Neighborhood Bids Farewell To Prominent Bookstore

Let’s go back in time to that long ago era when many neighborhoods, especially along the East Coast, could count a small bookshop, perhaps one selling stationary and writing supplies as well, among their silent local treasures.

 

These were for people who read books - fiction, non-fiction, romance, even so-called potboilers - primarily for enjoyment. Not a cathode ray tube or digital screen was seen or heard. In time LPs and later CDs were added, as music joined reading in this pantheon to leisure and learning.

 

What better thing to do after a meal in a downtown neighborhood restaurant but to walk off dessert, passing the latest displays of books, magazines and music. A little stimulus from the outside world perhaps? Something familiar and interesting here and there.

 

No need to trace the subsequent tortured history and decline of the industry, as technology, interests, habits and living patterns changed. The issues are well known and even pop up regularly in laments about the possible future of the publishing and recording sectors.

 

Well here in River City, on the banks of Market Street in the Castro, we’re about to lose one of our last local bookstores. (Word has it that the old “A Different Light” location on Castro may reappear in a new incarnation at some point.) Much can be said about the Books Inc. store here: part of a Bay Area chain of well stocked reading emporia, intelligent survivors of the disappearance or dumbing-down of the major chains, a place to escape the kinetic over-activity outside and retreat to other times, people and places, perhaps broadening the mind and enriching the soul.

 

Back in March, Books Inc. on Market announced that their Castro store lost its lease and would be closing in mid-June. Now at the end of April that June approximation still holds. In the meantime store employees are referring customers who ask to their Opera Plaza location. Commenting on over twenty years at the Castro site, CEO Michael Tucker states that the Opera Plaza location will be expanding their LGBT selections in books and magazines “to continue to better serve customers from the Castro.”

 

In his official press release, Tucker states that all employees have been offered the chance to transfer to other locations, and no layoffs are scheduled. Employees who choose not to transfer elsewhere will be offered a severance package instead. Store hours at the Castro location will be from 11 am to 8 pm until the June closing.

 

Tucker ends by affirming that “closing Books Inc. in the Castro does not reflect on the overall health of Books Inc. or the book industry.” Indeed, there are ten other locations in the Bay area, including one that recently opened in North Berkeley and another that is scheduled to open in Santa Clara this coming summer. May a respected tradition live on!

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Hungry for Justice

 

Hunger Strike, Mass Protest Take Aim at SFPD

 

 

On Tuesday, May 3rd, five hunger strikers led a march against police brutality from the Mission Police Station to City Hall demanding Mayor Ed Lee to fire San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr if he did not resign. After not eating solid foods for 13 days, the strikers - known as the Frisco Five - were pushed across the city in wheelchairs by medics while hundreds of protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace!”

 

Nearly one thousand people gathered at the steps of City Hall as the hunger strikers made their way up the elevators to the mayor’s office on the second floor around 2:30 p.m. His assistant told them that Mayor Lee was in the Bayview and not available to speak with them. They then entered the Board of Supervisors’ chambers during its weekly meeting along with 50 other protesters chanting, “Fire Chief Suhr.” The protesters demanded they fire Suhr on the spot.

 

The Supervisors listened to what the Frisco Five had to say, but said they didn’t have the authority to carry out their demands. The discussion became heated when District 9 Supervisor David Campos got into it with one of the hunger strikers. Campos argued that firing Suhr was not going to solve anything. Board President London Breed agreed that there would not be an overnight solution to a problem as complex as racial profiling within the police department.

 

The Frisco Five include San Francisco natives Sellassie Blackwell and Ike Pinkston, District 9 Supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo, local rapper Ilyich Sato, and his 66-year old mother, Maria-Cristina Gutierrez, who first mentioned a hunger strike when Oscar Grant was killed in 2009. Then came the shooting of Alex Nieto in 2014, followed by Mario Woods and Amilcar Perez-Lopez in 2015.

 

Blackwell, 39, a political hip-hop artist and activist, says the straw that broke the camel’s back was Luis Gongora’s killing on April 7.

 

As activist organizers and community leaders, they felt the need to get the city’s attention by shining the light on unarmed black and brown citizens being killed by a “rogue, unaccountable” police department, particularly Chief Suhr and Mayor Ed Lee.

 

“We had to have an action that’s really gonna show that we’re serious,” Blackwell said. “We feel Mayor Lee is not a mayor of the people, but a mayor of corporations who are coming to privatize the city.”

 

Striker Pinkston, 42, said black and brown people are important to him and he feels it is his duty to be involved.

 

“I’ve never seen the relationship between officers and civilians the way that it is right now,” he said. “Wherever law enforcement is and there’s black people, you’re going to have situations like this. It’s a culture that’s embedded into the police department and it needs to stop. It has to stop.”

 

As a grandmother and educator, Gutierrez is concerned about youth safety.

 

“I’ve been educating children for 40 years. Now, they have to live with fear,” Gutierrez said. “The police chief allowed all those racist text messages and only fired those officers after we started fighting. He’s racist.”

 

In April, police officer Jason Lai resigned after a criminal investigation uncovered text messages sent by him, among them, “I hate that beaner, but I think the nig is worse,” and “Indian ppl are disgusting.”

 

“How can those racist police take care of our children?” Gutierrez worried.

 

She says she is a woman of belief. “I have dignity and God on my side. I’m going to prove to them that I’m willing to do anything, if my life is necessary, to change this.”

 

According to Albie Esparza, the Public Information Officer for the SFPD, Suhr has no intentions of stepping down. Suhr is determined to stay and see through the department changes he is implementing, including anti-harassment classes for all police officers. Esparza explained that the Chief is a city kid, born and raised, and that he does care about the city, the community and the agency as a police officer.

 

“There are 2,300 plus officers in our department,” Esparza said. “To categorize the department as a whole based on the actions of few is not a realistic approach. There may be a few bad apples, if you will, that’s human nature. Our department does its best to show respect and protect our community.”

 

But the hunger strikers have made an impact. Police officers walking their beats throughout the city feel it. When citizens are less inclined to talk to an officer, it brings the morale of law enforcement officers down.

 

“Without community support, it makes it hard to combat crime. It’s imperative that the agency brings back trust and make sure we move forward together,” Esparza said.

 

After addressing the Board of Supervisors, the Frisco Five were wheeled back outside by 5 p.m. They sat in a line in their wheelchairs on the steps of City Hall. They held hands. The asked the crowd to hug their neighbor. They took turns taking the microphone giving thanks to their supporters and urging people to keep fighting against racism and police brutality.

 

“I’d like to eat,” Guiterrez said in a faint voice. “I’d like to be able to see my great granddaughter. I’d like to be able to kiss my husband. [But] we won. We won because we showed them courage.”

