Angel Investment

Over a Million See Nation’s Oldest Pride ParadeEmployees of Google, Apple and Facebook participated in SF Pride 2014, prominently adding to the spectacle.   PHOTOS: Bill Sywak

 

 

With approximately one million people at this year’s 44th annual Pride Celebration, the big story was the crowds of marchers from leading San Francisco and Bay Area tech and other companies, all in shiny white and bright colors and having a great time.

 

Last year’s huge boost in crowds from all over the area and indeed the world carried over from the euphoria of the legal sanctioning of same-sex marriage that had occurred a few weeks before. That same celebratory fever seemed to carry through into this year, with families ten-deep on sidewalks, looking at the 23 floats set up at Pier 54, the most ever.

 

In fact, one East Bay family that had come to see what a gay celebration looked like had to wait on a BART platform for four trains to pass by before they could squeeze onboard to San Francisco.

 

The big story of Pride in this year’s community celebration, however, was the enormous participation of high-spirited employees from the major businesses and employers in our high tech incubator of the world.

 

Everyone talked about the five thousand marchers that Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out in the rows of white tee-shirts with red Apple outlines. Other marchers came en masse from the likes of Facebook, Google, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente and PG&E. Officially there were more.

 

It was also fascinating to some onlookers to discern what they suspected were different corporate cultures reflected in the marchers - from a creative approach to veggies at Whole Foods, to a muted orderliness at Apple or a casual individualism at Google.

 

This year the week-long Pride events themselves, not just the parade, got a fresh start and big boost from the new Pride board and George Ridgely, Pride’s new Executive Director. Demonstrating that experience counts, Ridgely came to Pride after eleven years at Bay to Breakers and another nine as leader of the Castro Street Fair. When asked what has been the most challenging aspect of his new job, Ridgely replied with the inevitable: “finding enough time to sleep.”

 

He said, “The first cycle producing any event of this size and scope is always the most challenging, given the number of moving and intertwined parts.”

 

And the most gratifying aspect, whether realized or pending? “The most gratifying moment of this whole experience was when this year’s Community Grand Marshal, 16-year-old Jewlyes Gutierrez, came back for a second hug - after we had said goodbye once - before leaving City Hall after the Mayor’s flag raising ceremony. Knowing that SF Pride and the overwhelming support of our community has made such a positive impact on Jewlyes after the bullying she faced at school is inspiring. That moment stands out among all the others.”

 

The People:

 

 

 

The Techies:

 

 

 

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Police Called in as Kink.com Protests Outside Armory Grow Violent Kink.com’s headquarters in the Armory Building at 14th and Mission streets routinely flies the LGBT rainbow flag from its roof. The adult entertainment company is well-known in the areas of bondage and dungeon porn.

 

 

On the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, a number of local protestors found themselves at the painful end of police batons after demonstrating against a high-profile prison-themed party near the Castro.

 

The incident happened the Saturday night of Pride weekend when fetish porn purveyor Kink.com hosted a “Prison of Love” party at its headquarters in the historic Armory building on 14th and Mission streets. In response, two direct action groups, LAGAI-Queer Insurrection and Gay Shame San Francisco, organized a march of close to 100 people to crash the party, from the outside.

 

The demonstration, which did not have official City permits, began as a vocal march that culminated in speeches and the projection of digital images spliced with criminal justice facts on the brick walls of the Armory Building to protest the party’s “fetishizing of the prison-industrial complex.” But then the crowd swelled, traffic was stopped and the police responded to a call to the scene, according to SFPD’s Public Information Officer Albie Esparza.

 

“Two of the security guards were struck by two demonstrators. One demonstrator threw a metal object that struck a security guard. Another one threw an egg and spit on a security guard. And that group left for the 16th Street BART plaza. Police were called,” he said.

 

Esparza said that when the police arrived at the 16th Street BART plaza, the victim security guard approached them and identified the demonstrators who had perpetrated the assault. “When we have a crime occurring, we are going to go where the suspects are,” he said.

 

“When you have demonstrators charging the police attempting to take back prisoners, you’re going to be guaranteed that we are going to respond with additional resources,” Esparza said. “We are San Francisco Police and we have dealt with many protests over the years. But when people become violent, that’s unacceptable, and we’re going to deal with that appropriately.”

 

But not all feel the police action was so appropriate. Gay Shame member Lacey Johnson, who witnessed the arrests but was not detained herself, gave a quite different account. She said that dozens of police descended on protestors and began using force immediately.

 

“They didn’t speak to us. Everyone was confused. All of a sudden I heard screaming and looked around and saw a group of police throwing somebody on the ground,” she said.

 

In all, three people were arrested and held on charges ranging from lynching a prisoner (attempting to pull a detained suspect away from police custody) to assault with a deadly weapon, while three others were cited, according to Esparza. While some misdemeanor charges still loom, all felony counts have been dismissed by the District Attorney George Gascon’s office pending an investigation.

 

In response to the incident, approximately 50 people gathered for a rally at the 16th Street BART station on July 2 urging the SF District Attorney’s Office to drop all charges against the three protestors who had been released earlier that day.

 

Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, a 32-year-old Oakland resident who was one of the three released from SF County Jail that day, spoke at the rally.

 

“Kink is a huge capitalist organization that’s basically exploiting the criminalization of people of color to make even more money,” she said. “I think it’s very telling that people can pay hundreds of dollars to go to this party where they are fictitiously arrested for playful fun while the trans-Latinas who are literally around the two block radius of Kink.com are constantly criminalized.”

 

Kink.com had sold approximately 3,000 tickets for the event before receiving an open letter from the activist groups threatening of the protest. Kink.com Founder and CEO Peter Acworth responded on Youtube by releasing a video characterizing the party as a celebration but attesting that he sympathized with the protestors’ message. However, Acworth, who was himself arrested for possession of cocaine last year, goes on in the video to defend his decision not to call it off because too many tickets had already been sold.

 

Gay Shame’s Johnson doesn’t buy it.

