This year marks the 30th anniversary of the SF Tsunami Masters Swim Team, and the squad is planning a big celebration early next month.
Tsunami was formed in connection with Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986 and is now trying to reach out to as many past and present team members as possible to help celebrate the anniversary with food and entertainment.
The party will be held Saturday, December 3 from 6-10 p.m. at Slide, located at 430 Mason St. Those planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP on the Facebook event site as soon as possible in order to provide an accurate head count. To do so, visit the event page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1807976712793847/
Tickets to the celebration are expected to cost about $20 per person depending on the number of people attending.
Tsunami is an LGBT and straight-friendly masters-level club with both swim and synchronized swimming teams. Since its inception, it has grown to include six coaches and more than 200 members from the broader Bay Area community. Many of the team’s founding members still swin today.
The team caters to swimmers of all levels and welcomes beginners.
Tsunami is a member of International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Organization, whose purpose is to promote participation in aquatic sports by lesbian women, gay men, and friends of the community.
Talking Politics with the Harvey Milk Dems
How To Keep It Free and Local
If the daunting task of planes, trains or automobiles to see loved ones is too much, there are several options for free Thanksgiving meals thanks to several organizations in and around the Castro neighborhood.
On Thanksgiving Day, St. Francis Lutheran Church in Duboce Triangle will be holding their annual meal from noon to 2 p.m. The meal is open to the public and no reservations are needed.
A bit later in the week, All Saints’ Episcopal Church at 1350 Waller St. will host a special Thanksgiving brunch on Saturday, November 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
“We will prepare the classic Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, rolls, stuffing, vegetables, dessert, and coffee; the works,” said Agustin Maes of All Saints’.
Mission Dolores Basilica Parish, 3321 16th St., in partnership with St. Vincent de Paul, plans to offer free sandwiches Monday through Friday, says Sherrie Dobrott of Mission Dolores.
Vive Church, 3153 17th St., is offering a “Friendsgiving” event for its members. Services are held Sundays at 11:30 a.m.
St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 101 Gold Mine Dr., will have a lunch-meal program on Thanksgiving Day for the people who use their services. They offer a food pantry and have a senior lunch program.
Curry Senior Center, 333 Turk St., will open their dining room for those aged 60 and older. Breakfast and lunch are available daily, with lunch being the most popular from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thanksgiving week, Curry Senior Center will offer their Asian lunch program on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Their official Thanksgiving party has limited space available. Contact Toby Shorts at (415) 885-2274 to sign up.
The Downtown Senior Center at 481 O’Farrell St. is offering lunch on Wednesday, November 23 at noon in the Blue Room. Reservations can be made through Project Open Hand by calling (415) 603-0190.
And if leaving the house seems just too much, there is always the classic frozen dinner. Sold exclusively to the Navy and airlines in 1944, frozen dinners became popularized in the 1950s by Swanson, which capitalized on the revolution of television.
So for a no-fuss holiday, dinner could be as close as a walk down the street or a microwave ding away.
Peter Gallotta is the current president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has been at the forefront of progressive and queer politics for 40 years. Harvey Milk himself began the club in 1976 and his work there greatly influenced the way that the club still operates today. In this pivotal election year the club’s work and words are especially necessary and important. Peter Gallotta moved to the Bay Area seven years ago and has been involved with the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club for six of those. As current president, Peter brings his extensive knowledge of and passion for progressive politics to the mission of the club.
Wendy: Of course this is a make-or-break election year, and you’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
Peter: We are supporting Hillary Clinton. We supported, very strongly, Bernie Sanders in the primary. We were really excited by Bernie as a candidate because he speaks to so many issues that we really care about as a club, and he is bringing economic justice to the forefront, and is a strong voice for the Democratic left in this country. We often don’t feel that direct connection. After the primary we recognized the absolute threat that Donald Trump’s candidacy presents, and we immediately united as a Democratic club, connecting to the larger Democratic party on this and, as Bernie did, got behind Hillary.