 

Suhr cancelled a planned public appearance with Public Defender Jeff Adachi Tuesday evening due to safety concerns after the protest. As of day 14, one of the hunger strikers had been admitted to the hospital. Sato called for a silent, candlelight vigil in from of the Mission Police Station at sunset via Twitter. Mayor Lee has yet to respond.

 

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Doctor Joanna Eveland, MD, is In HIV Prevention, Treatment Advance

 

Ever since her years as a student volunteer at the Berkeley Free Clinic, Dr. Joanna Eveland, MD, has nurtured a passionate interest in health equity and social justice, especially around HIV prevention and care of the most vulnerable. Now as an expert in HIV medicine, she serves as Clinical Chief for Special Populations at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, facilitates twice monthly sessions of “The Doctor Is In” at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and is a trainer with the Bay Area and North Coast AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Eveland sees her work as promoting wellness and sharing her knowledge and hope as the medical community moves ever closer to ending the HIV epidemic.

 

What advice regarding risk reduction does she give to her patients in the city today? First, she says, it is important to consider one’s own sexual health as part of one’s overall health, and each individual needs to choose what level of risk he or she takes. Even for those who choose not to use condoms, there are strategies to reduce the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV.

 

Today we are fortunate to have a toolbox of strategies to manage our risk of HIV. Common among these are two: PrEP and what is called Treatment as Prevention. While there is much to learn about these and other terms, concepts and programs mentioned in this article, regarding this discussion as a snapshot of HIV prevention and treatment in May of 2016 and seek out more information as needed.

 

PrEP (or Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a way for HIV negative people at risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The medicine currently used for PrEP is called Truvada, and contains two medicines also used to treat HIV, tenofovir and emtricitabine. Taken consistently, PrEP decreases the risk of HIV by up to 92%. Like the birth control pill, Prep is an opportunity to reduce one’s own risk rather than relying on others, and it is very well tolerated and safe.

 

Also like the birth control pill when it was first introduced, some have raised concerns that people will have more sex and use condoms less now that they have PrEP. However, an increase in risk taking has not been seen in clinical trials of PrEP, and just as the debates around birth control have died down, Dr. Eveland suspects PrEP will become less controversial with time. Nonetheless, in any case, it is important to understand that PrEP does not protect against anything else but HIV.

 

Treatment as Prevention (or TasP) refers to decreasing the risk of HIV transmission by offering effective HIV treatment to all people living with HIV. With daily antiretroviral medication, the level of HIV virus in the body, called the “viral load,” becomes undetectable, thereby reducing an individual’s risk of HIV transmission by 96% in clinical trials. It works if one’s HIV positive partner is taking care of him or herself but requires continuous daily attention, as the HIV viral load increases rapidly if treatment is interrupted. HIV treatment has many benefits beyond preventing new HIV infections, so even those not concerned about passing HIV to others should be on antiretrovirals.

 

Another commonly used though not necessarily effective HIV prevention strategy is what is known as serosorting or seropositioning, choosing your partners or the type of sex you are having based on their reported HIV status. The problem with this strategy is that it only reduces risk for HIV-negative individuals if their partners actually know their HIV status. Since one in five HIV-positive Americans is undiagnosed, serosorting and seropositioning may actually increase HIV risk in some situations. It is best to get tested regularly. There is most risk, with the highest danger of HIV transmission, during very early HIV infection, before a regular HIV test might come back positive.

 

There are many other sexually transmitted infections other than HIV out there. Rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are increasing in San Francisco and if you are sexually active, it is important to get tested regularly.

 

Hepatitis C (Hep C for short) is another virus to be aware of. It is a virus transmitted most commonly through blood, but it has been estimated that 5-8% of men in San Francisco who have sex with men have Hep C. Dr. Lisa Capaldini is an HIV and Hep C specialist practicing in the Castro. Contrary to what was believed earlier, Dr. Capaldini states that it is possible to get Hep C during unprotected anal sex, especially if you are the receptive partner and your partner is infected.

 

Without treatment, Hep C can cause liver cancer and liver failure. Luckily, new highly effective and well-tolerated treatments for Hep C are now available, though if you are cured of Hep C, you can still get infected again. Half of all infections in the U.S. go undiagnosed, so Hep C testing should be part of one’s sexual health screening. News coverage of new Hep C treatments has focused on the high cost of the medication, but preventing the complications of Hep C is actually cost effective, and people living with Hep C should be encouraged to seek treatment.

 

Dr. Eveland believes that HIV treatment continues to improve for the better, and she is hopeful that we will actually see a cure for HIV in our lifetime. On the horizon for treatment are innovations such as long-acting injectable forms of HIV and PrEP medication and safer versions of medications we already have.

 

With regards to a cure for HIV, there are many different approaches under study. These include gene therapy, where our own cells are genetically modified to resist HIV infection, so-called therapeutic vaccines that may help the immune system of an HIV-positive person keep the infection under control without medications, and investigational drugs that might bring the HIV virus out of the cells where it is hiding so antiretroviral therapy can reach it.

 

The World Health Organization has set a goal that by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status, 90% will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% will achieve viral suppression. To do this, we will not only need to improve access to treatment, but also to overcome HIV related stigma. Dr. Eveland believes that one example of stigma are laws that criminalize HIV transmission, which often are not based on science, and discourage people from getting HIV testing and treatment.

 

At this point, Dr. Eveland refers to San Francisco’s Getting to Zero initiative, a multi-sector, independent consortium operating under the “principles of collective impact” and modeled after UNAIDS goals. Getting to Zero’s vision is “to reduce HIV transmission and HIV-related deaths in San Francisco by 90% before 2020.”

 

The mission of this volunteer-led, San Francisco effort includes maintaining current funding levels for HIV prevention and treatment and “prioritizing reaching underserved populations” based on the “principles of collective impact.”

 

Overall, Dr. Eveland’s goal for HIV therapy is not just a long life, but a high quality of life, and to do this she focuses on wellness. For many people living with HIV, new medications offer the opportunity to decrease both side effects and the number of pills taken daily. Quitting smoking is particularly beneficial to people living with HIV. Attention can then be focused on implementing and enjoying all that we know of a healthy diet, regular aerobic or other exercise, a healthy state of mind and an overall positive enjoyment of life.

 

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Wiener, Kim Set for Primary Faceoff

 

California’s first openly gay state senator is being termed out and a political battle is now underway for his seat.

 

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim are currently facing off in the June 7 primary as the two main contenders for the District 11 position, which represents all of San Francisco. But because of California’s political rules, they will likely have to do it again in November.

 

California’s fledgling top-two voting system creates an open primary for all statewide candidates. Passed by voters in 2010 as Proposition 14 and intended to create more moderate winners in primary elections, top two is a system in which the two leading candidates in the primaries, regardless of political party, advance to the general election in November. What this means for heavily liberal areas like San Francisco is that voters could be presented with the choice of two Democrats and no Republicans in the general election.