 

“There was an open letter going around. He had time to respond. He had time to call off the party. He chose to do neither of these things,” she said. “So he’s avoiding responsibility for the issue.”

 

 

 

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Sidewalks Before and After: A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

Lost revenue ills faced by local merchants now put in the rear view mirror

Before and after photos of the sidewalk construction project now completed by the City. To help businesses facing lower sales, San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development issued a $25,000 grant to the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District. The CBD used the money mainly to advertise the shopping district on MUNI and BART.

 

The painstaking jack-hammering of the City’s sidewalk-widening project may now be finished in the district, but Castro Street businesses are still reeling from slower customer traffic during the prior months of construction.

 

“As expected, the sidewalk widening project has been difficult,” said Terry Asten-Bennett, manager of Cliff’s Variety. Asten-Bennett just concluded her term as president of the neighborhood merchant’s association. “The worst part was when the gates were up and the corners were difficult to navigate.”

 

Sales at Castro Street stores are down anywhere from five percent to 45 percent, said new Castro Merchant’s President Daniel Bergerac. Sales at The Cove on Castro Cafe have been down at least 35 to 40 percent, according to its owner, Solange Darwish. And at Cliff’s Variety, sales have been down as much as 20 percent compared with last year.

 

Despite the challenges, many business owners are optimistic wider sidewalks will drive business higher when the project is finished. Asten-Bennett said within hours people flooded the neighborhood after the contractor took down the gates.

 

“We are grateful for the break in the work,” Asten-Bennett said. “This break has given us a chance to breathe and get a really good idea of what the finished sidewalks will look like. We are really excited.”

 

“The outcome far outweighs the challenges,” said Bergerac. He said the neighborhood will be more of a draw with wider sidewalks.

 

Besides the sidewalks, the project includes a number of other attractions. Twenty plaques inscribed with historical neighborhood facts are being set in sidewalk by the contractor. The contractor is also installing plaques with pictures of heroes and heroines of the LGBT communities. The latter is known as the Rainbow Honor Walk.

 

Street lights are being moved closer to the center of Castro Street, and the street will be getting new shorter light poles, or pedestrian-scale lighting. And the City is planting trees along the street.

 

At the intersection of Castro and 18th streets, the neighborhood is getting four rainbow crosswalks. And Castro Street is getting colored programmable LED lights, called celebratory lights. The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD) will control the color pattern of the lights.

 

Locations of the new trees, new pedestrian-scale lighting, plaques and relocated street lights have been identified by the contractor. The project includes other changes as well, such as reconfigured crosswalks at the intersection of Market and Castro streets.

 

Prior to the project’s start, some merchants were concerned it would result in a loss of parking spaces in the neighborhood. But the Department of Public Works, which is overseeing the project, said there will be no net loss of parking.

 

“As far as parking is concerned, we were promised a net zero loss in parking,” Asten-Bennett said. “Each and everyone [one] of [us] is now acutely aware of how important parking is to the success of our businesses.”

 

But Asten-Bennett said a promised parking “space in front of the RC gas station … doesn’t appear to be happening. I hope they have kept their word about the rest of the spaces,” she said.

 

Other merchants have criticisms too. One merchant declined to comment except to say, “I’m waiting to see what the end result looks like.” The merchant expressed concern about a narrower Castro Street and how that would affect deliveries to area businesses.

 

“I haven’t seen any horrible backups,” Bergerac said. Traffic seems to be moving a little slower, which is not a bad thing, he said.

 

To help businesses facing lower sales, San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development issued a $25,000 grant to the Castro/Upper Market CBD. The CBD used the money mainly to advertise the shopping district on MUNI and BART.

 

Photo: Keith Burbank

 

Photo: Bill Sywak

 

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Mobile Showers Non-Profit Finds Area Fundraisers

 

Doniece Sandoval, founder of local non-profit Lava Mae, wants to create a mobile revolution. Her mission is to bring what she believes is a basic human right – access to clean water and sanitation – to the burgeoning population of 6,436 homeless San Franciscans, more than half of whom are un-sheltered, according to the 2013 Homeless Point-in-Time Count report.

 

Lava Mae will attend to this need by providing mobile showers, refurbished from decommissioned Muni buses. The mobility of the units allows Lava Mae to circumvent the high cost of rent in the city while allowing them to serve a greater area. The project launched its first bus last month and will continue providing showers on Capp Street between 16th and 17th streets on Saturday’s from 7 a.m. to noon.

 

There are currently only eight shower facilities available to the homeless within the city, each with two stalls. On the Lava Mae website they promise to “provide a much needed service to help a population struggling to retain a sense of dignity and self-worth”.

 

The impact the lack of facilities has extends beyond the physical and psychological health of those affected. Kara Zordel, director of Project Homeless Connect supported the project, saying, “Without the ability to get cleaned up, how can anyone successfully pursue relationships, employment, or even permanent housing?”

 

Lava Mae is on board with numerous local organizations. Currently, the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center is the partnering facility for Saturday shower services. The bus will pull up at the center and use water from fire hydrant, which they pay the city for. They will do this with other partnering facilities in the future.

 

Clients sign up and wait inside the client facilities. People will go in two at a time and have a ten minute hot water shower and ten additional minutes inside. Each bus will have two complete bathrooms, with toiletries, towels, and a bench. Privacy and safety were kept in mind when designing.

 

“If you’re homeless, there’s no place you can go to get real privacy. If you’re a woman, there’s a high chance of getting attacked” says Sandoval.

 

Castro Resident and Mr. Daddy’s Barbershop Leather pageant winner Nile Eckhoff is raising money for Lava Mae. He is providing boot-blacking services on most Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Jane Warner Plaza. Jeff Cilione of Daddy’s Barbershop plans to match the money Eckhoff raises in the future.

 

“I never thought how difficult it must be to stay clean. It really took Lava Mae to explain that to me” says Eckhoff. “This is one of the coolest non-profits I’ve ever seen in my life”, he added.