Wendy: And Bernie Sanders has not gone away. He continues to be very active.
Peter: That’s one of the great benefits of him running. He’s become a national voice. I think we’re going to continue to see him be a great voice for so many issues, and I look forward to what role he might play next, not just in the Senate, but on the national stage.
Wendy: He’s done a great job of informing people who may not have been informed prior, because perhaps before they didn’t feel like there was someone to speak for them, and has established an ever-growing mass of supporters. You also support other very progressive candidates like Jane Kim.
Peter: Playing off that thread of Bernie Sanders, Bernie endorsed Jane Kim. We’re really excited that Jane is a powerhouse progressive who’s fighting for a lot of the things that Bernie also spoke about: making community college free for San Franciscans, taking on housing affordability and standing up to corporate interest, and corporate interests dominating our local politics. This is a situation where we have an LGBT candidate in this race, but we are getting behind the straight ally, because at the end of the day, the issues that are affecting the LGBT community now in San Francisco—housing affordability being number one—looking at those issues, we feel she is best suited to represent us in Sacramento. By us, I mean LGBT people, people of color, seniors, working families, everyone who’s trying to get by and make it and continue to live in San Francisco. We need someone who is going to take on things like Ellis Act reform. Jane has said and demonstrated, here in San Francisco during her term on the Board of Supervisors, that she will protect tenants and she will fight to change our state laws so that we have greater protection here in San Francisco and throughout our state as renters. She’s actually the best choice to fill Mark Leno’s shoes. Mark Leno was a great voice for reform of the Ellis Act. It’s tough to take on, but he took it on, and we want to see the leadership of San Francisco and our next senator be someone who’s going to continue that fight. I think Jane will.
Wendy: There’s another component of affordable housing that you personally have worked on, which was to increase regulations on Airbnb and short-term rentals. Was that with the club or on your own?
Peter: Both. Certainly housing issues have been a focal point over the past years. I’ve been a member for about six years now. I’ve been on the board for five years, and I’ve lived in San Francisco for seven years, so I’ve spent a lot of my time with the Harvey Milk Club and have experienced in that time just how different the housing market has become. We want to take on housing speculation. The club supported Proposition G two years ago, which was actually an idea that Harvey Milk had put forth when he was on the Board of Supervisors. It was about taking on housing speculation, to disincentivize that activity instead of people buying homes, flipping them, and then selling them very quickly afterwards, and making a pretty penny off of it. You’d have to pay a tax if you were selling within a certain amount of time after owning. We fought for that. We’ve been fighting for greater restrictions on things like Airbnb, absolutely, because they’re impacting the rental market so significantly. We’re losing rental units due to it and we want greater regulation of it. We want Airbnb to play by the rules. There’s a lot on the ballot this year related to housing, and it’s a continual issue that we’re focused on. The candidates that we’re supporting for office this year for supervisors are going to make housing affordability one of their top priorities as well. We’re really excited that there are so many women and so many mothers running for office. Sandy Fewer in D1, Hillary Ronen in District 9, Kimberly Alvarenga in D11. We [see] Kimberly as one of our top priorities this cycle because we haven’t had a lesbian on the Board of Supervisors in over 15 years.
To have a queer woman of color, who’s progressive, who shares so many of the values of our club, to be able to elect a candidate like Kimberly is so important to us, and to District 11, and to the whole city. We want to see someone with such a long legacy and history of advocating for the most vulnerable bring her voice to city hall, to be an advocate for not just the LGBT community, but for so many communities.
Wendy: Another candidate for supervisor that you endorse is Dean Preston, who also has a history of fighting for tenant’s rights.
Peter: I’m glad you mentioned Dean, absolutely. Dean brings probably the most experience on this issue, even by comparison to some of our sitting supervisors now. This is an area of an expertise, an area that he’s dedicated so much time and energy and personal and professional work to. His voice on the Board of Supervisors would be [of] immense benefit to renters throughout the city, not just in District 5, but for so many of us who are renters, having a certain level of anxiety around our housing situation.
