16 Resources to Learn About Gentrification, Racial Justice in the SF Bay Area

San Francisco is home to some of the largest wealth gaps anywhere in the nation — all of which have contributed to generational gentrification and racial injustices.

Tens of thousands of people in the Bay Area attended dozens of protests to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement at its peak in 2020. Images of swarms of bodies taking over the Golden Gate Bridge, the plaza in front of City Hall, and the streets of the Mission demonstrated that our region cares about the fight for racial justice.

But what are we all doing to better understand and impact our own communities?

With rates of gentrification still ascending, in tandem with housing prices continuing to soar amid record-level cases of homelessness, San Francisco is home to the most extreme income inequalities in the country. We all have a duty to realize that national reform is needed, but we must start by looking at ourselves and our own communities. Especially those of you who’ve flocked to the Bay Area for six-figure salaries in tech and bussed commutes into Mountain View — now’s also the time to acquaint yourself with how regional gentrification continues to widen the racial disparities faced by BIPOC Bay Area residents.

Because frankly: The first step to mending any troubled relationship is to realize your own role in it. And now that we live in a period where narratives and insights outside our own are only a thumb-scroll away, there’s no excuse not to seek them out, comparing and contrasting them to your own experiences and ideas of the world.

Below, we have compiled 16 specific resources and nuggets of wisdom that you can sponge up about where you live — and wring out as reactants for individual and communal betterment.

1. See how gentrification is displaying and traumatizing Oakland’s young adults in ‘DISPLACED’

Presented by Youth Beat, which provides media training and mentorship for Oakland youth, this documentary tells the stories of young people in the East Bay who have been impacted by the Bay Area housing crisis. DISPLACED is an exercise in minimalist cinematography. There are no blasting soundtracks nor busy graphics — just youths speaking directly into a camera as they tell their stories of evictions, homelessness, and other trials created by East Bay gentrification. A must-watch.

2. Read ‘How to Kill a City bought from a Black-owned bookstore

If you want to better understand how gentrification happens and impacts people living in the affected communities, you must read Peter Moskowitz’s 2017 book How to Kill a City. Moskowitz talks to community leaders, activists, and residents, telling a broad narrative in four major U.S. cities — New Orleans, Detroit, New York, and San Francisco. It sheds light on the Bay Area’s rampant urban recondition, how it drains our city of its vibrant, equitable spaces, and leads to dwindling numbers of people of color.

3. Watch ‘The Force’ to learn more about the Oakland Police Department

This Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary by Oakland filmmaker Peter Nicks expertly examines the complex relationship between the Oakland Police Department and the community it serves. The Force, released in 2017, shares fly-on-the-wall footage between 2014 and 2016, when Nick’s embedded with the long-troubled department. The film shows officers attempting to handle federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and even ends up documenting reactions to a report on sexual misconduct by officers. The film shows officers attempting to usher in a new era of transparency and accountability in the force… which we can objectively say is still very much a work in progress.

4. Listen to the ‘Bay’ podcast on NPR

KQED’s new daily podcast does not center specifically on race, but it is a good resource right now to hear perspectives from its on-the-ground reporters such as Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, who is covering the demonstrations, and in-depth interviews with Black community members who are shedding light on racial disparities here in the Bay Area. Case in point: One of their most recent episodes goes into detail about the death of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a BART police officer in 2009.

5. Watch ‘A Conversation on Race and Privilege with Angela Davis and Jane Elliott’

This hour-long conversation between Angela Davis, a prominent force in the Black Panther movement in Oakland, and Jane Elliot, creator of the Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes exercise occurred in 2018 at the University of Houston. Now available on YouTube, the two women dive into the notion of white privilege and systematic racism. A line of dialogue that really stuck out: “We’ve been encouraged to think of ourselves as individuals, primarily. And not members of a larger community.”

6. Tune into the Hella Black Podcast

“The official podcast of the people” was founded in 2015 by Blake Simons and Delency Parham. On the show, the two hosts seek to “educate and inform listeners on all things related to Blackness,” covering a wide range of political discussions such as sexism, transphobia, and Black activism, all with honesty, vulnerability, and often humor. They also now have merch available!

7. Stream ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’

2019’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a poignant film inspired by the real-life account of Jimmie Fails as he went about reclaiming the Victorian-style house where his family once lived in the now-gentrified Fillmore District. (Of course, gentrification’s not chronically unique to the Fillmore District, per this digestible academic report on displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area.) Without breadcrumbing spoilers, it’s a sweeping story of hometowns and the people who live in them — and the struggles people of color deal with in order to keep those neighborhoods alive.