 

Despite the fact that the hardship and misery of our city’s homeless population is so often blatantly on display, their needs for clean water and sanitation aren’t always considered, according to Sandoval. “We tend to think that people are dirty because they want to be dirty”, she says.

 

After moving here from New York, Sandoval was struck by the extremes of visible homelessness and despair. A cab driver taking her through SOMA described it as the “land of broken dreams.” A woman screaming “I will never be clean” in the Tenderloin was the linchpin in her decision to take action.

 

Inspired by mobile food trucks and a handful of other communities across the country who were providing mobile showers converted out of used horse trailers and mobile homes, she leveraged her background in PR and marketing in order to raise money for the project, including the 75,000 it took to refurbish the bus.

 

After finding out that the SFMTA would be replacing buses with hybrids, she contacted former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, now of HOPE – Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (at the Office of the Mayor) — to ask about the decommissioned buses, and was able to get them donated. This began the relationship which Sandoval describes as instrumental in helping her overcome difficulties such as deciding where to store the buses, where to supply the water from, and ultimately to achieve her goal.

 

Lava Mae will continue to fund-raise in earnest and has three additional buses awaiting remodeling on Treasure Island. If all goes as planned, each bus will serve one of four quadrants of the city, providing services 5 days per week. Additionally, they hope to serve as models for similar projects around the world, and have been contacted by communities as far as Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

Frameline Comes Home to Castro

 

 

The spotlight was on the Castro and the LGBT community during the last 11 days of June as the Castro Theatre played host to Frameline38, which was the 38th edition of the first-ever gay & lesbian film festival in the world.

 

What started out as a tacked up sheet and some Super 8 films at a community center on Page street 38 years ago has grown into the largest LGBT film festival worldwide - one that has films from over 35 countries and an attendance of up to 65,000 people, a big change in only a few decades.

 

And it would appear much has also changed, in the Castro, San Francisco, and the gay community at large since Frameline’s humble beginnings. And this year’s festival was happy to reflect these changes through the stories of their 214 films from 31 countries, ranging from stories of transgender journeys to a documentary on the cultural phenomenon that is George Takei, also a guest at this year’s festival.

 

This year’s films have been collected all year long as programming coordinators traveled to film festivals worldwide, screened films from countless budding filmmakers, and converged with the international queer film community to find this year’s best of the best. After all, it is said that getting your film into Frameline is a stamp of approval in the film community and the queer community. The festival might only be 11 days, but Frameline Staff started Frameline38 the day Frameline37 closed.

 

The festival opened with “The Case Against 8,” so suited for this festival, showing the Castro neighborhood complete with special instance of having the plaintiffs from the case actually there. The film and its screening with the film’s ‘stars’ showed a new meaning of documentary filmmaking in which landmark historical moments can be shown to a viewer, an outsider, a curious party, the feelings, emotions, and the moment-to-moment experience of being a part of this journey. By putting the audience as a fly on the wall, history is now able to come alive in a way that it was not able to for other important cases.

 

Other specialties this year include a focus on Russian queer cinema, an especially topical subject for this moment in queer history, as Russia and Russian queers face oppression and propaganda. The Russian films showed a tenacity of the Russian people and the Russian queer community that, like the thread running through many of the festival’s films, illustrated the strength of the individuals and communities that struggled - and often succeeded - to survive in hostile communities and spaces.

 

The selection of films on Russia in particular, as well as those films stemming from other, less progressive, countries, showed the strong face of a queer community in a less hospitable environment than the one we enjoy here in San Francisco, which could not help but be duly noted outside the Castro Theater as Pride gaiety (pun maybe intended) raged outside on what some call the ‘Gay High Holy Days’. The festival itself contributes to this moment in the sun for the Castro neighborhood and Frameline adds yet another level to the festivities that take place over the course of the weekend, and provided an alternative to revelers for whom dancing in the street is no longer their preferred mode of celebration as well as serving as a reminder to the oppression faced by other communities in other times and places aside from the cheerful streets of San Francisco.

 

As this party for Pride raged outside the Castro Theatre’s doors, the festival brought yet another point to the forefront, one not often considered. As we enjoy a new level of openness and acceptance here in San Francisco, films such as “Out in East Berlin,” among others, brought to mind the important question of what happens to a community when it is no longer oppressed, when it is no longer as necessary to band together and create awareness and change together. One of the interviewees in “Out in East Berlin,” who moved from a limiting East German society across the wall to West Berlin in the late 80s, noticed that those across The Wall were less enlightened, less informed. To them, she felt, being gay was a big ‘ol party, although her experience had put her queerness as part of her struggle, but also part of her wisdom. In these current days of San Francisco, it is important to hear these kinds of stories from marginalized queer communities that remind us of the wealth of freedom we enjoy, and never to forget the communities that brought us here nor the insight that comes from being against something together.

 

With these thoughts in mind, the festival closed on a lighter note with German tragicomedy ‘I Feel Disco’. After so many emotions throughout the festival, there simply is nothing like a feel-good story that speaks just as much about the awkward sexuality that comes with a gay youth as it shows the universality of the uncomfortable moments discovering our sexuality at all around your parents.

 

This commonality reiterates a main theme of the festival at large and a main point of the entire Frameline mission: changing the world through queer cinema, a cinema that is for everyone.

 

And that everyone most certainly includes the residents of the Castro neighborhood, the site of so many celebrations and protests that have helped to mold the queer community over the decades. For many of the festival’s participants, having their film screened at the Castro Theater, for the Frameline audience, is something exceptional. As Desiree Buford, Director of Programming for the festival, says “there is something so honest about the audience, the location. After so much hard work, the audience is what makes the festival really special, to see these people connecting with the stories on the screen.” And after a year spent searching the globe for these films and stories, returning to the Castro is much like coming home.

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Interview by Wendy Oakes

Merola Opera ProgramJulie Adams and Thomas Gunther, performers at Merola.

