pushing a fucking baby carriage to make sure that my daughters and my grand daughters have reproductive rights,” she says passionately with tears streaming down her eyes. “Everything that we fought for then we have to re-fight for again and we’re fucking old. We need our kids and our kid’s kids and all these little motherfuckers out here to step up, not by violence, but by words and thoughts and action.”

Free, 25, is homeless by choice and made the journey to San Francisco from Illinois in hopes of reaching the acceptance he heard was prevalent here.

“I came here from a small farm town that was super racist and bigoted,” he says. “I’m part of the LGBT community and it’s way more accepting out here. When I became homeless I found my way to the Haight and the hippie guys really took care of me and showed me the ways.”

The legacy of Haight Street as a gathering of hippies, still attracts many people, including the homeless.

“I think that the homeless situation and the drug situation that we’re seeing in San Francisco is worse than I’ve ever seen it for the decade that I’ve lived here,” says Malaika Clarke, the art director and sales rep for the costume store P-Kok on Haight Street. “Something that I think the city really needs to do before they summer comes is have more public restrooms for the general public and for the homeless population that lives here,” she says.

Clarke has always felt connected to the counterculture movement that took place here in 1967, even though she was not part of it.

“I feel like 1967 really laid a stamp on Haight Street and kind of set this ripple out through the universe of what the hippie movement was,” she says. “I kind of feel the ghosts of Haight Street a lot.”

For Clarke, keeping the spirit of community alive is a great way to honor the movement, “Here at P-kok we’re trying to support local artists I have a lot of my paintings in here and I’m going to be doing a series for the Summer of Love. We’re going to be throwing different events, hopefully making some music videos, we have different street artists who are going to be painting on the front of our window display and our shop and we’re also going to be involved with some of the other vendors on the block just doing street parties and stuff,” she says.

Right before the interview with Clarke, a large fight between two men broke out in front of the store. The men appeared to be on drugs or mentally unstable. Many people stood watching and filming on their phones, until it eventually ended and the men went their separate ways. This instance only solidified Clarke’s passion for protecting her community.

“We just heard a huge fight happening out on the street and I found myself starting to videotape it and I then I said well what am I doing, I’m going to go try to break it up,” Clarke says. “And I didn’t even have anybody to watch the store, I just asked a stranger to watch the store for me. I mean we all have to take initiative and responsibility each and every one of us to be a part of the community. I think that what happens when you get so many people who are coming through the city and not staying or a techie who maybe will be here for like a year and doesn’t really get invested, you don’t get that community. So I would say wherever you go, be invested and help out. It’s up to each and every one of us to deeply look inside ourselves and ask how can we be the love.”

The Aftermath

Dolores Piper (left), great aunt of Derrick Gaines, and Gaines’ half-brother Michael Red (right), 7, pose for a portrait in their home in South San Francisco. Gaines, 15, was fatally shot by South San Francisco Police Officer Joshua Cabillo on the night of June 5, 2012. Photographs by Joel Angel Juárez

HOW FAMILIES COPE AFTER POLICE KILL THIER LOVED ONES

By Jennah Feeley

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n May 2012, two weeks before his high school graduation, Alan Dwayne Blueford, 18, ate one last piece of candy and left his house to meet up with some friends. In the hours that followed he was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer.

Two months later, 15-year-old Derrick Gaines walked with a friend in his hometown of South San Francisco when police approached him. The confrontation turned into a foot-chase that ended with Gaines dead in an ARCO gas station lot, having been shot in the neck by an officer.

In February 2014, San Jose State University police gunned down Antonio Lopez Guzman just beyond the campus borders. Footage from the lapel and dashboard cameras have yet to be released to the public — and details of the confrontation are ambiguous.

Disparities among police records, accounts from family members and media coverage persist in each incident. While the facts in many cases remain uncertain, the concern with police brutality in the Bay Area and beyond is clear. A fatal shot by Oakland police on Nov. 15 marked the 1,000th death at the hands of law enforcement in the U.S. this year alone, as reported by The Counted, a database maintained by The Guardian.

Some cases grabbed the nation’s attention, enraging the public on both sides of the law-and-order conflict, and spread like a shotgun blast across social media platforms. All at once, friends and family of the deceased were swept up in a whirlwind of interviews, police investigations and community uproar. But when the limelight dimmed, those families were left in darkness to deal with the aftermath. Despite the trauma of losing a son, a partner, a father or a friend, people have had to somehow pick up the pieces and find a way to continue their lives. And that’s what Alan Blueford’s mother, Jeralynn Blueford, finds so difficult – that nobody thinks about what happens to families after the police kill their loved ones.

RELIVING THE NIGHTMARE

Blueford thinks about the night she lost her son everyday. She remembers granting him permission to go out with his friends — a moment she can’t take back — and the phone call she received the next day telling her he was gone forever. She recalls a feeling of disbelief, of puzzlement. She thought, “they were wrong, this can’t be. Not my Alan.” She relives the sinking feeling that took over as her husband’s fist repeatedly pounded the counter and she saw the candy wrapper their son had left behind the last time she saw him.

Along with her husband, Adam, Blueford went to the police station for answers, but ended up leaving with more questions: What happened that night? Why had the police killed their child? What could Alan have done to deserve losing his life?

  • Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford, has dedicated herself to a life of activism after police killed her son in May 2012. Click the buttons to hear audio from Jeralynn Blueford.

In the months that followed, Blueford lost herself in grief. While dealing with a lawsuit over the murder of her son, defending his honor in the face of demonizing media accounts and trying to maintain a strong front for Alan’s two siblings, she didn’t think she could carry on. Anger consumed her and the sadness was paralyzing. She stopped working. She felt like she couldn’t move, sometimes like she couldn’t breathe. She said the sensation was worse than having the wind knocked out of you. “It’s like you gasp for air and there’s no air there.” She was on the brink of suicide when she came to the realization that she needed to pick herself back up for her family.