8. Peruse the San Francisco Public Library’s online photo archive

One of our city’s invaluable resources, the library’s online photo archive is flush with images of protests, arrests, and civil demonstrations in San Francisco during the 1960s. Scrolling through these images organized under a “civil rights” keyword search unearthed stills not unlike what we’re seeing play out today. Also, the Estuary Press has made a selection from the Harvey Richards Media Archive that highlights the Black Rights movement in the greater Bay Area, which is available online for free. The prevailing civic landscape only proves that pictures really are worth a thousand words — and that smartphone-snapped videos are key.

9. Stream ‘Streets By VICE: San Francisco’

This mini-documentary from VICE covers the history and gentrification of San Francisco, with a special emphasis on Market Street. If you’re looking for an intro to understanding the gentrification of the Bay Area over the years, this is a good place to start an overview — the 20-minute video features interviews with the Coalition on Homelessness Director Jennifer Friedenbach, La Taqueria owner Miguel Jara, and rapper Andre Nickatina. It covers issues like a Twitter tax break, housing prices, and homelessness.

10. Listen to children denounce hate, racism, and violence in ‘We Are The Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical’

This HBO-shown documentary follows Oakland children preparing for the annual MLK Oratorical Festival, where students get up on stage to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through passionate speeches, poems, and choruses. This film is produced by Emmy Award-winning Amy Shatz and executive-produced by Oakland-born Mahershala Ali — winner of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Juan in Moonlight. We Are The Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical is an instilling piece of cinema that gives hope that the next generations will usher in a brighter, more empathic future.

11. Learn the history of the Black Panthers (and Black Activism) in the Bay Area

Recently, fellow The Bold Italic writer Casey O’Brien penned a well-fleshed-out article about the history of the Black Panthers in the Bay Area, including how Oaklandians Huey Newton and Bobby Seale constructed what became the cornerstone of the Black Power movement, and Newton’s untimely murder in 1989. Once you’re done reading, feel free to donate to these Bay Area organizations fighting for racial justice.

12. Pick up a copy of ‘The Black Power Movement’

If you want to go deeper into the history of this movement, this book by Peniel Joseph offers important examples of undocumented histories of black liberation and “Black Power Studies” scholarship. The Black Power Movement dives into the intersections of classism and race, and how each fueled blind upscaling across the nation.

13. Start a dialogue on Oakland’s gentrification after seeing ‘A Changing Oakland’ docuseries

Made up of profiles on individual Oaklandians, A Changing Oakland is a docu-series that’s as much an ode to the city’s history and residents as it is a call for change and betterment. Character highlights — “The Mother,” “The Homeowner,” “The Advocate,” and so on — showcase Oakland in ways that soulless soundbites can’t do justice, all of which help spur conversations around how Oaklandians will survive in the wake of widespread gentrification and corporate capital (and ensuing greed).

14. Follow @Moms4Housing on Twitter

After garnering worldwide attention for inhabiting a vacant West Oakland house, the Moms4Housing group — made up of mothers who have experienced homeless — has become a beacon in the fight for housing insecurity in the Bay Area. Their Twitter handle (@moms4housing) has continued to usher conversations on the topic into the social sphere and is now doubling as a one-stop place to see scenes of activism play out throughout the Bay Area. Should you have the means to do so, consider donating to their ongoing efforts to help home-abandoned BIPOC community members and advocate for universal housing as a human right. And while you’re at it, make sure to follow these eight Black Bay Area activists on Twitter and Instagram.

15. Read through a macro narrative on the Bay Area’s part in the Civil Rights Movement

Google Arts & Culture has syndicated “The Civil Rights Movement in the Bay Area” photo essay and collection from the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley. The digital catalog is segmented in topical blurbs — “Core,” “Jobs,” and “Housing” — as they pertain to local events during the Civil Rights Movement. Take particular note of Martin Luther King’s visit to the Bay Area in May of 1964 and how he galvanized culpability to address housing disparity across the region.

16. Take a look back at what segregation in the Bay Area looked like

FoundSF has chronicled a timeline of segregation in the Bay Area, from the 1930s through the 1950s. The timeline gives a detailed account as well as historic images of protests and sit-ins at places like car showrooms, hotel lobbies, and other public places that discriminated against Black people. We also suggest reading about the state’s transition to trying to integrate, including the controversial process of busing Black children across cities to integrate into the state’s public schools. “Desegregation busing” continued well into the ’70s; Senator Kamala Harris was one of those children bussed across Berkeley.

Feature image: Courtesy of Twitter via [at]onlyinsf

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