Opera School To Perform July Concerts in Castro

 

Jean Kellogg is Executive Director of the Merola Opera Program, a fantastic and all-inclusive training program for gifted young opera students. Merola will be showcasing their artists at Everett Middle School, in the Castro, as well as at Yerba Buena Gardens, and the War Memorial Opera House.

 

Wendy:

 

Let’s talk about the three different performances that you’ve got coming up at Everett Middle School [450 Church Street]. The first one, on July 10th and 12th, is A Streetcar Named Desire, a story that I think most people are familiar with, and it seems so perfectly suited to opera.

 

Jean Kellogg:

 

They’re certainly familiar with the play, and with the movie. This is the operatic version that Andre Previn premiered in ‘98 with the San Francisco Opera. It’s been performed since then but Merola wanted to do it. We commissioned a composer to write a reduced orchestration of it with the consent of Maestro Previn. So it’s a much smaller orchestra, and so much more portable and usable in smaller venues. It’s very well written for young voices; it’s what Merola’s all about; it’s a high level training program for the operatic stars of the future. The two main characters, Blanche and Stanley have some terrific music. Though it’s modern contemporary, it has elements of classical music and jazz.

 

Wendy:

 

Following Streetcar, on July 17th, you have the Schwabacher Summer Concert, which features arias from some of the most famous operas.

 

Jean:

 

We extended themes from familiar operas and not familiar operas. What it does, it showcases young people with large instruments, or unusual instruments, that don’t fit into what could be considered a young artist’s repertoire. Last year we had a Wagnerian tenor. It’s fun; we do Verdi and Puccini and there are some other scenes going on here. Because they’re young, they really aren’t physically ready for roles yet; they need more time for their voices to mature. Singers [improve] when they have good voices. This is a chance for them to try out the role, at least a part of the role, and you can hear where the voice is going. It’s always very exciting to hear this group of people because they tend to be the ones that will end up in the larger houses.

 

Wendy:

 

That’s wonderful. The last performance at Everett Middle School, on July 31st and on August 2nd, is Don Giovanni.

 

Jean:

 

It’s a classic tale of Don Juan. Again, it’s a really great one for young artists. Mozart is the perfect [composer] for young artists. What meaty roles they get!! Donna Anna is a huge challenge for any soprano; it’s [an] extremely difficult role. [Don] Ottavio as well; we have a tenor, Ben Werley, who’s gonna sing both arias. Mozart only wrote one aria for the tenor, but he added Dalla Sua Pace for a particular tenor that sang the opera, because he could! Many tenors have tried, over the years to sing it. Some have succeeded and many have failed, but we’ve got one who’s definitely going to succeed tremendously in that role.

 

Wendy:

 

After the Merola performances at Everett you have a wonderful opportunity for the artists to be seen at the opera house [San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House].

 

Jean:

 

Yes. That’s where you get to hear how well they perform [in] a very large operatic setting. They go from Everett, which is about 900 seats, to the War Memorial Opera House, which is almost 3000 seats. So, they’re gonna have to fill the house and project their voices, over a full orchestra of course. The Schwabacher operas are being done with orchestras that are between 32 and about 45 players, whereas in the opera house it’ll be 65 or 70 players. We don’t have a repertoire for that yet; it’s still being chosen, but it’ll be a wonderful mix of things. I’ve heard rumors of a wonderful scene from Rigoletto coming up!

 

Wendy:

 

You’ve been referring to the singers; Merola annually brings in 29 students, 23 of them singers, that are chosen from a huge number of applicants, something close to 1000 applicants from all around the world.

 

Jean:

 

Exactly right.

 

Wendy:

 

For their efforts in applying, the lucky students that are chosen get free tuition at this school, as well as housing, travel expenses - everything they really need to make a go of it?

 

Jean:

 

Yeah, stipends to live, stipends to pay for Starbucks! (laughs) We have very generous donors, such as Amici Di Merola. They supply them with picnics; they take them on outings; they pick them up at the airport; take them to the doctor if they need it. So, there’s a group, a guild of sorts, that helps with all the volunteer stuff. And once they leave this summer, Merola doesn’t leave them behind. They are eligible for the next five years to apply for career grants - 5000 dollars per year, with a max of 10,000 - 12,000 over the course of five years, for things like traveling to auditions, competitions, voice lessons, coaching, intensive language study overseas, all that sort of thing. They apply for it; the committee reviews it, looks at all the numbers, checks the airfares, and all of that. This is something that really launches their career. They don’t have the finances; they’re too young to have any money collected to be able do these things. To be invited to a competition is wonderful, but if you can’t afford the airfare to get there for the preliminaries, you’re out.

 

Wendy:

 

While the students are here they have a full range of lessons, everything you need for opera, which is really a pretty extensive set of skills because you need all of the theater skills, aside from vocal skills.

 

Jean:

 

Vocal coaching, voice lessons, acting lessons, movement, languages, just about everything. Also, they have people coming in and talking to them about the business, how to manage themselves as a self-employed singer, working with agents, and of course, agents are coming through here all summer long listening to them.

 

Wendy:

 

You have luminaries from all walks of opera life coming in to offer their expertise.

 

Jean:

 

Yes, absolutely.

 

Wendy:

 

You also have membership to Merola, which entitles members, at various levels, to be part of this whole process - to watch an audition, or to attend a reception, etcetera.

 

Jean:

 

Absolutely. That’s what differentiates Merola from a typical opera company. At the San Francisco Opera you buy a ticket and you go and see the final product. At Merola you get to sit in on the rehearsals at certain levels. Many members get to go to master classes with great teachers and hear them work with [the students]. All day long they can go sit in on coachings, rehearsals for the operas, and also acting classes So, they can see everything from behind the scenes which is very exciting. You really get to understand the art form that way.

 

© 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.

Angel Investment

Over a Million See Nation’s Oldest Pride ParadeEmployees of Google, Apple and Facebook participated in SF Pride 2014, prominently adding to the spectacle.   PHOTOS: Bill Sywak

 

 

With approximately one million people at this year’s 44th annual Pride Celebration, the big story was the crowds of marchers from leading San Francisco and Bay Area tech and other companies, all in shiny white and bright colors and having a great time.