“I was like, ‘damn, it’s unfair for me to end it for me. I have other people, what about Aaron, what about Ashley, what about the grandkids,’” Blueford said. “They deserve to make memories with me. They deserve to share and know who I am. How will they learn about Alan if I’m not around to tell them?”

DEVASTATING AFTERMATH

Like Blueford, Dolores Piper had to learn how to push herself through the intense moments of sadness. Several years have passed since Piper lost her nephew, Derrick Gaines, but his death is still the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up sleepless at night. Having adopted him as a child, Gaines was a son to her, and his sudden death was devastating.

Piper was on her way home from a business trip in Sacramento the evening Gaines died, and didn’t find out he had been shot until her niece woke her with the news later that night. In the hours that followed, police officers arrived at her door to search the house. She recalls frantically trying to call people, but her mind was in such a fog she couldn’t dial the numbers correctly. The events of that night are still hard for Piper to fully remember.

“There was no describing it, where that night went,” Piper said.

Although the funeral brought forth an outpouring, support from the community wavered for Piper and her family in the weeks that followed. The media coverage, she felt, assassinated Gaines’ character almost immediately. Stories stated he had allegedly pulled a gun on an officer, and Piper couldn’t help but wonder, “who looks at ‘allegedly?’” She got the feeling that members of her community in South San Francisco thought Gaines deserved what had happened to him. She chose not to read the comments people made about the incident online.

Piper has instead held fast to the positive memories she has of her son. She remembers him as a chipper kid who could talk his way out of anything. She thinks back to the trips they took to Chicago, Seattle and Vancouver and how he indulged in hotel room-service. She read to Gaines every night, right into his 15th year — “I still have the book beside my bed that we were halfway through.” She’s held onto his books, his shoes, his clothes — all little mementos she keeps to remember him by.

Memories of Gaines linger everywhere in her life. She often drives past the ARCO station where he died and can’t help but think back to that horrible night. Before he was killed, Piper had never considered law enforcement a threat to her son. She doesn’t think Gaines ever believed cops were dangerous himself, either, and must have been shocked when met face-to-face with the officer’s gun that night.

“I think about how he must have felt at that very second, and how that must have been horrible,” Piper said. “If I dwell on those moments, I just get sick.”

These days, Piper still feels like she has to be on the defensive when she talks about Gaines. After reviewing the police report and talking to witnesses, she came to her own conclusion about what happened that night. She quit saying he was shot by police; now she says he was murdered by them. Speaking out about it and her involvement in activism against police brutality has become a means of healing.

POST-TRAUMA ACTIVISM

[pullquote align=”right”]”I feel so bad every time I have to tell my son — I have to re-traumatize him — ‘your dad is dead.’ I feel evil. I feel like a bad parent because I have to remind him every single time he asks.” – Laurie Valdez[/pullquote]

In the face of a similar situation, a turn to activism was obvious to Laurie Valdez. Her partner, Antonio Lopez Guzman, was shot down by university police just off campus at San Jose State. She couldn’t wrap her head around the incident and said it was unfathomable that Guzman would have done something to warrant that kind of reaction from police.

She didn’t think the cops had acted lawfully and realizing their 4-year-old son, Josiah, was going to have to live the rest of his life without a father, she knew she had to take action. Losing her partner was hard, but having to explain the situation to Josiah and his 12-year-old half-sister, Angelique, was agonizing. Angelique continues to try and be strong about the loss of her “papi,” who raised her since age 3, but Josiah still struggles to comprehend what happened. Almost two years later, Josiah still yo-yos between conceptualizing his father’s death and thinking he left to go back to Mexico. His pain is something Valdez “can’t put a Band-Aid on,” and it continuously breaks her heart.

“I feel so bad every time I have to tell my son — I have to re-traumatize him — ‘your dad is dead,’” Valdez said. “I feel evil. I feel like a bad parent because I have to remind him every single time he asks.”

  • Laurie Valdez poses with her daughter Angelique and son Josiah in their home. Since her husband was killed by police, she has been left to raise her children without him. Click the buttons to hear audio from Laurie Valdez.

As far as Valdez is concerned, there is no way of providing justice for Guzman, because he is already gone, but her little boy deserves someone to stand up for him. Valdez created the campaign, Justice 4 Josiah, to raise awareness about police violence and find solutions to help heal communities it impacts. She wants to prevent another child from losing a parent.

“My son is going to suffer, but if I can prevent that for another family somehow, some way Antonio’s death won’t be in vain,” Valdez said. “At least we will save somebody else from having to go through this.”

As Josiah grows up Valdez fears he will search the web for information about what happened to his father and read the comments people made about the incident. Guzman was an undocumented immigrant — and Valdez recalls comments that said he deserved what he got because he shouldn’t have been in this country in the first place. Other comments she saw characterized him as a person Valdez doesn’t recognize. Because he was so young, Josiah’s memories of his father are scarce and Valdez doesn’t want negative comments to paint an unfair picture of the man he was.

“I don’t teach my kids negativity,” Guzman said. “But this is the aftermath.”

Valdez filed a federal civil suit against San Jose State over the death of her partner, which was recorded on cameras worn by the officers involved. She believes the footage from the incident should be released to the public in this case, and in all others like it, so the right people can be held accountable.

In Alan Blueford’s case, the officer who shot him was also wearing a lapel camera it was switched off before he shot the 18-year-old. His mother has become an activist as well, and is working to create the “Alan Blueford Law,” which would require the prosecution of any officer who turns off or otherwise tampers with their camera equipment in an incident where they kill someone. In addition, their pension, under the proposed law, would be transferred to the family of the victim.

Recognizing that families in these situations have minimal government support, Mollie Costello teamed up with Blueford to help make the law become a reality.