 

In 2012, State Senator Mark Leno garnered more than 80 percent of the vote, and voters in Senate District 11 haven’t elected a Republican for decades. The two well-known Democrats—Wiener and Kim—are running against lesser-known Republican Ken Loo, a firefighter and business owner. Kim and Wiener, both flush with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, don’t seem to be sweating the June vote.

 

“We have a very strong campaign and I am certain I will be in the top two going to the general election this November,” Kim said.

 

Kim has made affordability her number one campaign issue while Wiener argues the need for better transportation, safety, and affordable housing.

 

Wiener said that in one-party towns like San Francisco, the top-two system makes the race twice as long, twice as expensive, twice as volunteer intensive because the two leading Democrats essentially repeat the same race.

 

“You are putting much more pressure on candidates to raise money because you have to raise it twice,” he said.

 

So why would a Republican even run in a district with less than 10 percent registered party voters? One reason, Wiener said, is that under party rules, the highest vote-getting Republican automatically gets a seat on the party’s central committee for the next four years. These committees, which exist throughout the state, are responsible for shaping party policy by making official endorsements in local races.

 

“I could see someone running in order to assure themselves a seat on the party central committee,” Wiener said.

 

Loo, a third-generation San Franciscan, was a last-minute replacement for another Republican who had dropped out of the race, potentially leaving no GOP choice for voters. He said the San Francisco Republican Central Committee is a secondary concern for him and that he could win the race if he hits his target of just over 33 percent of the vote.

 

“I think there are a lot of undercover conservatives in San Francisco,” he said. “At first I was really skeptical but [conservative] candidates [in District 11] almost always double the Republican registration on a shoestring budget.”

 

 

 

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Film Festival Goes Green in Castro

Will Travers, Virginia McKenna, and fesitval founder Rachel Caplan discuss the legacy of Born Free at the Castro Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Pamela Gentile

 

Recently, while walking by the Castro Theatre, I discovered the San Francisco Green Film Festival was going on and peeked in on the opening night reception and found their offerings online about important environmental issues.

 

In 2011, Rachel Caplan launched the San Francisco Green Film Festival to fill the need for a dynamic forum for sharing diverse environmental stories in the city that’s at the forefront of both independent film and the global green movement. The festival brings together films, filmmakers, experts, and audiences to spark more environmental ideas.

 

I managed to meet said Rachael Caplan, founder and CEO of the San Francisco Green Film Festival, at the Roxie Theatre where most of the films were shown. What inspired you to create the Green Film Festival, I asked. “I’m passionate about film as the catalyst for massive environmental change!”

 

Rachael has worked in film exhibition and distribution since 1997, including work for the Edinburgh, London and San Francisco International Film Festivals. She was also Festival Director for the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, the first and largest showcase for ocean related films in North America. The vision for the Green Film Festival grew out of this work and to fill the need for a dynamic forum for sharing diverse environmental stories.

 

When asked what she liked most about her work, she answered, “It’s that beautiful moment in the theater when a film connects with an audience, provoking discussion, ideas, and action for everyone in the room.”

 

This exurbant tall blond woman exuded passion for the festival even introducing the festival’s last film, Not Without Us, directed by Mark Decema. He said he’d just finished the film in time for the premier. “It had to open at the Castro!” he said as the audience laughed knowing that he was right.

 

The San Francisco Green Film Festival from April 14 through April 20, 2016 was part of a city-wide celebration and focal point for the week of Earth Day. All of the films were screened at the Roxie Theater, Little Roxie and the Castro Theatres. The only other green film festival in the US has played to audiences in Washington D.C. for 23 years.

 

The Festival presented 70 internationally acclaimed, eco-focused films. Over 90 visiting filmmakers and guest speakers attended to delve into some of the most pressing environmental issues and innovative solutions. The website presented ways for audiences who were inspired to move beyond their theatre seats, gain ideas and connections to community partners and make positive environmental action.

 

The Festival’s theme this year was Keep It Wild, and the festival brought speakers had taken on enormous conflicts and daring adventures to protect their bit of wild and prove the outdoors is for everyone.

 

This year’s festival began with An American Assent, directed by Andrew Adkins and George Potter. They set out to change the face of the outdoors by following nine African Americans that take on America’s highest peak: Denali (in Alaska.) Their goal was to prove the outdoors is our collective resource and inspire all of us to protect our wild places. Bay Area climber and star of the film, Scott Briscoe, was at this San Francisco Premiere at the Castro Theater.

 

One of the most important early environmental films, Born Free, staring Virginia McKenna was shown on its 50th Anniversary. Virginia McKenna came to San Francisco for the screening of this wildlife epic. For five decades, the story of Elsa the Lioness has captured the interest of audiences worldwide. Her Born Free Foundation continues protecting these majestic animals. Ms. McKenna received the 2016 Inspiring Lives Award at the screening.

 

This year’s Festival concluded with the world premiere Not Without Us directed by Mark Decena from San Francisco, who took us to Paris with seven grassroots activists from around the world headed for the UN Climate Talks. Their moving and personal journeys as activists had led them to this point in the movie and they wanted world leaders to feel the pressure. Mark Decena accepted the 2016 Green Tenacity Award with international activists from the film.

 

Several days after the premier of this film, President Obama and world leaders from nearly 170 countries signed the agreement at the U.N. in honor of Earth Day. The agreement reached in Paris last December by member countries reduces emissions by the 2020 goal limiting temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

 

The Festival showed films on the future of food, energy, water, wildlife, and zero waste. Each theme presented connections to 60 community sponsors and many ways to take action locally.

 

The wild life section, for instance, made connections to Children in Nature Collaborative, Shark Stewards, and Racing Extinction. At this website enthusiastic environmentalists could take on many ways to make changes such as defending the Endangered Species or surveying the biological diversity of their local park or joining forces with Friends of the Urban Forest planting trees in the city.

 

Let me give an overview of a few of the films I saw. Jose Cohen, the director of H2O Mx, showed Mexico City faces an ongoing battle for access to clean water. Not everyone has indoor bathrooms and fecal matter is often part of the water that farmers use in surrounding counties. The farmers produce greens with the contaminated water from the River of Revenge and the plants are shipped back to Mexico City to eat. At the same time there is unstoppable pollution and an unmitigated disaster with over population. In addition, it floods annually in Mexico City. Jose asks if collective action will ever solve these pervasive water problems.

 

I had a visceral reaction to seeing people drink this dirty water and get water that is siphoned by long hoses from water tanks. It was difficult seeing women and men struggle so hard to even get the water delivered to the community containers and then pushing heavy containers of water on carts drawn by mules up a steep hill. Jose led a lively discussion afterward with many questions from the audience.

 

Another documentary, The Anthropologist, directed by Daniel Miller, Seth Kramer, and Jeremy Newberger premièred in NYC last year. At the core this film are the parallel stories of two women: Margaret Mead, who popularized cultural anthropology in the US, and Susie Crate, an environmental anthropologist currently studying the impact of climate change. Susie’s daughter, who is part Siberian and Caucasian, was very funny but often bored and angry when she had to follow her mom to study people in obscure places. Eventually she goes to college and leaves her major in international studies and succumbs to the allure of being an anthropologist. Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of Margaret Mead, asserts, “Climate change forces us to have to learn the family business.”