 

Last year’s huge boost in crowds from all over the area and indeed the world carried over from the euphoria of the legal sanctioning of same-sex marriage that had occurred a few weeks before. That same celebratory fever seemed to carry through into this year, with families ten-deep on sidewalks, looking at the 23 floats set up at Pier 54, the most ever.

 

In fact, one East Bay family that had come to see what a gay celebration looked like had to wait on a BART platform for four trains to pass by before they could squeeze onboard to San Francisco.

 

The big story of Pride in this year’s community celebration, however, was the enormous participation of high-spirited employees from the major businesses and employers in our high tech incubator of the world.

 

Everyone talked about the five thousand marchers that Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out in the rows of white tee-shirts with red Apple outlines. Other marchers came en masse from the likes of Facebook, Google, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente and PG&E. Officially there were more.

 

It was also fascinating to some onlookers to discern what they suspected were different corporate cultures reflected in the marchers - from a creative approach to veggies at Whole Foods, to a muted orderliness at Apple or a casual individualism at Google.

 

This year the week-long Pride events themselves, not just the parade, got a fresh start and big boost from the new Pride board and George Ridgely, Pride’s new Executive Director. Demonstrating that experience counts, Ridgely came to Pride after eleven years at Bay to Breakers and another nine as leader of the Castro Street Fair. When asked what has been the most challenging aspect of his new job, Ridgely replied with the inevitable: “finding enough time to sleep.”

 

He said, “The first cycle producing any event of this size and scope is always the most challenging, given the number of moving and intertwined parts.”

 

And the most gratifying aspect, whether realized or pending? “The most gratifying moment of this whole experience was when this year’s Community Grand Marshal, 16-year-old Jewlyes Gutierrez, came back for a second hug - after we had said goodbye once - before leaving City Hall after the Mayor’s flag raising ceremony. Knowing that SF Pride and the overwhelming support of our community has made such a positive impact on Jewlyes after the bullying she faced at school is inspiring. That moment stands out among all the others.”

 

The People:

 

 

 

The Techies:

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Police Called in as Kink.com Protests Outside Armory Grow Violent Kink.com’s headquarters in the Armory Building at 14th and Mission streets routinely flies the LGBT rainbow flag from its roof. The adult entertainment company is well-known in the areas of bondage and dungeon porn.

 

 

On the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, a number of local protestors found themselves at the painful end of police batons after demonstrating against a high-profile prison-themed party near the Castro.

 

The incident happened the Saturday night of Pride weekend when fetish porn purveyor Kink.com hosted a “Prison of Love” party at its headquarters in the historic Armory building on 14th and Mission streets. In response, two direct action groups, LAGAI-Queer Insurrection and Gay Shame San Francisco, organized a march of close to 100 people to crash the party, from the outside.

 

The demonstration, which did not have official City permits, began as a vocal march that culminated in speeches and the projection of digital images spliced with criminal justice facts on the brick walls of the Armory Building to protest the party’s “fetishizing of the prison-industrial complex.” But then the crowd swelled, traffic was stopped and the police responded to a call to the scene, according to SFPD’s Public Information Officer Albie Esparza.

 

“Two of the security guards were struck by two demonstrators. One demonstrator threw a metal object that struck a security guard. Another one threw an egg and spit on a security guard. And that group left for the 16th Street BART plaza. Police were called,” he said.

 

Esparza said that when the police arrived at the 16th Street BART plaza, the victim security guard approached them and identified the demonstrators who had perpetrated the assault. “When we have a crime occurring, we are going to go where the suspects are,” he said.

 

“When you have demonstrators charging the police attempting to take back prisoners, you’re going to be guaranteed that we are going to respond with additional resources,” Esparza said. “We are San Francisco Police and we have dealt with many protests over the years. But when people become violent, that’s unacceptable, and we’re going to deal with that appropriately.”

 

But not all feel the police action was so appropriate. Gay Shame member Lacey Johnson, who witnessed the arrests but was not detained herself, gave a quite different account. She said that dozens of police descended on protestors and began using force immediately.

 

“They didn’t speak to us. Everyone was confused. All of a sudden I heard screaming and looked around and saw a group of police throwing somebody on the ground,” she said.

 

In all, three people were arrested and held on charges ranging from lynching a prisoner (attempting to pull a detained suspect away from police custody) to assault with a deadly weapon, while three others were cited, according to Esparza. While some misdemeanor charges still loom, all felony counts have been dismissed by the District Attorney George Gascon’s office pending an investigation.

 

In response to the incident, approximately 50 people gathered for a rally at the 16th Street BART station on July 2 urging the SF District Attorney’s Office to drop all charges against the three protestors who had been released earlier that day.

 

Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, a 32-year-old Oakland resident who was one of the three released from SF County Jail that day, spoke at the rally.

 

“Kink is a huge capitalist organization that’s basically exploiting the criminalization of people of color to make even more money,” she said. “I think it’s very telling that people can pay hundreds of dollars to go to this party where they are fictitiously arrested for playful fun while the trans-Latinas who are literally around the two block radius of Kink.com are constantly criminalized.”

 

Kink.com had sold approximately 3,000 tickets for the event before receiving an open letter from the activist groups threatening of the protest. Kink.com Founder and CEO Peter Acworth responded on Youtube by releasing a video characterizing the party as a celebration but attesting that he sympathized with the protestors’ message. However, Acworth, who was himself arrested for possession of cocaine last year, goes on in the video to defend his decision not to call it off because too many tickets had already been sold.

 

Gay Shame’s Johnson doesn’t buy it.

 

“There was an open letter going around. He had time to respond. He had time to call off the party. He chose to do neither of these things,” she said. “So he’s avoiding responsibility for the issue.”