“It’s not like you have money set aside for burial costs, or what happens when you can’t work,” Costello said.

Blueford and Costello also opened the Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland as a hub for healing in the community. The center serves as a place for people to grieve, create art and find support in each other. Blueford has found solace in “helping hearts heal,” and aims to be a resource and an advocate for those touched by police violence.

“If we change the laws, not only will it be justice for Alan, it will be justice for all,” Blueford said. “Although I am speaking out for my son, somewhere there is another mother who cannot speak out for her son, and he has no justice. Nobody is calling his name.”

Valdez, too, works to be a voice for families in similar situations. In a televised interview on MSNBC Nov. 4, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino mentioned Guzman’s name in a comment about police violence in America, giving a nod to her efforts. “Wow,” she said. “I’m being heard.”

Piper also organizes friends and family members of police brutality victims as a means of support and activism. She created a Facebook account for the sole purpose of keeping in contact with the loved ones of those gunned down by law enforcement. She participates in marches and works to reach out to the youth in her community. It’s painful, she said, but she does it for her son.

  • Click the buttons to hear audio from Dolores Piper

Despite activism across the nation, the issue of violence between law enforcement and citizens remains unresolved. Blueford and Piper don’t want another mother to lose her son, and Valdez hopes other children don’t lose their fathers the way her son has. They are tired of hearing about fatal encounters with police because, as Blueford put it, “with each case you relive your own story.”

In the meantime, these women have pledged to continue to fight in the names of those lost. They will continue to seek better protections from police and for better support for the families left behind in the aftermath. Blueford, Piper and Valdez’s activism is what helps them carry on through their losses.

“My healing thing is to try and bring other families together so they know they are not alone because I know what it feels like,” Valdez said. ”We’re going to get through this together.”

An Uncertain Move for San Francisco’s Sex Workers

Marion Pellegrini, core staff member at St. James Infirmary, poses for a portrait in the lab where he draws blood for various tests for patients. The clinic provides healthcare and social services for current and former sex workers of all genders and sexual orientations. Photo by Emma Chiang

 

By Sean McGrier

There’s no sign on the door. One has to be told about the place to know it’s there and, even then, they’d probably walk past it a few times before realizing they had reached their destination. The clinic is discrete; its whereabouts spread mostly through word of mouth. Its modest front door leaves little hint to what goes on beyond it. The work St. James Infirmary does for the community it serves is shielded to ensure that work can continue, which is partly due to the taboo nature of St. James’ clients’ jobs.

St. James is a peer-based health clinic for sex workers located on Mission Street in the South of Market neighborhood. Pretty much all of its staff and all of its patrons are either current or former sex workers – that is, they have either stripped, prostituted or done some job that falls under the “sex work” umbrella, if not a number of jobs involving erotica. The clinic also services the immediate families and primary sexual partners of sex workers. St. James is the only for-sex workers, by-sex workers free health clinic in the country.

But the clinic is moving, and its staff is not sure where. The SoMa building it has been in for the past 13 years of its 16-year-history is up for sale, and a new lease will not be granted. Moving an operation like St. James is a sensitive undertaking, one that poses big problems for the clinic, according to executive director Stephany Ashley.

“Across the city right now, private landlords are not too motivated to rent to non-profits,” Ashley said. “The real estate market right now is money, and most property owners that own commercial spaces in San Francisco are trying to see how much money they can make. Renting to a peer-based clinic that provides social support services for a community in poverty is not gonna make them a lot of money.”

The move also has St. James’ staff worried about client trepidation. Ashley said that’s because some of the clinic’s current visitors might not go to St. James if it moves to a different neighborhood.

“Here, we are right equidistant from Sixth Street and 16th Street,” Ashley said. “If you think about those two corridors, there’s a lot of folks that would access our services there. And this is a space that is accessible from those places. It’s close enough that you could walk here in 10 minutes, but also kind of far enough to where you could get a bit of distance from some of that.”

Dr. Pratima Gupta is St. James’ medical director. She started volunteering at the clinic while doing a fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco in 2005. Two years later, she stepped into the clinic’s medical director role, which is also a volunteer position. Dr. Gupta echoed Ashley’s unease about the move.

“In terms of our clients and the participants who receive our services, we’re seeing concern about the safety of some of the places we’re looking at,” Gupta said.

Proposed locations include spaces in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods, both of which have reputations, earned or unearned, for being dangerous. Neighborhood safety concerns could mean increased police presence around the clinic, which is bad news for many sex workers. According to Gupta, overinvolvement with police could jeopardize the safe-space atmosphere St. James wants for its patients.

“We strive to provide non-judgmental healthcare for sex workers and their families,” Gupta said.  “For somebody to fear coming to our clinic because they fear persecution due to our proximity to law enforcement would really be a detriment and completely go against our mission.”

Law enforcement’s interest in St. James’ operations may seem like a given. After all, prostitution is illegal in San Francisco. It’s also one of a number of jobs that can qualify a man or woman for St. James’ services.

Tony Flores is an inspector sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department. The 33-year SFPD veteran is currently assigned to the human trafficking division of the department’s Special Victims Unit, where he mostly focuses on commercial sex and forced labor. Flores said having institutions like St. James actually makes his job easier, but not necessarily in making arrests.

“We focus on victims and victimologies and having victims taken care of,” Flores said. “The only way we can do this is by understanding the victim’s needs. This is where (St. James) and all the other NGOS and non-governmental agencies or victims services will actually assist us in getting those victims their wants and needs.”

Both Ashley and Flores said they have recently sat on community panels together, discussing ways to better serve the sex worker community. Flores said he isn’t a stranger to working with sex worker advocacy groups in an effort to better the lives of what he views as an exploited demographic. The Standing Against Global Exploitation Project was a San Francisco nonprofit the department worked with closely. The organization has since folded, and Flores said losing SAGE meant the department had lost “some really good advocates,”  and he doesn’t want to see the same fate for St. James.

