Transforming Visability



Our Lady J, writer for the Amazon TV series “Transparent," sings an original composition as part of Trans Day of Visibility, a performance and award reception held March 31 at SOMArts. TDoV is an annual holiday celebrated around the world dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments and victories of transgender and gender non-conforming people while raising awareness of the work that is still needed to save trans lives. The holiday was founded in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating transgender people.


Photo: Kyle Ludowitz




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Black Lives Matter as Grand Marshal


Diversity spotlighted at this year’s SF Pride



Black Lives Matter, the activist group advocating for marginalized black people as well as queer, transgender, differently abled, undocumented, and formerly incarcerated people, has been named the Organizational Grand Marshal at this year’s 46th annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade.


The leftist alliance seems fitting considering the theme for the event is, “For Racial and Economic Justice.”


According to SF Pride, grand marshals are local heroes from San Francisco Bay Area counties who have made significant contributions to the SF Bay Area LGBTQ community, or as openly gay members of the LGBTQ community, have made significant contributions to society at large. Some grand marshals are determined by Pride’s Board of Directors, while others are decided by a community vote. Past grand marshals have included organizations like the Trans March, celebrities like Cyndi Lauper, and honorary recipients like Chelsea Manning.


The decision to make the Black Lives Matter movement a grand marshal was based on the group’s mission statement: “[Black Lives Matter] goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at allBlack Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”


Two other grand marshals were also announced last month, both of whom are people of color. Larry Yang, who has helped to create several LGBTQI meditation groups in the Bay Area, will be the community grand marshal. Janetta Johnson, the executive director of the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project, is the member’s choice for community grand marshal.


The struggles of the LGBT and people of color movements are tightly intertwined. Several leaders of Black Lives Matter are also members of the LGBT community, including the founding members Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors. An article in Breitbart cleverly referred to Black Lives Matter as, “the Black Panther Party, reimagined by lesbian community organizers with smart phones.”


“Just like we don’t live in a two-dimensional world, we don’t live two-dimensional lives,” Garza said in an interview with The Advocate.


In fact, Garza was one of the grand marshals of last year’s SF Pride. Garza, 35, grew up in Marin County, has lived in San Francisco and now resides in Oakland. She has organized around the issues of health, student services and rights, rights for domestic workers, ending police brutality, anti-racism, and violence against trans and gender non-conforming people of color. Her writing has been published in several major newspapers and she remains active with BLM.


In 2012, Garza wrote a Facebook post ending in the three words that jump-started a social movement around police violence against the black community. Garza’s original post that proclaimed “Black Lives Matter” was a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Black Lives Matter originally used social media—including hashtag activism—to reach thousands of people instantly. BLM generally engages in direct action tactics that make people uncomfortable enough that they have no choice but to address the issue at hand. For example, BLM members chained themselves together and stopped traffic on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last January. The protest was what one group leader called “a strong, courageous stand in solidarity” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the celebration of King’s birthday.


While SF Pride is no stranger to controversy, the inclusion of BLM as a grand marshal may stir up some unrest. According to the San Francisco Examiner, an opinion piece written for the Wall Street Journal titled “The Myths of Black Lives Matter,” was posted on a bulletin board in the San Francisco Police Department’s Taraval Station in February. Parts of the article had been highlighted in yellow including, “Forty percent of cop killers have been black,” and “the Black Lives Matter movement has convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men.” The article remained posted for four days. The officer that posted the article was not identified.


SF Pride is taking a stand by naming BLM a grand marshal. Both groups will unite in the fight for equal rights. SF Pride 2016 will commence on Saturday, June 25. The Parade kicks off on Sunday, June 26. The 10 remaining grand marshals will be announced leading up to the celebration.



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Anti Trump Rally Fizzles Downtown


Curt Wechshler dressed in burka he made with the Rainbow flag while shaking a paper mache image of Donald Trump


On Super Tuesday, March 15, three protesters huddled together on the steps of Bank of America office building at 555 California St. to protest Donald Trump’s run for president. They protested his corporate greed, racism, homophobia, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment. They believe he is a charlatan trying to buy the presidency.