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

Sidewalks Before and After: A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

Lost revenue ills faced by local merchants now put in the rear view mirror

Before and after photos of the sidewalk construction project now completed by the City. To help businesses facing lower sales, San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development issued a $25,000 grant to the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District. The CBD used the money mainly to advertise the shopping district on MUNI and BART.

 

The painstaking jack-hammering of the City’s sidewalk-widening project may now be finished in the district, but Castro Street businesses are still reeling from slower customer traffic during the prior months of construction.

 

“As expected, the sidewalk widening project has been difficult,” said Terry Asten-Bennett, manager of Cliff’s Variety. Asten-Bennett just concluded her term as president of the neighborhood merchant’s association. “The worst part was when the gates were up and the corners were difficult to navigate.”

 

Sales at Castro Street stores are down anywhere from five percent to 45 percent, said new Castro Merchant’s President Daniel Bergerac. Sales at The Cove on Castro Cafe have been down at least 35 to 40 percent, according to its owner, Solange Darwish. And at Cliff’s Variety, sales have been down as much as 20 percent compared with last year.

 

Despite the challenges, many business owners are optimistic wider sidewalks will drive business higher when the project is finished. Asten-Bennett said within hours people flooded the neighborhood after the contractor took down the gates.

 

“We are grateful for the break in the work,” Asten-Bennett said. “This break has given us a chance to breathe and get a really good idea of what the finished sidewalks will look like. We are really excited.”

 

“The outcome far outweighs the challenges,” said Bergerac. He said the neighborhood will be more of a draw with wider sidewalks.

 

Besides the sidewalks, the project includes a number of other attractions. Twenty plaques inscribed with historical neighborhood facts are being set in sidewalk by the contractor. The contractor is also installing plaques with pictures of heroes and heroines of the LGBT communities. The latter is known as the Rainbow Honor Walk.

 

Street lights are being moved closer to the center of Castro Street, and the street will be getting new shorter light poles, or pedestrian-scale lighting. And the City is planting trees along the street.

 

At the intersection of Castro and 18th streets, the neighborhood is getting four rainbow crosswalks. And Castro Street is getting colored programmable LED lights, called celebratory lights. The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD) will control the color pattern of the lights.

 

Locations of the new trees, new pedestrian-scale lighting, plaques and relocated street lights have been identified by the contractor. The project includes other changes as well, such as reconfigured crosswalks at the intersection of Market and Castro streets.

 

Prior to the project’s start, some merchants were concerned it would result in a loss of parking spaces in the neighborhood. But the Department of Public Works, which is overseeing the project, said there will be no net loss of parking.

 

“As far as parking is concerned, we were promised a net zero loss in parking,” Asten-Bennett said. “Each and everyone [one] of [us] is now acutely aware of how important parking is to the success of our businesses.”

 

But Asten-Bennett said a promised parking “space in front of the RC gas station … doesn’t appear to be happening. I hope they have kept their word about the rest of the spaces,” she said.

 

Other merchants have criticisms too. One merchant declined to comment except to say, “I’m waiting to see what the end result looks like.” The merchant expressed concern about a narrower Castro Street and how that would affect deliveries to area businesses.

 

“I haven’t seen any horrible backups,” Bergerac said. Traffic seems to be moving a little slower, which is not a bad thing, he said.

 

To help businesses facing lower sales, San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development issued a $25,000 grant to the Castro/Upper Market CBD. The CBD used the money mainly to advertise the shopping district on MUNI and BART.

 

Photo: Keith Burbank

 

Photo: Bill Sywak

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Mobile Showers Non-Profit Finds Area Fundraisers

 

Doniece Sandoval, founder of local non-profit Lava Mae, wants to create a mobile revolution. Her mission is to bring what she believes is a basic human right – access to clean water and sanitation – to the burgeoning population of 6,436 homeless San Franciscans, more than half of whom are un-sheltered, according to the 2013 Homeless Point-in-Time Count report.

 

Lava Mae will attend to this need by providing mobile showers, refurbished from decommissioned Muni buses. The mobility of the units allows Lava Mae to circumvent the high cost of rent in the city while allowing them to serve a greater area. The project launched its first bus last month and will continue providing showers on Capp Street between 16th and 17th streets on Saturday’s from 7 a.m. to noon.

 

There are currently only eight shower facilities available to the homeless within the city, each with two stalls. On the Lava Mae website they promise to “provide a much needed service to help a population struggling to retain a sense of dignity and self-worth”.

 

The impact the lack of facilities has extends beyond the physical and psychological health of those affected. Kara Zordel, director of Project Homeless Connect supported the project, saying, “Without the ability to get cleaned up, how can anyone successfully pursue relationships, employment, or even permanent housing?”

 

Lava Mae is on board with numerous local organizations. Currently, the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center is the partnering facility for Saturday shower services. The bus will pull up at the center and use water from fire hydrant, which they pay the city for. They will do this with other partnering facilities in the future.

 

Clients sign up and wait inside the client facilities. People will go in two at a time and have a ten minute hot water shower and ten additional minutes inside. Each bus will have two complete bathrooms, with toiletries, towels, and a bench. Privacy and safety were kept in mind when designing.

 

“If you’re homeless, there’s no place you can go to get real privacy. If you’re a woman, there’s a high chance of getting attacked” says Sandoval.

 

Castro Resident and Mr. Daddy’s Barbershop Leather pageant winner Nile Eckhoff is raising money for Lava Mae. He is providing boot-blacking services on most Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Jane Warner Plaza. Jeff Cilione of Daddy’s Barbershop plans to match the money Eckhoff raises in the future.

 

“I never thought how difficult it must be to stay clean. It really took Lava Mae to explain that to me” says Eckhoff. “This is one of the coolest non-profits I’ve ever seen in my life”, he added.

 

Despite the fact that the hardship and misery of our city’s homeless population is so often blatantly on display, their needs for clean water and sanitation aren’t always considered, according to Sandoval. “We tend to think that people are dirty because they want to be dirty”, she says.