As for its medical offerings, Gupta said St. James is no different than any other health clinic. According to her, St. James’ peer-based approach to serving sex workers is really the only thing that makes it unique.

“We do offer HIV and STI testing like any other clinic,” Gupta said. “But the rate of STIs that we are picking up are equivalent to other (demographics). They’re not any higher”

They treat people for coughs, colds, rashes and high blood pressure. St James offers free therapy and case management on Monday mornings, and hosts needle exchanges every Tuesday afternoon. These scheduled events appear on St. James’ online schedule well through the clinic’s projected early January move-out date, underlining an intent to being on call for a community in need.

The clinic is both publicly and privately funded. St. James gets over $250,000 annually through various contracts it has with the City of San Francisco, according to Ashley. Private donors also help fund the clinic’s operations. Ashley said those private donations have increased since news of St. James’ displacement became public in October.

“We hit our $25,000 mark in three days,” Ashley said, referring to a recently-launched GoFundMe campaign. “I was surprised by how quickly it happened. But I was also surprised by the reach of it.”

Ashley said a lot donations came in from people who she had never heard of before, people who don’t have any direct connection to St. James or the sex industry that she knows of. Other names, she said, were more familiar.

“We got a lot of messages saying, ‘Oh my gosh, one time St. James really saved my ass. Thank you so much, and here’s $100. Hope you land on your feet,’” Ashley said. “I think there are a lot of people who are just tired of hearing that things are closing and were like, ‘Alright. Let’s rally. Let’s keep something here. These services are important.’”

When Preparation Becomes Risk

Michael Slater, 27, presents his Truvada pill – a medication that prevents HIV by 99 percent. Photos by Martin Bustamante

By Carlos Mendoza

Two and a half years ago Michael Slater, a 26-year-old homosexual, received the worst news of his life. While supporting a friend who was afraid that he was exposed to human immunodeficiency virus, Slater decided to get tested too. When he received the results Slater had tested positive for HIV. Living with the results for an agonizing week before hearing word that it was a false positive left him speechless.

Shortly after, Slater’s father introduced him to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, otherwise known as PrEP. PrEP is a new HIV prevention medication, that, if taken daily, can have a 99 percent protection rate. After being sexually active for 13 years with men, and occasionally engaging in condomless, “bareback” sex, Slater took initiative and asked a doctor about PrEP.

In the handful of times Slater has participated in unprotected sex since he started taking PrEP his mind was more at ease.

[pullquote]”People finally feel safe when having sex for the first time in their life.” – Dr. Robert Grant [/pullquote]

“The few times that I’ve had bareback sex and said ‘fuck it’ this is something that I want to do right now, yeah there is a lot of comfort, it is like I am wearing a condom already,” Slater said.

The active drug in PrEP, Truvada, has stirred a cultural shift on the gay community on both sexual protection methods and condomless sex, according to Slater.

Knowing that a social stigma of promiscuity is attached to being on PrEP is apparent to Slater, but HIV is something that people don’t want to talk about whether you are practicing safe sex or not.

“Is it worth some people thinking that maybe you’re a little irresponsible about it, or very irresponsible about it, fine,” Slater said. “But if it means you are protecting yourself and making good choices so be it.”

Michael Slater, 27, in his bedroom Tuesday Nov. 17, 2015. Photo by Martin Bustamante
Michael Slater sits on his bed for a portrait.

This medication could not have been possible without the efforts made by Dr. Robert Grant, a UCSF professor of medicine and senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes.

Dubbed the “father of PrEP,” Grant used Truvada very early on when it was just used for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, a pill in which you take after exposure to HIV. This led to a large study on Truvada for pre-exposure usage.

From 2007 to 2009 Grant conducted a large study on Truvada, which included 2,499 high risk men throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and North America taking either a placebo drug or Truvada.

After four stressful years of observation, Grant and his team at Bridge HIV, a clinical trials unit, discovered that Truvada showed a 44 percent reduction in risk of HIV, according to operations director Aliza Norwood. This was a groundbreaking discovery for HIV awareness prevention, according to Grant.

“People finally feel safe when having sex for the first time in their life,” he said.

In 2012 Truvada was approved for PrEP and places like Bridge HIV, along with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, are responsible for furthering knowledge on prevention care.

“It is so important to do this research because it is providing an avenue to provide the drug to people,” Norwood said. “That’s what gets it approved, that’s what gets insurances to pay for it and that’s what gets people access to it.”

Approved for all genders and sexual orientations, but it is highly encouraged for high risk males (men who have sex with men) and transgendered women, according to Norwood. Anyone who has had condomless anal intercourse once in the last six months, exposed to erectile STI’s in the last year or has had sex with two partners in the last six months is strongly encouraged to begin PrEP.

“The people here have been so active and asking for it, asking for research, asking for treatment and asking for PrEP,” Norwood said.

This fairly new medication is on the rise within the local gay community, but the number of people taking action and using this drug is low, according to Norwood.

“In San Francisco, where PrEP knowledge is way higher than most places, most people or a lot more people, are on PrEP than other places,” Norwood said. “Still we are only meeting a third who are on PrEP, so about two-thirds of people who should be on PrEP are not.”

To qualify for a prescription people have to go through quarterly HIV/STI screening tests, urine tests and blood level checks for blood count and kidney function, according to Norwood.

Side effects begin fairly early in what Norwood calls the “startup syndrome.” Nausea, vomiting and kidney problems may occur, but fades within the first month according to Norwood. Kidney monitoring is important for everyone who is on the medication, and if problems arise the medication has to be stopped.