 

The Sixth Green Film Festival was a huge success in terms of audience attendance and in helping us find more ways to become stewards of Mother Earth. Besides the annual festival in San Francisco each spring, the nonprofit provides screenings and social events throughout the year.

 

After I finished watching the last film in the festival, I knew that next year as I anticipated Earth Day in late April, I’d remember the Green Film Festival is the week before.

 

Hundreds of Frisco 5 supporters stand in the intersection of 17th and Mission streets for a moment of silence before marching to City Hall on Tuesday, May 3. Photo: Tony Taylor

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Proposition B: Bad for the City and Bad for San Franciscans Who Love Their Parks

 

Proposition B, the Department of Recreation and Park set-aside, sounds innocuous and a great idea -- who doesn’t want more funding for our parks? Well, you might not, because Proposition B:

 

• Mandates $4.5 billion exclusively for Rec and Park over 30 years with no effective public or Board of Supervisors oversight on how the money will be spent;

 

• Takes away the possibility of using those funds for other City needs, such as housing, public health, or youth services and raises the cost of City government (SF City Controller);

 

• Contains an “equity analysis” with no teeth to it – Rec and Park would have total control over how the funding is doled out across the City;

 

• Doesn’t even tell the public where the money will be spent.

 

Rec and Park currently gets funding from various sources, including appropriations from the General Fund. This pool of discretionary funds is also used to support non-enterprise departments such as Public Health. During the yearly budget process, the Board of Supervisors holds public hearings and decides which departments gets what percent of those discretionary funds.

 

If Proposition B passes, that will all change because:

 

Proposition B mandates approximately $4.5 billion of funding for Rec and Park’s exclusive use over the next 30 years.

 

Proposition B takes away from the Board of Supervisors the authority to adjust that funding during the budget process. The Board is your voice on the budget; if the Board loses their authority over Rec and Park’s funding, then so do you.

 

Proposition B takes away funds from other General Fund Departments. No matter how desperately the City would need funding for public health, for housing, for families or for a disaster, no one is going to be able to touch the Rec and Park set-asides.

 

Proposition B has no list of specific projects. Rec and Park would decide exclusively how most of the $4.5 billion would be spent.

 

Opposing Proposition B would not deprive Rec and Park of funding; they can still make a case for their needs during the budget process.

 

A broad political spectrum of groups is opposing Proposition B, including the Sierra Club, League of Women Voters SF, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, San Francisco Tomorrow, League of Pissed off Voters, SF Green Party, SF Republican Party, SF Libertarian Party, various Democratic party clubs, and the SF Chronicle.

 

San Francisco has seen a lot of financial ups and downs over the years. To respond to the changing needs of the people of San Francisco, we must have a say in how our money is spent and how our parks are managed.

 

Please vote NO on Proposition B!

 

For more information, go to www.sfvotenopropositionb.info.

 

Katherine Howard is a member of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Flagging In The Park for Mother’s Day

Xavier Caylor flagging in the Grove. Flagging In The Park will take place on Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy of Rey Rey McVantes

 

It’s safe to say that anyone who has ever experienced Flagging In The Park will attend again. FITP is a wonderland of music and festivity and great vibes, all set within the idyllic surroundings of The AIDS Memorial Grove in beautiful Golden Gate Park. Flagging In The Park happens several times during the spring, summer, and autumn months of the year, with the first event planned for Mother’s Day, on May 8th. Xavier Caylor produces Flagging In The Park, and has been a central figure in the flagging community since 1998.

 

Wendy: The season of Flagging In The Park is just about to start, with your first event happening on May 8th, Mother’s Day. Byron Bonsall will be DJing on that day.

 

Xavier: Yes. We usually start on Mother’s Day every year. The season opener this year is Byron Bonsall; Byron is one of our returning - what I would call “Resident DJs.” He has spun at two events for sure, maybe three. He’s a great DJ and he’s very excited about being there on Sunday.

 

Wendy: That glen in the AIDS Grove is so nicely shielded from the elements; it’s so warm. It’s such a cheerful event too; you feel as if you’re entering into another world.

 

Xavier: Exactly. When I first moved to San Francisco I was privy to go to a party in the Russian River, in what then was called Fife’s. It was a party that Gus Presents threw; it was called Sundance. I remember being in this big grassy field surrounded by redwoods, and this is very similar to that feeling. It feels like you’re out in nature and you’re removed from all the cars and all the buildings.

 

Anyone who has ever attended Flagging In The Park once will attend again, it’s safe to say. It’s a wonderland of music and festivity and good vibes all around. The AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park is the idyllic setting for this affair, which happens several times during the spring, summer, and autumn months of the year. Xavier Caylor produces the events, the first of which will happen on Mother’s Day, May 8th.

 

Wendy: Although this is a free event, it’s also a benefit, and this time the proceeds will go to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

 

Xavier: We pass a hat and we do sometimes have a silent auction during our July event. The July event is traditionally our event that we raise money for the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Because that’s our home there, we step it up; we take it to the next level. I collect money; we fly out a DJ, so this is a unique DJ to the area. Then we have a silent auction table. People donate fans and flags and poi and other flow objects, things that are just kinda fun, unique around San Francisco, and we have a silent auction for those things.

 

Wendy: Yes, and I seem to remember that table there more often.

 

Xavier: The table is set up with information. This week we’ll have a picture of a friend of the community. He was a flagger and he helped transport things; his name was Gregg Stratton. He passed away at the end of last year. We’ll have a picture on that table, the welcome table; we’ll have his picture there and his bio. As the producers, we will hold him in our heart during the day, and bring him present though our knowledge of him, and saying words at the beginning. [At the beginning of each event] we do a little ceremony where we ask the space to welcome us, and we bring into that space what we would like to have present, and we mention names of those that have passed. Gregg will be our main focus on this particular event. In June, with DJ Phil B, we will bring in another flagger who passed away, Keith Coennen,so that way there’s not two names and pictures up there, just one.

 

This year we’re trying something new; our numbers are starting to impact the Grove. The Grove is really great with us but when we have so many people there that the grass is trampled, this is a concern for a natural space, for a promoter that’s coming in and using it. I want to try to lessen the numbers and the only way that I know how to do that is [to] pull back from advertising, so we’re not advertising the events months in advance. Usually I let the whole season go; this year we’re letting it go two weeks before the event, except for the July event, which will be the last Saturday of July, the 30th of July. The DJ that we’re bringing in this year, her name is Sharon White. She has a rich history in gay clubs from the seventies on. She was the first DJ to DJ at The Saint, and she has history at The Trocadero, so she goes way back and we’re very excited to have her here.