 

After moving here from New York, Sandoval was struck by the extremes of visible homelessness and despair. A cab driver taking her through SOMA described it as the “land of broken dreams.” A woman screaming “I will never be clean” in the Tenderloin was the linchpin in her decision to take action.

 

Inspired by mobile food trucks and a handful of other communities across the country who were providing mobile showers converted out of used horse trailers and mobile homes, she leveraged her background in PR and marketing in order to raise money for the project, including the 75,000 it took to refurbish the bus.

 

After finding out that the SFMTA would be replacing buses with hybrids, she contacted former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, now of HOPE – Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (at the Office of the Mayor) — to ask about the decommissioned buses, and was able to get them donated. This began the relationship which Sandoval describes as instrumental in helping her overcome difficulties such as deciding where to store the buses, where to supply the water from, and ultimately to achieve her goal.

 

Lava Mae will continue to fund-raise in earnest and has three additional buses awaiting remodeling on Treasure Island. If all goes as planned, each bus will serve one of four quadrants of the city, providing services 5 days per week. Additionally, they hope to serve as models for similar projects around the world, and have been contacted by communities as far as Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

 

Frameline Comes Home to Castro

 

 

The spotlight was on the Castro and the LGBT community during the last 11 days of June as the Castro Theatre played host to Frameline38, which was the 38th edition of the first-ever gay & lesbian film festival in the world.

 

What started out as a tacked up sheet and some Super 8 films at a community center on Page street 38 years ago has grown into the largest LGBT film festival worldwide - one that has films from over 35 countries and an attendance of up to 65,000 people, a big change in only a few decades.

 

And it would appear much has also changed, in the Castro, San Francisco, and the gay community at large since Frameline’s humble beginnings. And this year’s festival was happy to reflect these changes through the stories of their 214 films from 31 countries, ranging from stories of transgender journeys to a documentary on the cultural phenomenon that is George Takei, also a guest at this year’s festival.

 

This year’s films have been collected all year long as programming coordinators traveled to film festivals worldwide, screened films from countless budding filmmakers, and converged with the international queer film community to find this year’s best of the best. After all, it is said that getting your film into Frameline is a stamp of approval in the film community and the queer community. The festival might only be 11 days, but Frameline Staff started Frameline38 the day Frameline37 closed.

 

The festival opened with “The Case Against 8,” so suited for this festival, showing the Castro neighborhood complete with special instance of having the plaintiffs from the case actually there. The film and its screening with the film’s ‘stars’ showed a new meaning of documentary filmmaking in which landmark historical moments can be shown to a viewer, an outsider, a curious party, the feelings, emotions, and the moment-to-moment experience of being a part of this journey. By putting the audience as a fly on the wall, history is now able to come alive in a way that it was not able to for other important cases.

 

Other specialties this year include a focus on Russian queer cinema, an especially topical subject for this moment in queer history, as Russia and Russian queers face oppression and propaganda. The Russian films showed a tenacity of the Russian people and the Russian queer community that, like the thread running through many of the festival’s films, illustrated the strength of the individuals and communities that struggled - and often succeeded - to survive in hostile communities and spaces.

 

The selection of films on Russia in particular, as well as those films stemming from other, less progressive, countries, showed the strong face of a queer community in a less hospitable environment than the one we enjoy here in San Francisco, which could not help but be duly noted outside the Castro Theater as Pride gaiety (pun maybe intended) raged outside on what some call the ‘Gay High Holy Days’. The festival itself contributes to this moment in the sun for the Castro neighborhood and Frameline adds yet another level to the festivities that take place over the course of the weekend, and provided an alternative to revelers for whom dancing in the street is no longer their preferred mode of celebration as well as serving as a reminder to the oppression faced by other communities in other times and places aside from the cheerful streets of San Francisco.

 

As this party for Pride raged outside the Castro Theatre’s doors, the festival brought yet another point to the forefront, one not often considered. As we enjoy a new level of openness and acceptance here in San Francisco, films such as “Out in East Berlin,” among others, brought to mind the important question of what happens to a community when it is no longer oppressed, when it is no longer as necessary to band together and create awareness and change together. One of the interviewees in “Out in East Berlin,” who moved from a limiting East German society across the wall to West Berlin in the late 80s, noticed that those across The Wall were less enlightened, less informed. To them, she felt, being gay was a big ‘ol party, although her experience had put her queerness as part of her struggle, but also part of her wisdom. In these current days of San Francisco, it is important to hear these kinds of stories from marginalized queer communities that remind us of the wealth of freedom we enjoy, and never to forget the communities that brought us here nor the insight that comes from being against something together.

 

With these thoughts in mind, the festival closed on a lighter note with German tragicomedy ‘I Feel Disco’. After so many emotions throughout the festival, there simply is nothing like a feel-good story that speaks just as much about the awkward sexuality that comes with a gay youth as it shows the universality of the uncomfortable moments discovering our sexuality at all around your parents.

 

This commonality reiterates a main theme of the festival at large and a main point of the entire Frameline mission: changing the world through queer cinema, a cinema that is for everyone.

 

And that everyone most certainly includes the residents of the Castro neighborhood, the site of so many celebrations and protests that have helped to mold the queer community over the decades. For many of the festival’s participants, having their film screened at the Castro Theater, for the Frameline audience, is something exceptional. As Desiree Buford, Director of Programming for the festival, says “there is something so honest about the audience, the location. After so much hard work, the audience is what makes the festival really special, to see these people connecting with the stories on the screen.” And after a year spent searching the globe for these films and stories, returning to the Castro is much like coming home.

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Interview by Wendy Oakes

Merola Opera ProgramJulie Adams and Thomas Gunther, performers at Merola.

Opera School To Perform July Concerts in Castro

 

Jean Kellogg is Executive Director of the Merola Opera Program, a fantastic and all-inclusive training program for gifted young opera students. Merola will be showcasing their artists at Everett Middle School, in the Castro, as well as at Yerba Buena Gardens, and the War Memorial Opera House.