The graph shows the numbers of people in San Francisco who have contracted HIV from the years 2006 to 2014. The number of men who have sex with men, transfemale and females with HIV have lowered due to advancements made with HIV prevention medication.
The graph shows the numbers of people in San Francisco who have contracted HIV from the years 2006 to 2014. The number of men who have sex with men, transfemale and females with HIV have lowered due to advancements made with HIV prevention medication.

Taking PrEP has proven effective, and if taken every day it has a 99 percent reduction in risk according to Norwood. If days are missed taking four to five pills a week would provide 96 percent reduction in risk. Despite the drug’s effectiveness, taking PrEP should not be the only means of protection when people are engaging in sexual intercourse, according to Norwood.

“PrEP should not take the place of condoms,” Norwood said. “Look at this as a tool box, you have all of these different ways of protecting yourself from HIV and this is an additional way, it can be extra prevention.”

For Matt Bradley, a 28-year-old homosexual, safe sex is important, and using both the medication and condoms is the number one method for preventing HIV and other STI’s.

“It’s not worth just doing PrEP, and then waking up and all of a sudden you have something awful going on down there,” Bradley said.

Bradley believes that the naysayers discouraging condoms and engaging in condomless sex in an effort to preserve the romance are wrong.

“If you need to fuck bareback in order to have romantic or passionate sex, then you don’t know what you are doing. You are not doing it right,” Bradley said.

The social stigma from being on PrEP does not affect Bradley, but it does have an effect on his sexual partners.

“I feel more pressure that declaring my status on PrEP from other guys means that they expect that I am going to have unprotected sex with them,” Bradley said. “I feel like that is a bigger problem.”

Overall, Bradley acknowledges the good that PrEP has provided to the gay community in San Francisco regardless of stigmas, and encourages others to get medicated too.

“I feel like every man who is physically able to take it, should be taking it,” Bradley said. “Because we have a chance of eradicating HIV.”

Instead of looking at the downside to PrEP, Norwood is looking at the positive aspect and is hopeful for the future.

“This is an epidemic and we need to treat this epidemic,” Norwood said.

Between the Old and New School

Photographs and story by Alex Kofman

Coffee shops, bars and restaurants are typically places people have in mind when considering where to meet their friends. They want a place where they can all come together to catch up, share a few stories, and spill the latest gossip. The barbershop, just like these other institutions has served as a communal gathering spot for decades, especially for ethnic communities who historically turned to the barbershop as a place to collectively converse.Two barbershops in particular, Chicago’s and Sperow Hair Gallery, have maintained their own unique styles over the years and continue to be popular amongst barbershop enthusiasts.

Chicago’s barbershop, originally a sister of a three-shop franchise that began in the 40’s, is located in the Western Addition. Although Chicago’s has been around much longer than a majority of San Francisco barbershops, the barbers working there take a more new school approach to cutting hair and keep up with the trends that are constantly changing. 26-year-old Eshawn Scranton, a barber from Chicago’s, has been cutting hair for four years and has witnessed a huge transformation in not only haircut styles but barbershop culture.

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“When I was in Barber College, shorter hairstyles were in style,” Scranton said. “It was really cool to have a dark Caesar, or a taper or a bald fade and then the longer hairstyles came into effect so I had to learn a lot about the different textures of hair and how to do a lot of styling like comb overs and switchbacks and pompadours so there was a lot that had changed from when I first got into the barber game. I would also say there was a change in the industry. It’s a lot trendier now.”

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In the Outer Sunset District is Sperow Hair Gallery, first opened in 1973 by owner and barber of 45 years, Anthony “Tony” James Sperow. When walking through the front door of Sperow Hair Gallery, your eyes are greeted by a mishmash of vintage collectibles. Walls of posters, photos of Sperow and his clients, stacks of marvel comic books from the 60’s and a large wooden cabinet full of odds and ends collected over the years fill the space. Although his barbershop only has one chair, it is almost always filled by a client from the time he opens shop until closing. Sperow is not your average barber. At 84 years old, he has seen the evolution of the barbershop and barbershop culture over the years, but continues to cut hair the same way he did back in 1951. Tony’s “old school” approach to cutting hair differs greatly from the styles of more “up to date” shops. He likes to keep his hair cuts simple, but appreciates the trends that other barbers are implementing.

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“There’s a lot of different barbers, there’s a lot of classic barbers. These new barbers today, they cut beautiful hair, they cut a lot of lines in your hair, they put X’s and O’s, they put their names in it, and I just give a good old fashion hair cut.,” Sperow said.

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Although Sperow and Scranton’s styles of cutting hair differ from each other, they both view the barbershop in the same light; as a community and haven for people to gather and enjoy each other’s conversation and presence without the disturbance of the outside world.

“Being a barber means salvation to me,” Sperow said. “Meeting and talking to people is the most satisfying thing about being a barber.”

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Hotel of a Different Feather

Birgit Soyka, owner of the San Francisco Bird Hotel, kisses Amy, one of the hotel’s guests. Photographs by James Chan

 

By Jenna Van De Ryt

When entering the San Francisco Bird Hotel, the first thing to hit you is an unexpected wave of madness-like volume palpitating your eardrums. The echoing of calls, mixed with the repetitive off-keyed songs of exotic birds, colored the hotel. The constant beating of wings against each bird’s chest produced a low pitched thunder that served as a bass note within the chaotic tune the birds created. Cages of different sizes and colors, named after prominent wonders of the world, lined the walls of the bird hotel.

The San Francisco Bird Hotel was established in 2006 out of the home of bird owner, Birgit Soyka, in San Francisco’s Sunset District. Soyka, a tall, gentle spoken, middle aged woman holds two passions in her heart: birds and motorcycles. Her blue eyes continually flickered when she spoke about her love for birds and her journey of building the bird hotel.

“I went for it,” Soyka said.