 

Wendy: Who will be DJing for the other events this year?

 

Xavier: Phil B is June; Christopher B is in September, and, do you know the name Jerry Bonham?

 

Wendy: I certainly do.

 

Xavier: He’s coming in October. We do split it up; we do some Saturdays and Sundays. Some people work on Saturdays; some people work on Sundays, so we try to give a mix. We try to avoid the high holy days, which would be Folsom [Street Fair], Dore Alley [Street Fair], Castro Street Fair; we wouldn’t dare pit them against one another. The day before Dore is just rife with opportunity for parties and so far there’s no party that [is] countering us. At this point we are the party and we’re very fortunate. It’s the weekend that a lot of people come into town; they’re in town for Dore and they’re also in town for the event. We had the title holder for IML, Mr. International Leather come last year, and I think three years ago, so the leather titles even come. They’ve heard about it and are interested.

 

Wendy: How did you decide upon the Sisters as your recipients this month?

 

Xavier: Traditionally I don’t pay my DJs; I ask if they would be willing to DJ for me for free, and in return I ask what beneficiary they would like their event to go towards. This is true for every organization except for the National AIDS Memorial Grove, and in that one I work with securing a DJ that’s willing to come out for them. They provide the plane ticket and the hotel room, so that’s a unique case, but otherwise my DJs are not getting paid; they’re not getting a hotel room so they get to pick the beneficiary. Byron went straight for the Sisters.

 

We do pass the hat; we do a talk; during that talk we try to bring people home, and home is meaning in their heart, and to be present. We give them a minute to talk with one another and then we start an all flag, which is a tradition that was part of the first event that was 20 years ago. This is our 20th year; this is our 20th season.

 

Wendy: You stared this in ‘97 as a celebration of life. 1997 was pivotal year within the gay community and, more specifically, the HIV and AIDS community, because that was right after the AIDS cocktails had come out; it was when people finally could hope to live, so it was quite a year to start something like this, a celebration of life.

 

Xavier: Yes it was. I came in 1998 for my first Flagging In The Park. Jeff Kennedy started the event in 1997, and yes, they did a moment where they stopped the music and they all spoke of AIDS, and how AIDS impacted their life. That’s what we typically do at every event, is stop the music and talk about something.

 

Wendy: You’re obviously such a pivotal person in this affair, and you’re so involved with this community. What brought you to it in the first place, and what makes you stay?

 

Xavier: I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Men’s Inner Journey; I was a facilitator for The Men’s Inner Journey. The flaggers were the ones that brought The Men’s Inner Journey to life. It comes from another organization that was called the Miracle of Love. They were using meditation practices that were derived from somebody named Osho Rajneesh, who led a cult in Oregon. The splinter group that formed is Miracle of Love. Miracle of Love accepted gays to a point and then said no more gays, and at that point the brethren that were flaggers, that had brought flagging [to] that 1997 group, asked some of the facilitators to create something for the gay men’s community. As a meditation practice, flagging is a way to release and let go and work through your issues, which is definitely something that we have a need for in the gay community. I continue to drive this because it is a way that I can bring healing to my community.

© 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.

Neighborhood Bids Farewell To Prominent Bookstore

Let’s go back in time to that long ago era when many neighborhoods, especially along the East Coast, could count a small bookshop, perhaps one selling stationary and writing supplies as well, among their silent local treasures.

 

These were for people who read books - fiction, non-fiction, romance, even so-called potboilers - primarily for enjoyment. Not a cathode ray tube or digital screen was seen or heard. In time LPs and later CDs were added, as music joined reading in this pantheon to leisure and learning.

 

What better thing to do after a meal in a downtown neighborhood restaurant but to walk off dessert, passing the latest displays of books, magazines and music. A little stimulus from the outside world perhaps? Something familiar and interesting here and there.

 

No need to trace the subsequent tortured history and decline of the industry, as technology, interests, habits and living patterns changed. The issues are well known and even pop up regularly in laments about the possible future of the publishing and recording sectors.

 

Well here in River City, on the banks of Market Street in the Castro, we’re about to lose one of our last local bookstores. (Word has it that the old “A Different Light” location on Castro may reappear in a new incarnation at some point.) Much can be said about the Books Inc. store here: part of a Bay Area chain of well stocked reading emporia, intelligent survivors of the disappearance or dumbing-down of the major chains, a place to escape the kinetic over-activity outside and retreat to other times, people and places, perhaps broadening the mind and enriching the soul.

 

Back in March, Books Inc. on Market announced that their Castro store lost its lease and would be closing in mid-June. Now at the end of April that June approximation still holds. In the meantime store employees are referring customers who ask to their Opera Plaza location. Commenting on over twenty years at the Castro site, CEO Michael Tucker states that the Opera Plaza location will be expanding their LGBT selections in books and magazines “to continue to better serve customers from the Castro.”

 

In his official press release, Tucker states that all employees have been offered the chance to transfer to other locations, and no layoffs are scheduled. Employees who choose not to transfer elsewhere will be offered a severance package instead. Store hours at the Castro location will be from 11 am to 8 pm until the June closing.

 

Tucker ends by affirming that “closing Books Inc. in the Castro does not reflect on the overall health of Books Inc. or the book industry.” Indeed, there are ten other locations in the Bay area, including one that recently opened in North Berkeley and another that is scheduled to open in Santa Clara this coming summer. May a respected tradition live on!

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Hungry for Justice

 

Hunger Strike, Mass Protest Take Aim at SFPD

 

 

On Tuesday, May 3rd, five hunger strikers led a march against police brutality from the Mission Police Station to City Hall demanding Mayor Ed Lee to fire San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr if he did not resign. After not eating solid foods for 13 days, the strikers - known as the Frisco Five - were pushed across the city in wheelchairs by medics while hundreds of protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace!”

 

Nearly one thousand people gathered at the steps of City Hall as the hunger strikers made their way up the elevators to the mayor’s office on the second floor around 2:30 p.m. His assistant told them that Mayor Lee was in the Bayview and not available to speak with them. They then entered the Board of Supervisors’ chambers during its weekly meeting along with 50 other protesters chanting, “Fire Chief Suhr.” The protesters demanded they fire Suhr on the spot.

 

The Supervisors listened to what the Frisco Five had to say, but said they didn’t have the authority to carry out their demands. The discussion became heated when District 9 Supervisor David Campos got into it with one of the hunger strikers. Campos argued that firing Suhr was not going to solve anything. Board President London Breed agreed that there would not be an overnight solution to a problem as complex as racial profiling within the police department.

 

The Frisco Five include San Francisco natives Sellassie Blackwell and Ike Pinkston, District 9 Supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo, local rapper Ilyich Sato, and his 66-year old mother, Maria-Cristina Gutierrez, who first mentioned a hunger strike when Oscar Grant was killed in 2009. Then came the shooting of Alex Nieto in 2014, followed by Mario Woods and Amilcar Perez-Lopez in 2015.