 

Wendy:

 

Let’s talk about the three different performances that you’ve got coming up at Everett Middle School [450 Church Street]. The first one, on July 10th and 12th, is A Streetcar Named Desire, a story that I think most people are familiar with, and it seems so perfectly suited to opera.

 

Jean Kellogg:

 

They’re certainly familiar with the play, and with the movie. This is the operatic version that Andre Previn premiered in ‘98 with the San Francisco Opera. It’s been performed since then but Merola wanted to do it. We commissioned a composer to write a reduced orchestration of it with the consent of Maestro Previn. So it’s a much smaller orchestra, and so much more portable and usable in smaller venues. It’s very well written for young voices; it’s what Merola’s all about; it’s a high level training program for the operatic stars of the future. The two main characters, Blanche and Stanley have some terrific music. Though it’s modern contemporary, it has elements of classical music and jazz.

 

Wendy:

 

Following Streetcar, on July 17th, you have the Schwabacher Summer Concert, which features arias from some of the most famous operas.

 

Jean:

 

We extended themes from familiar operas and not familiar operas. What it does, it showcases young people with large instruments, or unusual instruments, that don’t fit into what could be considered a young artist’s repertoire. Last year we had a Wagnerian tenor. It’s fun; we do Verdi and Puccini and there are some other scenes going on here. Because they’re young, they really aren’t physically ready for roles yet; they need more time for their voices to mature. Singers [improve] when they have good voices. This is a chance for them to try out the role, at least a part of the role, and you can hear where the voice is going. It’s always very exciting to hear this group of people because they tend to be the ones that will end up in the larger houses.

 

Wendy:

 

That’s wonderful. The last performance at Everett Middle School, on July 31st and on August 2nd, is Don Giovanni.

 

Jean:

 

It’s a classic tale of Don Juan. Again, it’s a really great one for young artists. Mozart is the perfect [composer] for young artists. What meaty roles they get!! Donna Anna is a huge challenge for any soprano; it’s [an] extremely difficult role. [Don] Ottavio as well; we have a tenor, Ben Werley, who’s gonna sing both arias. Mozart only wrote one aria for the tenor, but he added Dalla Sua Pace for a particular tenor that sang the opera, because he could! Many tenors have tried, over the years to sing it. Some have succeeded and many have failed, but we’ve got one who’s definitely going to succeed tremendously in that role.

 

Wendy:

 

After the Merola performances at Everett you have a wonderful opportunity for the artists to be seen at the opera house [San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House].

 

Jean:

 

Yes. That’s where you get to hear how well they perform [in] a very large operatic setting. They go from Everett, which is about 900 seats, to the War Memorial Opera House, which is almost 3000 seats. So, they’re gonna have to fill the house and project their voices, over a full orchestra of course. The Schwabacher operas are being done with orchestras that are between 32 and about 45 players, whereas in the opera house it’ll be 65 or 70 players. We don’t have a repertoire for that yet; it’s still being chosen, but it’ll be a wonderful mix of things. I’ve heard rumors of a wonderful scene from Rigoletto coming up!

 

Wendy:

 

You’ve been referring to the singers; Merola annually brings in 29 students, 23 of them singers, that are chosen from a huge number of applicants, something close to 1000 applicants from all around the world.

 

Jean:

 

Exactly right.

 

Wendy:

 

For their efforts in applying, the lucky students that are chosen get free tuition at this school, as well as housing, travel expenses - everything they really need to make a go of it?

 

Jean:

 

Yeah, stipends to live, stipends to pay for Starbucks! (laughs) We have very generous donors, such as Amici Di Merola. They supply them with picnics; they take them on outings; they pick them up at the airport; take them to the doctor if they need it. So, there’s a group, a guild of sorts, that helps with all the volunteer stuff. And once they leave this summer, Merola doesn’t leave them behind. They are eligible for the next five years to apply for career grants - 5000 dollars per year, with a max of 10,000 - 12,000 over the course of five years, for things like traveling to auditions, competitions, voice lessons, coaching, intensive language study overseas, all that sort of thing. They apply for it; the committee reviews it, looks at all the numbers, checks the airfares, and all of that. This is something that really launches their career. They don’t have the finances; they’re too young to have any money collected to be able do these things. To be invited to a competition is wonderful, but if you can’t afford the airfare to get there for the preliminaries, you’re out.

 

Wendy:

 

While the students are here they have a full range of lessons, everything you need for opera, which is really a pretty extensive set of skills because you need all of the theater skills, aside from vocal skills.

 

Jean:

 

Vocal coaching, voice lessons, acting lessons, movement, languages, just about everything. Also, they have people coming in and talking to them about the business, how to manage themselves as a self-employed singer, working with agents, and of course, agents are coming through here all summer long listening to them.

 

Wendy:

 

You have luminaries from all walks of opera life coming in to offer their expertise.

 

Jean:

 

Yes, absolutely.

 

Wendy:

 

You also have membership to Merola, which entitles members, at various levels, to be part of this whole process - to watch an audition, or to attend a reception, etcetera.

 

Jean:

 

Absolutely. That’s what differentiates Merola from a typical opera company. At the San Francisco Opera you buy a ticket and you go and see the final product. At Merola you get to sit in on the rehearsals at certain levels. Many members get to go to master classes with great teachers and hear them work with [the students]. All day long they can go sit in on coachings, rehearsals for the operas, and also acting classes So, they can see everything from behind the scenes which is very exciting. You really get to understand the art form that way.

 

The Techies:

Police Called in as Kink.com Protests Outside Armory Grow Violent Kink.com’s headquarters in the Armory Building at 14th and Mission streets routinely flies the LGBT rainbow flag from its roof. The adult entertainment company is well-known in the areas of bondage and dungeon porn.

Before and after photos of the sidewalk construction project now completed by the City. To help businesses facing lower sales, San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development issued a $25,000 grant to the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District. The CBD used the money mainly to advertise the shopping district on MUNI and BART.

© Castro Courier 2014

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