The bird-lover attests that she had a very adventurous life before opening the hotel. Soyka said she could have never fathomed ending up in a business where she had to live permanently, but her love of birds convinced her to give up the nomad lifestyle.

“This is kind of like settling down,” Soyka said. “I cannot go on vacation right now, that’s for sure.”

Soyka, a native of Germany, found herself transferred to San Francisco from Miami for work in 2004 and quickly needed to find a permanent home for her three beloved Amazon birds. At the time, The Caged Inn was San Francisco’s only bird-friendly boarding service. The Inn was run out of a woman’s home in Noe Valley. Between 2004 and 2006, Soyka’s feathered companions comfortably resided in the Noe Valley shelter until the inn’s owner fell ill and needed to close down her bird hotel. Soyka informed the inn owner that she would like to take her business over.

Kelsey Placek stands aside Diamond, a Blue and Gold Macaw, at the San Francisco Bird hotel. (James Chan/Xpress)
Kelsey Placek stands aside Diamond, a Blue and Gold Macaw.

The Caged Inn’s owner immediately gave Soyka 10 of her customers, along with her extra bird cages. Soyka began constructing the early stages of her soon-to-be bird hotel. She began posting flyers throughout the city, advertising that she would take in birds.

In October of 2009 Soyka, a full-time director of global accounts in San Francisco, was laid off. She later decided to quit completely.

“That was the happiest day of my life,” Soyka said. “The bird hotel was at the cusp of either being a hobby or a business.”

By 2013, Soyka got rid of all of her home furniture and added more cages to furnish the space.
“By the end, there was only a bedroom and a bathroom that were bird-free,” Soyka said. “Even the kitchen had birds. I had a breakfast area that was filled with only birds.”

Throughout the year, Soyka watched her hotel flock grow to be larger than her home allowed.

“It was a neighborhood,” Soyka said. “You cannot do that sort of thing here.”

After eight years of her personal home serving as a temporary bird hotel, Soyka could not believe how many bird owners came to drop off their beloved, exotic pets. She soon realized that the size and location of her transformed home-to-hotel space was no longer fitting. She found herself at a crossroads of either closing the hotel completely, keeping the guest occupancy at a smaller number or putting everything she had into the business.

Soyka flew her old coup in January of last year and signed the papers on a new unit on the corner of Utah Street in South San Francisco that would serve as a more comfortable nest for the San Francisco Bird Hotel. Birds flocked from throughout the Bay Area to stay at the new 5,400 square foot location and, in December alone, the hotel housed 95 birds.

The San Francisco Bird Hotel now serves customers from Marin County to Gilroy, with more than 780 bookings in 2015 so far.

San Francisco resident Lindsey O’Connor has brought her cockatiel, Pearl, to the bird hotel several times.

“They treat their guests as individuals and really cater to their needs and personalities,” O’Connor said.

Lily, a cockatoo, sits on Birgit Soyka's hand in the San Francisco Bird hotel Wed November 4. (James Chan/Xpress)
Brigit Soyka presents Lily, a cockatoo and guest of the hotel.

Soyka said the cage amenities are not the only perks of booking at the San Francisco Bird Hotel. Guests are able to customize their daily meal plans and enjoy the hotel’s entertainment program.

The hotel’s entertainment program includes listening to music, dancing and participating in “flight hour” for guests to stretch their wings.

“We let the birds out in the play area to hangout and listen to music,” Soyka said. “They all have rhythm and a feeling for music.”

As soon as the radio settled on a clear station, Green Day’s “American Idiot” blared through the hotel speakers, and the dance party was on. Birds were shimmying, bouncing, poorly twerking and squawking along to the catchy lyrics of the 2004 punk rock single.

A white cockatoo named Triton wowed the crowd of other bird guests when his yellow mohawk flared up as he headbanged to the high-energy song.

Dancing isn’t the only party trick Triton can impress on fellow bird hotel guests. As an avid talker, the cockatoo repeatedly shouts, “go get me a beer, go get me a beer,” to anyone who walks or flies by.

Cheryl Tamburri brought Lelilani, her Umbrella Cockatoo, to the San Francisco Bird Hotel for a week-long stay in May. She said the search for a safe, bird-friendly care service while she vacationed was “traumatizing” until she found the bird hotel. The vacation seemed to be more nerve wracking for the owner rather than the animal.

“Like sending my kid off to camp for this first time, I probably called too much,” Tamburri said. “But I received daily 411’s plus pictures of my Cockatoo.”

This year has brought the bird hotel 788 bird bookings.

Soyka said her main business goals are to create a clean, roomy, beautiful space for birds, accompanied by trustworthy and reliable service. She believes she has been successful thus far in creating a bird paradise.

“Some birds don’t want to go home after their stay, they won’t get out of their cage,” Soyka said.

SF Neighborhood looks to provide youth services

Monique Hosein speaks at the community town hall meeting at John O’connell High School. Photography by Angelica Williams

By Jasmine Williams

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos paced the auditorium of the Mission District’s John O’Connell High School on a chilly mid-November evening.  He looked pleased at the turnout for that night’s town hall meeting. A crowd of about 100 people consisted of teachers, parents, students, volunteers and nonprofit representatives amongst other community members gathered that night to discuss a new initiative called Roadmap to Peace.

The deaths of six Latino youth in a five-week period in 2012 sparked a combination of vigils, marches and town hall meetings led by community members that birthed the idea for the initiative. Roadmap to Peace, commonly referred to as RTP, was created to  help protect local youth from violence in the area.

“The community just grew tired of burying our kids,” said Angela Castillo, RTP’s community builder. “They figured that we need to figure out a more effective solution to keeping our kids safe.”

RTP plans to offer on-demand services such as tattoo removal, drug and alcohol support,  job training, vocational training, tutoring and emotional support services for youth in need across the city. Through a referral system, RTP will take in qualified youth and direct them to partners best suited to help each individual’s situation. Qualifications for the program include being a Latino between the ages of 13 and 24, having ties to San Francisco, and violence having some sort of effect on the quality of their life.