 

Blackwell, 39, a political hip-hop artist and activist, says the straw that broke the camel’s back was Luis Gongora’s killing on April 7.

 

As activist organizers and community leaders, they felt the need to get the city’s attention by shining the light on unarmed black and brown citizens being killed by a “rogue, unaccountable” police department, particularly Chief Suhr and Mayor Ed Lee.

 

“We had to have an action that’s really gonna show that we’re serious,” Blackwell said. “We feel Mayor Lee is not a mayor of the people, but a mayor of corporations who are coming to privatize the city.”

 

Striker Pinkston, 42, said black and brown people are important to him and he feels it is his duty to be involved.

 

“I’ve never seen the relationship between officers and civilians the way that it is right now,” he said. “Wherever law enforcement is and there’s black people, you’re going to have situations like this. It’s a culture that’s embedded into the police department and it needs to stop. It has to stop.”

 

As a grandmother and educator, Gutierrez is concerned about youth safety.

 

“I’ve been educating children for 40 years. Now, they have to live with fear,” Gutierrez said. “The police chief allowed all those racist text messages and only fired those officers after we started fighting. He’s racist.”

 

In April, police officer Jason Lai resigned after a criminal investigation uncovered text messages sent by him, among them, “I hate that beaner, but I think the nig is worse,” and “Indian ppl are disgusting.”

 

“How can those racist police take care of our children?” Gutierrez worried.

 

She says she is a woman of belief. “I have dignity and God on my side. I’m going to prove to them that I’m willing to do anything, if my life is necessary, to change this.”

 

According to Albie Esparza, the Public Information Officer for the SFPD, Suhr has no intentions of stepping down. Suhr is determined to stay and see through the department changes he is implementing, including anti-harassment classes for all police officers. Esparza explained that the Chief is a city kid, born and raised, and that he does care about the city, the community and the agency as a police officer.

 

“There are 2,300 plus officers in our department,” Esparza said. “To categorize the department as a whole based on the actions of few is not a realistic approach. There may be a few bad apples, if you will, that’s human nature. Our department does its best to show respect and protect our community.”

 

But the hunger strikers have made an impact. Police officers walking their beats throughout the city feel it. When citizens are less inclined to talk to an officer, it brings the morale of law enforcement officers down.

 

“Without community support, it makes it hard to combat crime. It’s imperative that the agency brings back trust and make sure we move forward together,” Esparza said.

 

After addressing the Board of Supervisors, the Frisco Five were wheeled back outside by 5 p.m. They sat in a line in their wheelchairs on the steps of City Hall. They held hands. The asked the crowd to hug their neighbor. They took turns taking the microphone giving thanks to their supporters and urging people to keep fighting against racism and police brutality.

 

“I’d like to eat,” Guiterrez said in a faint voice. “I’d like to be able to see my great granddaughter. I’d like to be able to kiss my husband. [But] we won. We won because we showed them courage.”

 

Suhr cancelled a planned public appearance with Public Defender Jeff Adachi Tuesday evening due to safety concerns after the protest. As of day 14, one of the hunger strikers had been admitted to the hospital. Sato called for a silent, candlelight vigil in from of the Mission Police Station at sunset via Twitter. Mayor Lee has yet to respond.

 

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Doctor Joanna Eveland, MD, is In HIV Prevention, Treatment Advance

 

Ever since her years as a student volunteer at the Berkeley Free Clinic, Dr. Joanna Eveland, MD, has nurtured a passionate interest in health equity and social justice, especially around HIV prevention and care of the most vulnerable. Now as an expert in HIV medicine, she serves as Clinical Chief for Special Populations at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, facilitates twice monthly sessions of “The Doctor Is In” at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and is a trainer with the Bay Area and North Coast AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Eveland sees her work as promoting wellness and sharing her knowledge and hope as the medical community moves ever closer to ending the HIV epidemic.

 

What advice regarding risk reduction does she give to her patients in the city today? First, she says, it is important to consider one’s own sexual health as part of one’s overall health, and each individual needs to choose what level of risk he or she takes. Even for those who choose not to use condoms, there are strategies to reduce the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV.

 

Today we are fortunate to have a toolbox of strategies to manage our risk of HIV. Common among these are two: PrEP and what is called Treatment as Prevention. While there is much to learn about these and other terms, concepts and programs mentioned in this article, regarding this discussion as a snapshot of HIV prevention and treatment in May of 2016 and seek out more information as needed.

 

PrEP (or Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a way for HIV negative people at risk of getting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The medicine currently used for PrEP is called Truvada, and contains two medicines also used to treat HIV, tenofovir and emtricitabine. Taken consistently, PrEP decreases the risk of HIV by up to 92%. Like the birth control pill, Prep is an opportunity to reduce one’s own risk rather than relying on others, and it is very well tolerated and safe.

 

Also like the birth control pill when it was first introduced, some have raised concerns that people will have more sex and use condoms less now that they have PrEP. However, an increase in risk taking has not been seen in clinical trials of PrEP, and just as the debates around birth control have died down, Dr. Eveland suspects PrEP will become less controversial with time. Nonetheless, in any case, it is important to understand that PrEP does not protect against anything else but HIV.

 

Treatment as Prevention (or TasP) refers to decreasing the risk of HIV transmission by offering effective HIV treatment to all people living with HIV. With daily antiretroviral medication, the level of HIV virus in the body, called the “viral load,” becomes undetectable, thereby reducing an individual’s risk of HIV transmission by 96% in clinical trials. It works if one’s HIV positive partner is taking care of him or herself but requires continuous daily attention, as the HIV viral load increases rapidly if treatment is interrupted. HIV treatment has many benefits beyond preventing new HIV infections, so even those not concerned about passing HIV to others should be on antiretrovirals.

 

Another commonly used though not necessarily effective HIV prevention strategy is what is known as serosorting or seropositioning, choosing your partners or the type of sex you are having based on their reported HIV status. The problem with this strategy is that it only reduces risk for HIV-negative individuals if their partners actually know their HIV status. Since one in five HIV-positive Americans is undiagnosed, serosorting and seropositioning may actually increase HIV risk in some situations. It is best to get tested regularly. There is most risk, with the highest danger of HIV transmission, during very early HIV infection, before a regular HIV test might come back positive.

 

There are many other sexually transmitted infections other than HIV out there. Rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are increasing in San Francisco and if you are sexually active, it is important to get tested regularly.

 

Hepatitis C (Hep C for short) is another virus to be aware of. It is a virus transmitted most commonly through blood, but it has been estimated that 5-8% of men in San Francisco who have sex with men have Hep C. Dr. Lisa Capaldini is an HIV and Hep C specialist practicing in the Castro. Contrary to what was believed earlier, Dr. Capaldini states that it is possible to get Hep C during unprotected anal sex, especially if you are the receptive partner and your partner is infected.