Wendy: People are just a little bit shellshocked and crossing their fingers.
Peter: I think about this a lot. I probably couldn’t live in San Francisco if I came here now. I came seven years ago when it was more affordable by comparison to today. It was in 2009—there was just more supply. If San Francisco is going to continue to be an inclusive city, a city that’s welcoming to people of so many different backgrounds, especially the LGBT community—the city is changing and preventing those possibilities for people to come here. Harvey Milk talked so much about, “Come out and come to San Francisco,” inviting people to be in community here. What’s really disconcerting and frustrating is I think we’re losing that, those possibilities, those options for accessibility are being lost to young people, to queer people, to transgender people, to folks who are fleeing persecution or discrimination in their home state or city, or are looking for a refuge. San Francisco may not be a viable or accessible place because it’s really expensive to live here, and that’s something that we feel very strongly about at the club, working as much as we can to address it, because it really impacts our future, all of us.
Wendy: The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club welcomes the public to attend meetings, your PAC meetings and your general meetings, and opens the door for people to become more involved politically.
Peter: Absolutely. As we always say, "We are the Harvey Milk Club and we're here to recruit you." All of our meetings are open to the public; we welcome anyone and everyone to come join us. You don't have to be a member to participate in our meetings. We meet twice a month. We have a Political Action Committee meeting that meets every second Tuesday of the month from 7 - 9PM at Galeria de la Raza in the Mission, on 24th Street, and we have our general membership meeting [which] is open to the public, on the third Tuesday of the month from 7 - 9PM at The Women's Building on 18th Street in the Mission.
Wendy: And this is is your 40 year anniversary!
Peter: It is! It's our 40th anniversary here and, for me, it's been such a privilege and a humbling experience to be the president of the club during what has been such an important election year, an important time for progressive politics here in San Francisco, [and] also to be a part of the club reaching this milestone in it's history. I think that San Francisco politics are the better for there being a Harvey Milk Democratic Club. For the past forty years this club has been on the forefront of so many important issues affecting the LGBT community and so many communities, working as part of a larger movement in our city, for social justice, for racial justice, for economic justice. Harvey really left us with his legacy; Harvey helped found the club in 1976 and it was a powerful instrument in getting him elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1977. After he passed away in 1978 the club became named after him. It was the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club and then became the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. We still look to Harvey, our compass. We're here; we're queer; we're forty, and we're not going anywhere!
Wendy: Yes, and while you play in the same game with all the mainstream politicos, you don't in any way temper who you are in order to do so; you're very much who you are and that's that.
Peter: Yes, we are who we are. That's one of the reasons I love the club and I'm proud to be a part of it, is that we've always been true to our values and what we stand for. I think Harvey taught us that and left us that as part of his legacy. That's how you fight for change.
Wendy: How did you personally get drawn to being a part of this?
Peter: I moved to San Francisco seven years ago. I got involved with some legal organizing when I first moved here; I met someone by the name of Rafael Mandelman. Rafael was running for supervisor in District 8 in 2010 and I started volunteering on Rafi's campaign. A year later I started getting [involved with] progressive politics in San Francisco, and Rafi connected me with the Harvey Milk Club. I became a member and I stayed involved in progressive campaigns. Then I got invited to run for a board position; I did, and I started out as a recorder. Then I became the vice president of internal affairs. I served in that role for two years, and then last year I was elected Co-President with Laura Thomas. This year I stayed on as President of the club. I would say that the Harvey Milk Club is my political home in San Francisco; it's an organization that means a lot to me. Personally I've always felt that it's a place that reflected my own values and how I see the world. I've been so grateful for the opportunity to serve my community in this role and to be part of the club during this time.