Justice Castaneda, who was a member of the steering committee for the initiative for two years, said Latino youth face unfair persecution by police, disproportionate punishment in the education system and unequal access to resources. He believes RTP is a necessary step toward addressing these very real issues affecting Latino youth in San Francisco and across the country.

“Essentially, we are wrapping around individuals who are enveloped in excruciating pain,” Castaneda said. “Everything we do will be responding to real situations.”

Alfonso Nevarez, speaks at the community city hall meeting at John O’connell High School on Thursday, November 12, 2015. (Angelica Williams/Xpress)
Alfonso Nevarez speaks at the community city hall meeting.

The experimental initiative stems from Instituto Familiar De La Raza Inc., a social service agency with an emphasis on serving the Latino community in San Francisco, particularly in the Mission District.

Campos hopes that through community involvement the initiative will thrive.

“When it comes to educating a child, it’s just like raising a child — it takes a village,” Campos said at the town hall meeting. “Just as it takes all of us to keep our community safe like we have, and now more than keeping it safe but actually bringing peace to our community.”

According to Campos, the civic action and community input over the last three years encouraged the city of San Francisco to pledge $3.2 million in September to support RTP.

Castillo believes that with the city’s money behind it, the program can really take advantage of what it is trying to achieve.

In the meantime, local nonprofits and other partners have made their services available to RTP. These partners include CARECEN, H.O.M.E.Y.,  Five Keys Charter School, Mission Peace Collaborative and Horizons Inc.

During the first year, RTP’s goal is to aid about 80 young people throughout the city, Castillo said, and eventually grow to help 500 young people a year.

Ultimately, Castillo hopes the initiative will be a pathway to resources that are either under maintained or don’t exist at all in the community.

“Sometimes we find that there is a lack of knowledge of what services are available in the community,” Castillo said. “So at the very least we want to spread awareness to the people of the community.”

To ensure the program provides “holistic healing,”  RTP is structurally based on spirituality, down-to-earth conversations as well as government-supported agencies to encapsulate youth with aid that speaks to them on a personal level.

To establish this approach, the initiative has placed culture and community at its core in order to saturate youth with resources.

“Culture has a way of building trust between people,” Castaneda said. “You need trust. And when you’re acknowledging differences in culture between people I think it’s necessary to acknowledge and use culture.”

A Yawn Worth Yelling make noise in local scene

Brayden Deskins (right) and Tyler Boyd (left), singers of the band A Yawn Worth Yelling, perform during their Play Pretend EP Party at Bottom of the Hill. Photos by Qing Huang

 

Story by Lupita Uribe

Infectious basslines thumped below warm vocal and guitar melodies, while drum beats begged for you to tap along to their off rhythms. The sound of Bay Area alternative rock band, A Yawn Worth Yelling, swiveled into the indie pop realm and brought a spot of sunshine into the oncoming winter with the release of their new EP, Play Pretend.

The four-piece group, sometimes six-piece when performing, features Brayden Deskins on guitar and backing vocals, Johanness Heine on bass, Tyler Boyd on lead vocals and guitar, and Taylor stover on drums in studio, but during live performances the band recruits Rober Tanali and Ryan Powell. Although the latter don’t take part in any of the writing or recording process, the band still considers them important components of A Yawn Worth Yelling. The core four have known each other since high school, having grown up in the San Jose area, and have released five records – two full lengths and three extended plays.

Their latest piece, Play Pretend, was a developmental process. A year in writing, and approximately 20 songs later, the band was able to produce a five-track record that contains what the band considers their best work yet.

“The era of the bad stuff was everything you’ve heard until now,” Boyd said half-jokingly as his band mates giggled in the background.

Boyd describes their first LP’s, Hieme Bellum, recording process as a phase where the band would write songs and record them as is. There was minimal refinement, according to Boyd.

“There were songs in there that I, as the drummer, had only practiced a couple of times, and we went into the studio,” Stover said. “There were songs I didn’t really remember my parts on, when I was in the studio. I sort of made the parts up.”

Brayden Deskins, singer of the band "A Yawn Worth Yelling," performs during "Play Pretend EP Party" at Bottom of the Hill, a club at 17th Street in San Francisco Sunday, Nov.15. (Qing Huang/Photo)
Brayden Deskins, singer of the band “A Yawn Worth Yelling,” performs during “Play Pretend EP Party” at Bottom of the Hill.

This process was hit or miss for the band. “Sometimes it turned out great,” Stover said, as he explained they’d done something similar on their first EP 1,000.  It turned out better than they expected, although he admits it wasn’t the best approach for their first LP.

“I would agree that was the ‘bad’ stage we needed to get out of our system, and thank god we did it early on,” Stover said.

Their previous work was all self-recorded, and not always planned, but Play Pretend was the result of a new approach. They had a set plan: to have five songs that worked well together, and bring in a producer to get an outsider perspective on their music.

The band had to ameliorate their sound a little more this time around. Since they were not self-recording, they no longer had the leisure of going through endless revisions and re-recording. Having a limited budget and only specific days allotted, four to be exact, in a studio demands a quicker process of polishing the sound, according to Stover.

“You have to refine quickly,” Stover said. “You have to be really smart about what you’re putting in the music and how much time you’re putting into everything.”

Having a producer this time around also made a difference in the creative process as well.

“You think you know what’s best, and you think you know what’s awesome just because you’re the one who did it, or you’re the one who came up with it, but then the producer will be the one to tell you, ‘no, that’s a shitty idea, don’t do that,’” Boyd said with a laugh.

Although there were times the producer blocked some ideas that the band was keen for, his expertise and instruments were overall beneficial and essential to the Play Pretend production process, according to the band.