The organizers hoped to attract several hundred activists in a non-violent demonstration. One of Trump’s lies, the group says, is that he owns the Bank of America building at 555 California St.—he actually owns one-third of the 33-story office tower.


The three protesters were outnumbered by the media and police 3 to 1. In case of violence similar to Chicago, six police monitored the expansive plaza of the Bank of America. It was a warm spring day in the Financial District in the shadow of the Banker’s Heart, the large black sculpture on the plaza.


Waiting to catch some exciting footage of an unruly crowd, two cameramen from local TV stations didn’t get controversial footage of hundreds of protesters on the steps of the Bank of America as a helicopter hovered overhead.


Melanie Nathan, looking very embarrassed, had organized the event. She said, “There wasn’t enough lead time to get the word out in a day.”


As the executive director of the African HRC (Human Rights Committee), she shouted, “Our message is anyone who antagonizes America to be hateful, unwelcoming, or fearful does not represent our values. San Francisco is a proud city that is the better part of what America stands for – equality and inclusiveness. We strive for racial, gender, sexuality, economic equality, fairness, and justice. For as long as Trump fails to apologize for his hateful speech continues along his path to use the presidential election process as a pulpit for hate, he and his investments are not welcome in our city. Get out Trump!”


According to Nathan, Trump is trying to use his money to influence winning the presidency.


As street theater, Curt Wechshler, one of the three, put a rainbow flag over his head that looked like a burka with a small space for his eyes so he wouldn’t trip on the flag in a puddle around his shoes. You could see the tiny slit for his eyes. No one seemed to care he was waving a three foot high paper mache image of Trump that looked like a piñata full of candy.


“A vote for Hillary,” said Jeffrey Kwong, an Asian immigrant who was one of the protesters, “is a vote for her experience protecting us immigrants in our unstable world order.”


To most people in the Castro, Trump looks like a a snake oil salesman who talks in sound bites that are easily repeatable. He incites crowds to riot rather than reflect on how a businessman who has never held an elected public office could possible lead this country in the 21st century.


Meanwhile, Hillary is ready to open an office in both Northern and Southern California, likely in May. She recently met with supporters in Hillsborough for a conversation as she was building her war chest and creating more infrastructure.


Trump’s run to many in the Castro seems out-of-step.


“He is inciting people for violence—that’s not good for the country and the world,” said Riyad Khouryhot, an immigrant who owns the Castro Nail Salon. “This country is made by immigrants. He is making hate normal.”


“He is an embarrassment to the Republican Party and the country as a whole,” said Christopher Troxell, a self-employed attorney and landscaper. “The only good thing is the media circus around him makes the democratic victory more likely if people go out and vote.”


If a small sample of people living in the Castro think it’s time to dump Trump, image how crazy our political system must seem to most foreigners when they know $20 million was spent on the race to capture the state of Florida, where Trump won on Super Tuesday.


An expat living in Corsica summed up his run. “Insults, slanders, lies, and coarseness have replaced the good old political debates where views were aired and discussed in a more civilized even friendly manner. But where is the political agenda? All we hear is methods of oppression, judgment, persecution, and propaganda, a sure recipe for social disaster! Far from me to imagine that greed, hatred, and ignorance, and I might add vulgarity, were the new requirements to become the President of USA!”


Photo Sally Swope


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Earth Day To Re-purpose Valencia Street

Earth Day is April 23 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Valencia St.


Earth Day San Francisco Street Festival 2016 will be held just a short walk from the Castro on Valencia and 22nd streets, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Come and celebrate in the streets with music, dance, and a multitude of ways by which you can make Earth Day every day even more than you already do.


Wendy: Earth Day SF Street Festival was once held in San Francisco’s Civic Center and this year will be on 22nd and Valencia Streets. Will this be your first year in the Mission?


Douglas: This is actually our second year. It was so successful last year that we decided to do it again.


Wendy: Obviously Civic Center is central to San Francisco but the Mission is such a lively neighborhood, and is multicultural like your festival.


Douglas: Exactly. That’s why we chose it. We actually brought on a lot more local environmental groups and green folks from the city this time, not so much from all over. We have people coming from all over the Bay, the talent and everything else, we just wanted to keep it to local folks; it has much more impact [that way].