 

Without treatment, Hep C can cause liver cancer and liver failure. Luckily, new highly effective and well-tolerated treatments for Hep C are now available, though if you are cured of Hep C, you can still get infected again. Half of all infections in the U.S. go undiagnosed, so Hep C testing should be part of one’s sexual health screening. News coverage of new Hep C treatments has focused on the high cost of the medication, but preventing the complications of Hep C is actually cost effective, and people living with Hep C should be encouraged to seek treatment.

 

Dr. Eveland believes that HIV treatment continues to improve for the better, and she is hopeful that we will actually see a cure for HIV in our lifetime. On the horizon for treatment are innovations such as long-acting injectable forms of HIV and PrEP medication and safer versions of medications we already have.

 

With regards to a cure for HIV, there are many different approaches under study. These include gene therapy, where our own cells are genetically modified to resist HIV infection, so-called therapeutic vaccines that may help the immune system of an HIV-positive person keep the infection under control without medications, and investigational drugs that might bring the HIV virus out of the cells where it is hiding so antiretroviral therapy can reach it.

 

The World Health Organization has set a goal that by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status, 90% will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% will achieve viral suppression. To do this, we will not only need to improve access to treatment, but also to overcome HIV related stigma. Dr. Eveland believes that one example of stigma are laws that criminalize HIV transmission, which often are not based on science, and discourage people from getting HIV testing and treatment.

 

At this point, Dr. Eveland refers to San Francisco’s Getting to Zero initiative, a multi-sector, independent consortium operating under the “principles of collective impact” and modeled after UNAIDS goals. Getting to Zero’s vision is “to reduce HIV transmission and HIV-related deaths in San Francisco by 90% before 2020.”

 

The mission of this volunteer-led, San Francisco effort includes maintaining current funding levels for HIV prevention and treatment and “prioritizing reaching underserved populations” based on the “principles of collective impact.”

 

Overall, Dr. Eveland’s goal for HIV therapy is not just a long life, but a high quality of life, and to do this she focuses on wellness. For many people living with HIV, new medications offer the opportunity to decrease both side effects and the number of pills taken daily. Quitting smoking is particularly beneficial to people living with HIV. Attention can then be focused on implementing and enjoying all that we know of a healthy diet, regular aerobic or other exercise, a healthy state of mind and an overall positive enjoyment of life.

 

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Wiener, Kim Set for Primary Faceoff

 

California’s first openly gay state senator is being termed out and a political battle is now underway for his seat.

 

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim are currently facing off in the June 7 primary as the two main contenders for the District 11 position, which represents all of San Francisco. But because of California’s political rules, they will likely have to do it again in November.

 

California’s fledgling top-two voting system creates an open primary for all statewide candidates. Passed by voters in 2010 as Proposition 14 and intended to create more moderate winners in primary elections, top two is a system in which the two leading candidates in the primaries, regardless of political party, advance to the general election in November. What this means for heavily liberal areas like San Francisco is that voters could be presented with the choice of two Democrats and no Republicans in the general election.

 

In 2012, State Senator Mark Leno garnered more than 80 percent of the vote, and voters in Senate District 11 haven’t elected a Republican for decades. The two well-known Democrats—Wiener and Kim—are running against lesser-known Republican Ken Loo, a firefighter and business owner. Kim and Wiener, both flush with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, don’t seem to be sweating the June vote.

 

“We have a very strong campaign and I am certain I will be in the top two going to the general election this November,” Kim said.

 

Kim has made affordability her number one campaign issue while Wiener argues the need for better transportation, safety, and affordable housing.

 

Wiener said that in one-party towns like San Francisco, the top-two system makes the race twice as long, twice as expensive, twice as volunteer intensive because the two leading Democrats essentially repeat the same race.

 

“You are putting much more pressure on candidates to raise money because you have to raise it twice,” he said.

 

So why would a Republican even run in a district with less than 10 percent registered party voters? One reason, Wiener said, is that under party rules, the highest vote-getting Republican automatically gets a seat on the party’s central committee for the next four years. These committees, which exist throughout the state, are responsible for shaping party policy by making official endorsements in local races.

 

“I could see someone running in order to assure themselves a seat on the party central committee,” Wiener said.

 

Loo, a third-generation San Franciscan, was a last-minute replacement for another Republican who had dropped out of the race, potentially leaving no GOP choice for voters. He said the San Francisco Republican Central Committee is a secondary concern for him and that he could win the race if he hits his target of just over 33 percent of the vote.

 

“I think there are a lot of undercover conservatives in San Francisco,” he said. “At first I was really skeptical but [conservative] candidates [in District 11] almost always double the Republican registration on a shoestring budget.”

 

 

 

Neighborhood Bids Farewell To Prominent Bookstore

Let’s go back in time to that long ago era when many neighborhoods, especially along the East Coast, could count a small bookshop, perhaps one selling stationary and writing supplies as well, among their silent local treasures.

 

These were for people who read books - fiction, non-fiction, romance, even so-called potboilers - primarily for enjoyment. Not a cathode ray tube or digital screen was seen or heard. In time LPs and later CDs were added, as music joined reading in this pantheon to leisure and learning.

 

What better thing to do after a meal in a downtown neighborhood restaurant but to walk off dessert, passing the latest displays of books, magazines and music. A little stimulus from the outside world perhaps? Something familiar and interesting here and there.

 

No need to trace the subsequent tortured history and decline of the industry, as technology, interests, habits and living patterns changed. The issues are well known and even pop up regularly in laments about the possible future of the publishing and recording sectors.

 

Well here in River City, on the banks of Market Street in the Castro, we’re about to lose one of our last local bookstores. (Word has it that the old “A Different Light” location on Castro may reappear in a new incarnation at some point.) Much can be said about the Books Inc. store here: part of a Bay Area chain of well stocked reading emporia, intelligent survivors of the disappearance or dumbing-down of the major chains, a place to escape the kinetic over-activity outside and retreat to other times, people and places, perhaps broadening the mind and enriching the soul.

 

Back in March, Books Inc. on Market announced that their Castro store lost its lease and would be closing in mid-June. Now at the end of April that June approximation still holds. In the meantime store employees are referring customers who ask to their Opera Plaza location. Commenting on over twenty years at the Castro site, CEO Michael Tucker states that the Opera Plaza location will be expanding their LGBT selections in books and magazines “to continue to better serve customers from the Castro.”

 

In his official press release, Tucker states that all employees have been offered the chance to transfer to other locations, and no layoffs are scheduled. Employees who choose not to transfer elsewhere will be offered a severance package instead. Store hours at the Castro location will be from 11 am to 8 pm until the June closing.

 

Tucker ends by affirming that “closing Books Inc. in the Castro does not reflect on the overall health of Books Inc. or the book industry.” Indeed, there are ten other locations in the Bay area, including one that recently opened in North Berkeley and another that is scheduled to open in Santa Clara this coming summer. May a respected tradition live on!