“(His input) made a huge difference on the impact of the song,” Stover said. “Not to mention the gear, and his ability to record stuff really quick just saved us a lot of time and money, and made us sound better than we’ve been able to ever make ourselves sound.”

From left: Brayden Deskins, singer of the band " A Yawn Worth Yelling," Tyler Boyd, singer, and Taylor Stover, drummer, present their latest EP, "Play Pretend," at Bottom of the Hill, a club at 17th Street in San Francisco Sunday, Nov.15. (Qing Huang/Photo)
From left: Brayden Deskins, singer of the band A Yawn Worth Yelling, Tyler Boyd, singer, and Taylor Stover, drummer, present their latest EP, Play Pretend, at Bottom of the Hill.

Along with its release of Play Pretend, the band’s other big move this year was a literal one, to Los Angeles. They hope this move will help them break through in the industry a little more.

“We figure: it’s the jugular of the music industry, and we want to get our foot more in the door,” Deskins said.

Although they admit LA has a lot of opportunities, they don’t think the Bay Area is a bad scene to be in, just different. They also like the appeal that a lot of their favorite bands have broken through from LA.

“We figured if we got involved in the scene there, then we’ve got a good start, and we can probably forge a name for ourselves,” Deskins said. “If we can make a name for ourselves in LA, we can make a name for ourselves anywhere.”

Stover adds that the band was part of a publishing company that had all of their bands, including A Yawn Worth Yelling, play in LA for executives this past summer. Since then, the band has had many opportunities pop up, such as acquiring a manager with MIH Entertainment who is based out of LA.

After signing to MIH, they began to receive more opportunities, according to Deskins. Trips to Los Angeles became routine, and to avoid the constant commute, the band decided to give the city a chance.

“(There is) nothing wrong with the Bay Area at all,” Stover said. “We want that to still be our hometown, and we want to still have kick ass shows and all that.”

As for their plans for the future: schmoozing with the Kardashians. The band lives 5.4 miles away from the famous tv-family. “We can see it from where we live, and we are hoping to get an in with Kanye,” they said jokingly.

But in reality, they are set to play a few shows in the Bay Area and Southern California, as well as plans for videos and other social media content. They also hope to continue “campaigning” their latest release and becoming more established in music scene — in both Northern and Southern California.

“But mostly the Kanye thing,” Deskins said.

SF to NYC Comparison

By Ashley Goldsmith

In 2012 Businessweek.com named San Francisco as America’s best city.  The vast employment opportunities, many ways in which one can spend their disposable income and the cityscape are a few of the many reasons why San Francisco was chosen. The city’s sudden rise in popularity is reminiscent of another major American city nearly one hundred years ago.

During the 1920s New York City was the place to be. The economy was booming, unemployment was low and many Americans were moving from rural areas to urban centers. San Francisco has seen a similar upswing in the past several years thanks to the growing tech boom in the Bay Area.

The Roaring Twenties was a time of prosperity across major cities in the U.S. but more specifically in New York City. Between 1920 and 1930 there was a 19 percent increase in the city’s population which meant that there was a need for major infrastructure changes. This need created jobs in construction and transportation that had not been necessary before.

According to the New York Transit Museum, between 1913 and 1931 the majority of the subway system that New Yorkers use today was built. The Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building had both been completed by 1930 which created construction jobs throughout the late 1920s.

In 21st century San Francisco, hoodies have replaced flapper dresses and smartphones have replaced the radio as a tool for mass communication, but the expansion and success of 1920s Manhattan has been replicated in many ways.

Between 1950 and the late 1980s, the population of SF was decreasing steadily until 1990 when it increased by nearly 45,000 people because of the Internet boom. By 1995 the Internet had become available for commercial use, allowing for the first generation of tech startups to emerge. Amazon, eBay and Craigslist paved the way for companies like Google and Facebook in the Bay Area.

A similar boom has happened again. Between 2010 and 2014 the population of San Francisco increased by over 47,000 people. Exceeding the increase during the first Internet boom just four years into the decade. The unemployment rate of San Francisco has steadily remained below the average in California. Over the past year it has stayed below four percent and is now at 3.4 percent while the state is at 5.7 percent. Jobs in transportation, construction, business and hospitality have all increased significantly over the past year according to California’s Employment Development Department.

These jobs have likely become available for the same reasons that they did during the Roaring Twenties: when the population of a city increases, the need to improve infrastructure also increases.

A report released by Mayor Ed Lee in May, shows a five-year plan for the city to build more housing, expand public transportation and develop neighborhoods.

While San Francisco hasn’t quite turned into The Great Gatsby, the decadence of the era has been mirrored in the Bay Area in many ways. According to Michael Flamm, Professor of History at Ohio Wesleyan University, in the 1920s there was a shift in America that took emphasis away from careers as an individual’s defining quality and instead placed more emphasis on possessions.

“External qualities have become more important than internal qualities,” Flamm said in an interview with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “That’s really one of the significant cultural changes that we see during this interwar period, the great emphasis on consumerism and on consumption.”

According to Lehrman, the birth of consumerism led to the increase in large advertising firms in New York City that used psychological techniques to market products to convince consumers that using these items will positively affect how others view them.

In San Francisco, tech companies have created smartphones and platforms like social media that have become new status symbols. Expect to get some side-eye when you tell someone that you don’t have an iPhone or a Facebook account. The boom in consumerism in America has developed further thanks to the products that are being creating by companies in the Bay Area.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Franciscans spend more money eating out than any other city in the country. Smartphone apps like Postmates and Eat24 make this form of consumerism an easy way to spend money from the comfort of home. These are just a few of the ways in which San Francisco has turned itself into such a desirable place to live and a consumer-driven city.

Living in the Bay Area can sometimes feel like you’re living in the future, peppered with remnants of emerging cities past.