Wendy: Yes. In San Francisco there are so many people focused on green living, and green organizations, that you really don’t have to go outside of our seven miles. You’d mentioned Bay Area talent; you have three stages planned for this event, a full day of entertainment. Will all three stages be mostly musical?


Douglas: Yeah. We have the main stage which is gonna be [for] some of the bigger live acts. We’re doing a David Bowie tribute which is all of these studio musicians from the city, amazing recording artists, have all come together and put together this tribute. We have Katdelic, a really great funk dance group, like a Parliament meets Prince kinda thing. Then we have some more folky things, eclectic stuff. The other stage - we call it Planet Dance, and it’s a DJ section. We have about seven different DJs from the Bay Area coming together and doing [dance] music all day long. The third stage is actually kind of an impromptu stage; in the center of the event we have different dance troupes, and people doing Capoeira, and a couple of classes. There’ll be a Zumba class, drumming class, interactive fun stuff.


Wendy: And there will be an eco-fashion show.


Douglas: The eco-fashion show’s great. We’re doing two different types this year. There’s one, which is fun, where people make clothing out of found objects, more costumey things, and educational actually. Then we have a more high brow fashion show where it’s still all made with organic cottons, and bamboo, hemp, but definitely a high fashion type thing.


Wendy: You’ll have all sorts of green products, including clothing, as well as environmental non-profits.


Douglas: We have about 60 exhibitors and it’s everything from clothing/accessories to eco/green products people can use in their homes, different demos, a bunch of hands-on things that are great, that leave people with something to remember, an impression. Then we have 15, 20 non-profits there, everything from Greenpeace to smaller non-profits that are doing clean up on the beaches here in the city, all different types of initiatives and things for people to get involved in. For me that’s actually the most important part as an activist. All the music and everything else is to get people there so we can educate them while they’re there.


Wendy: Absolutely. So your goal, along with providing all of this information, is community involvement and activism. And let’s face it, what’s good for the Earth’s health is always good for our personal health.


Douglas: Exactly. We have quite a few holistic health things going on and we emphasize the connection between your body being a temple and being part of the Earth. It’s all connected if you treat yourself well: eat well, and have better buying practices. It’s amazing how much water and everything it takes to create a hamburger. If you’re a vegetarian for a week, you’re making a difference. We don’t get radical about things, but we suggest things to people and give them information on how these alternatives can really make a difference. [That’s] all about your more personal, day to day thing. Then, the more global thing: we’ll emphasize divesting in companies that invest in oil, and investing in things like wind, solar, things like that. we have a fun time doing it but it’s definitely all geared towards education.


Wendy: It sounds like this festival keeps growing. How much space will you have there in the Mission? Your website says 22nd and Valencia.


Douglas: To be honest with you it’s smaller than we’ve had in the past and we’ve had to drop some of the activities, but mostly we just condensed everything, brought it together in more of a village type of atmosphere. Boom! Turn around there’s one thing. Boom! Here’s the beer and wine garden, which is being sponsored by Sierra Nevada, who has the most amazing eco-friendly factory you’ll ever see. I don’t know the exact dimensions, but we have all of Bartlett Street too, which is a side street that goes all the way from 22nd all the way to 23rd.


Wendy: There are still a few things that we haven’t mentioned....


Douglas: One of them is the speakers. We have speakers from all different non-profits and activists coming in. We’re gonna have the speakers in between the bands on the main stage. There’s a few that have some pretty interesting things going on, like the Friends of the Urban Forest. They’re giving an award. Every year they do the greenest neighborhood in San Francisco award ceremony. We have a couple of [San Francisco] supes who’re going to speak as well and then everyone from authors to political activists to non-profit leaders.


Wendy: And artists will be represented too.


Douglas: Yeah!! You know what? This year there’s going be more art and interactive art than ever. We have about seven different artists coming that do eco/green subject matter, and also do sculptures and things with found objects. The Art Wall is coming. He sets up this huge wall on both sides, and then he does a little sketch on there, like a guideline, for people to do their own thing. We’re using that as a praise to Mother Earth kind of art piece. The other thing which is always really nice is the Kids Zone that we have. SCRAP comes in, and a bunch of other organizations, and we do some really great arts and crafts type things for the kids. Then we have all the healthy snacks and organic goodies to go to the kids while they’re there, so it’s a nice vibe.