Xavier Caylor flagging in the Grove. Flagging In The Park will take place on Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy of Rey Rey McVantes

•••• Also in May Issue ••••

 

Flagging In The Park for Mother’s Day

 

 

It’s safe to say that anyone who has ever experienced Flagging In The Park will attend again. FITP is a wonderland of music and festivity and great vibes, all set within the idyllic surroundings of The AIDS Memorial Grove in beautiful Golden Gate Park. Flagging In The Park happens several times during the spring, summer, and autumn months of the year, with the first event planned for Mother’s Day, on May 8th. Xavier Caylor produces Flagging In The Park, and has been a central figure in the flagging community since 1998.

 

Wendy: The season of Flagging In The Park is just about to start, with your first event happening on May 8th, Mother’s Day. Byron Bonsall will be DJing on that day.

 

Xavier: Yes. We usually start on Mother’s Day every year. The season opener this year is Byron Bonsall; Byron is one of our returning - what I would call “Resident DJs.” He has spun at two events for sure, maybe three. He’s a great DJ and he’s very excited about being there on Sunday.

 

Wendy: That glen in the AIDS Grove is so nicely shielded from the elements; it’s so warm. It’s such a cheerful event too; you feel as if you’re entering into another world.

 

Xavier: Exactly. When I first moved to San Francisco I was privy to go to a party in the Russian River, in what then was called Fife’s. It was a party that Gus Presents threw; it was called Sundance. I remember being in this big grassy field surrounded by redwoods, and this is very similar to that feeling. It feels like you’re out in nature and you’re removed from all the cars and all the buildings.

 

Anyone who has ever attended Flagging In The Park once will attend again, it’s safe to say. It’s a wonderland of music and festivity and good vibes all around. The AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park is the idyllic setting for this affair, which happens several times during the spring, summer, and autumn months of the year. Xavier Caylor produces the events, the first of which will happen on Mother’s Day, May 8th.

 

Wendy: Although this is a free event, it’s also a benefit, and this time the proceeds will go to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

 

Xavier: We pass a hat and we do sometimes have a silent auction during our July event. The July event is traditionally our event that we raise money for the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Because that’s our home there, we step it up; we take it to the next level. I collect money; we fly out a DJ, so this is a unique DJ to the area. Then we have a silent auction table. People donate fans and flags and poi and other flow objects, things that are just kinda fun, unique around San Francisco, and we have a silent auction for those things.

 

Wendy: Yes, and I seem to remember that table there more often.

 

Xavier: The table is set up with information. This week we’ll have a picture of a friend of the community. He was a flagger and he helped transport things; his name was Gregg Stratton. He passed away at the end of last year. We’ll have a picture on that table, the welcome table; we’ll have his picture there and his bio. As the producers, we will hold him in our heart during the day, and bring him present though our knowledge of him, and saying words at the beginning. [At the beginning of each event] we do a little ceremony where we ask the space to welcome us, and we bring into that space what we would like to have present, and we mention names of those that have passed. Gregg will be our main focus on this particular event. In June, with DJ Phil B, we will bring in another flagger who passed away, Keith Coennen,so that way there’s not two names and pictures up there, just one.

 

This year we’re trying something new; our numbers are starting to impact the Grove. The Grove is really great with us but when we have so many people there that the grass is trampled, this is a concern for a natural space, for a promoter that’s coming in and using it. I want to try to lessen the numbers and the only way that I know how to do that is [to] pull back from advertising, so we’re not advertising the events months in advance. Usually I let the whole season go; this year we’re letting it go two weeks before the event, except for the July event, which will be the last Saturday of July, the 30th of July. The DJ that we’re bringing in this year, her name is Sharon White. She has a rich history in gay clubs from the seventies on. She was the first DJ to DJ at The Saint, and she has history at The Trocadero, so she goes way back and we’re very excited to have her here.

 

Wendy: Who will be DJing for the other events this year?

 

Xavier: Phil B is June; Christopher B is in September, and, do you know the name Jerry Bonham?

 

Wendy: I certainly do.

 

Xavier: He’s coming in October. We do split it up; we do some Saturdays and Sundays. Some people work on Saturdays; some people work on Sundays, so we try to give a mix. We try to avoid the high holy days, which would be Folsom [Street Fair], Dore Alley [Street Fair], Castro Street Fair; we wouldn’t dare pit them against one another. The day before Dore is just rife with opportunity for parties and so far there’s no party that [is] countering us. At this point we are the party and we’re very fortunate. It’s the weekend that a lot of people come into town; they’re in town for Dore and they’re also in town for the event. We had the title holder for IML, Mr. International Leather come last year, and I think three years ago, so the leather titles even come. They’ve heard about it and are interested.

 

Wendy: How did you decide upon the Sisters as your recipients this month?

 

Xavier: Traditionally I don’t pay my DJs; I ask if they would be willing to DJ for me for free, and in return I ask what beneficiary they would like their event to go towards. This is true for every organization except for the National AIDS Memorial Grove, and in that one I work with securing a DJ that’s willing to come out for them. They provide the plane ticket and the hotel room, so that’s a unique case, but otherwise my DJs are not getting paid; they’re not getting a hotel room so they get to pick the beneficiary. Byron went straight for the Sisters.

 

We do pass the hat; we do a talk; during that talk we try to bring people home, and home is meaning in their heart, and to be present. We give them a minute to talk with one another and then we start an all flag, which is a tradition that was part of the first event that was 20 years ago. This is our 20th year; this is our 20th season.

 

Wendy: You stared this in ‘97 as a celebration of life. 1997 was pivotal year within the gay community and, more specifically, the HIV and AIDS community, because that was right after the AIDS cocktails had come out; it was when people finally could hope to live, so it was quite a year to start something like this, a celebration of life.

 

Xavier: Yes it was. I came in 1998 for my first Flagging In The Park. Jeff Kennedy started the event in 1997, and yes, they did a moment where they stopped the music and they all spoke of AIDS, and how AIDS impacted their life. That’s what we typically do at every event, is stop the music and talk about something.

 

Wendy: You’re obviously such a pivotal person in this affair, and you’re so involved with this community. What brought you to it in the first place, and what makes you stay?

 

Xavier: I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Men’s Inner Journey; I was a facilitator for The Men’s Inner Journey. The flaggers were the ones that brought The Men’s Inner Journey to life. It comes from another organization that was called the Miracle of Love. They were using meditation practices that were derived from somebody named Osho Rajneesh, who led a cult in Oregon. The splinter group that formed is Miracle of Love. Miracle of Love accepted gays to a point and then said no more gays, and at that point the brethren that were flaggers, that had brought flagging [to] that 1997 group, asked some of the facilitators to create something for the gay men’s community. As a meditation practice, flagging is a way to release and let go and work through your issues, which is definitely something that we have a need for in the gay community. I continue to drive this because it is a way that I can bring healing to my community.