Wendy: Right, and then you can get a massage!


Douglas: There you go; there you go! We have two different groups of massage folks that are coming in, so you definitely will get a massage.


Wendy: Do you still have a need for volunteers?


Douglas: Absolutely. We have about 55 volunteers, but we can bring in more. There’s lots to do and we give everybody a tee shirt and a lunch and a ticket to the after party that we have, which is at the Make-Out Room, right on the footprint of our event. It’s a very decent size nightclub.


Wendy: That’s a great club. It’s been there for a long time too; it’s good to support venues that have been in this community for such a long time.


Douglas: Yeah, yeah. So, April 23rd, 10 to 7!


Photo courtesy of Douglas Kolberg


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Castro CBD Celebrates First Decade of Work

These are people who received Certificates of Appreciation for their work on behalf of the CBD over the past year: (from left to right) CBD Board Member Joel Bubeck, CBD Board Member Shawn Vergara, Treasurer Alan Lau, CBD Board Member, Alex Harken, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, President Scott James, Executive Director Andrea Aiello, State Senator Mark Leno. Photo: Paul Margolis


Though we often are not aware of it, somehow time moves on and events in the Castro are no exception.


It was just a decade ago that the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD) first rolled out its services. On Sunday, March 13, the organization held a 10th anniversary party attended by upwards of 300 people at The Patio on Castro Street.


In case you didn’t make it, it was a fundraiser for Castro Cares, but more on that shortly. Food and drink were featured from some of the newest Castro restaurants as well as long-time favorites. The free event was headed by lead sponsor the Apothecarium and well known emcee Donna Sachet. Donations to Castro Cares were accepted at the event and are still welcome through the CBD donation page:


Throughout the year the CBD, under welcoming and knowledgeable director Andrea Aiello, sponsors a number of programs in the Castro that include Live! in the Castro, showcasing a wide variety of artists and performers at Jane Warner Plaza, the CBD Clean Team,which has removed over 3,000 marks of graffiti in just one month, and police and other personnel addressing aggressive panhandling an average of 36 times a month.


Scott James, board president of the Castro/Upper Market CBD, said “what surprised me most about preparing for the 10th anniversary was taking stock of how much the CBD does.” He looked at it this way: “Thousands of pounds of trash cleaned up each month. In 10 years that adds up to 1.4 million pounds, more than the weight of three Statue of Liberty monuments. And there have been thousands of graffiti removals, plus beautification and streetscape improvements.”


What would the neighborhood look like if property owners had not stepped forward a decade ago to fund this special effort,” he asked. “It took a leap of faith back then to form the CBD, and we owe a debt to those who had the foresight.”


Over a year ago the former head of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association (or EVNA), Alan Beach-Nelson, worked on average 30 hours a week for six months focused on bringing to life a unique initiative to address “quality of life issues with compassion and added enforcement” in the Castro. A former fundraiser with a background in business, finance and marketing, Alan counts securing the funding to build the Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto as among his most significant achievements.


Along with many San Franciscans, he felt that in the face of an understaffed police force and insufficient funding for homeless engagement programs, it was time for the city to try something different. Winner of the “Just Do It Award” at the 10th anniversary party, Alan characteristically pushed and pushed to make Castro Cares a reality.


The program he, the CBD and others developed had the goals of securing resources for added enforcement of city laws and, very important to Alan, compassionate care for those in need. It was not just to get homeless people to move out of the neighborhood, but to try things that make a long-term difference. In effect Castro Cares would bring “additional, dedicated homeless outreach workers and additional dedicated police patrols to the Castro and Upper Market.”


With a belief in compassionate outreach to those with mental-health and chronic-homelessness problems, activities include the Castro Cares Homeless Outreach Team


assisting individuals with getting an ID, a shelter bed, a shower and clean clothes, and generally encouraging them to get on a better track. Castro Cares also provides additional police patrols to address late-night and after-hours disruptive behavior.


Alan admits that he was “really touched by the award,” which ultimately garnered $175,000 per year for two years in city funding.


According to the Homeless Outreach Team’s January report, of 146 outreach contacts, 69.9 percent resulted in positive engagements and 30.1 percent refused engagement and discussion. Partial demographics from the January report showed 72.6 percent male, 23 percent female and 1.4 percent each for trans male and trans female. Serving a predominantly younger population, the team recorded 47.4 percent under age 30 and 65.7 percent under age 40. As to ethnicity, the majority were white males. The full reports for January and February are public documents and can be obtained at here.


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Volvo garage on 16th Street Sold
for $5 Million



The Volvo Centrum garage on 16th Street at Sanchez has been sold for close to $5 million. After operating out of this location for over 40 years, the Volvo Centrum will move down the street and this lucrative (and highly-priced) space will be turned into an office development. A Change of Use permit has been filed.


While many details are still unknown, interior demolition of the shop has already begun. The 1915 facade remains intact for the time being.


Plans filed with the city also include a single residential unit. There is, as of yet, no word on whether this will be a large scale development, like the ones contested at the site of the Home restaurant. There is also no word on how much of the historic building will be changed in order to change the purpose of the space.


Concern has been expressed regarding the preservation of this corridor that has historically contained many auto repair shops, most of which have fallen by the wayside. Other concerns raised regard the city’s loss of industry and repairs in exchange for space for white-collar offices and white-collar workers.


Despite concerns, local business owners have expressed excitement for the alleged switch from a garage to an office space. The switch would make this one of the few spaces in the area that would bring transit — and consumers — to the area midday. This increase in foot traffic would bring in a great source of income where there was previously none.


The independent Volvo garage has been continuously operating at the 16th Street location since 1970. The business is now in the process of transitioning to a new location within San Francisco.




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Compromises Over CPMC Changes



The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association (DTNA) and Sutter Health, which owns the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) at Duboce and Castro streets, have been negotiating changes on the campus for eight years. Compromise never comes easily and both parties had agendas that were important. The changes concerned improvements for the area surrounding the medical complex that impacted neighbors of the hospital.


According to a spokesman for the CPMC, Dean Fryer, the DTNA raised the concern about lighting on 14th Street as a first priority of concern. Lighting was added along the sidewalk on the 14th Street side of the campus. In addition, new light bulbs were added in the parking lot to create a brighter environment along 14th street. This stood to benefit the grocery store on the corner of Divisadero and 14th streets.


Hundreds of people daily use the sidewalks on all sides of CPMC. The area is congested with foot traffic. Two Muni bus stops are on Divisadero Street at 14th and Duboce streets, plus a block away is a stop for the N Judah Muni line. Also on the Duboce side of the hospital is the well-known Harvey Milk Art Center, recently renovated Duboce Park and the First Christian Church.


When you count in the family and friends of patients as well as CPMC’s administrative and medical staff, you see how many people use these sidewalks at all hours of the day and night.


The other main bone of contention has been what to do about the chain-link fence covered with ivy on Noe Street. The DTNA advocated for residents on Noe St. to tear down the ugly chain link fence that has surrounded the campus for 30 years, according to the organization’s Jan.-Feb. newsletter.


CPMC has no plans to remove the ivy covered chain-link fence along Noe Street according to Fryer.


“In fact there are plans to plant addition foliage to fill in the gaps where ivy is missing. The ivy-covered fence provides a nice aesthetic green barrier that softens the view of the parking lot for neighbors and maintains a secure perimeter on that side of the property.”


Additionally, the other items the DTNA was asking for have been completed. Bamboo has been planted in boxes to soften the view of the hand therapy building, Fryer said, and the pine trees that didn’t thrive have been replaced by redwood. There are plans for a future move of the hand therapy into the hospital by 2018, which was mandated by the San Francisco Zoning Department.


“We continue to engage with our campus neighbors to help continually improve our neighborhood environment,” Fryer said.


Both the CPMC and the DTNA have found ways to compromise so the neighborhood benefits with a safer, more visually appealing and secure neighborhood.

© Castro Courier 2014 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

© Castro Courier 2014