Wendy: You're also involved with Mama G's Thanksgiving Street Dinner this month. Tell me about Mama G's; what is the dinner about?
Peter: Mama G's Thanksgiving Street Dinner is a community organization, a collective of people who organizes a Thanksgiving street dinner on the streets of the Tenderloin every year. We've been doing that since 2009. I live in the Tenderloin; I've lived there the entire time that I've lived in San Francisco and I have a lot of love and respect for the community. The community has a lot of challenges, but I wanted to find a way to help support my neighbors and folks that are experiencing distress and struggle. I grew up in a large Italian family and food was always a means of bringing people together. My mom and my aunt and my grandmothers were the cooks, and the nurturers, and the folks that organized and brought family together. Family dinner was important. For me, I took those experiences [from] growing up and wanted to bring that to the Tenderloin and create community and family and bring people together around food. [I] and a few friends started Mama G's in 2009; it was just this wild idea. It's grown since then; now we're in our eighth year. Our first year we served 50 to 100 people at most, and now we're serving over 350 people. We're continuing [to be] committed to increasing our impact and being able to serve more people. It's kind of an homage to my mom and to the women in my family.
Wendy: That's beautiful. You have a fundraiser for it at Beaux in the Castro this month too, on November 13th from 3 to 7PM. There's a drag show and prizes and all sorts of reasons to go, aside from getting to help out Mama G's.
Peter: Yes! We definitely would love folks to come out to that fundraiser and help support us. Similarly, there are ways that folks can engage; we're always welcoming new volunteers if folks are interested in helping us serve on the day of the event. We actually do the dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving, not on Thanksgiving itself. It's right in the heart of Civic Center, in UN Plaza, [which] is where we set up and where we serve. We always invite more folks to join us or support us, through financial donations, through preparing the food, or showing up and helping us serve on the day of the event. Mamagstreetdinner.org is our website.
Students to honor names of AIDS victims
Dressed as a devil in red satin, a black cape and his face disguised by a black mask, George Kelly was entertaining the 1st and 2nd grade students as he swayed and sang “The Monster Mash.” All of the kids were in costumes and they chimed in with the refrain.
The setting was the Halloween party at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, one of the most sought-after schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. Located at 4235 19th St., the school is a few blocks from the center of the Castro and has a mosaic façade that sparkles in the sunlight. This K-5 elementary school has 250 students and 24 teachers.
Kelly, a teacher at the school for almost two decades, has won many awards for his volunteer work with school children including the Outstanding Volunteer of the San Francisco Unified School District for 2009-2010 and the Jefferson Award—a national award for excellence—as a volunteer in 2010. This year he brought 15 friends who he trained to be classroom assistants.
“I’m alive! I’m living with AIDS [since 1992] and I’ve survived hepatitis B,” he said. “Not everyone has survived. I’ve buried 13 of my friends.”
Last year, George started Inscribe, where the school’s 4th and 5th graders scrawl the names of people who died of AIDS in chalk drawings on the Castro’s sidewalks.
On December 1 at 10 a.m., students will again continue that tradition in the neighborhood. George said that Inscribe is a gift to the community from the school.
“Once I had the idea, I could not stop the passion. The sidewalks had just been widened. The Rainbow Honor Walk was created and had just laid their first 20 bronze plaques, he said. “When Tom Ryan, a favorite teacher at our school and my friend, died of AIDS in 2012, I wanted to honor Tom and my many other friends who died of AIDS. I thought the neighborhood should celebrate our heroes and invite the world. The perfect storm was created in my heart and poured out over the sidewalks that beautiful day in the Castro.”
So far this year, they have support from many friends such as Shanti, SF AIDS Foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, 50-plus merchants, and Ron Machado, the principal of the school. Castro Cares will again provide the security and Crayola is donating this year’s chalk.
Last year, besides coverage on three local TV stations, most people who were on the sidelines were parents and friends. A Thai film company took footage and Kelly did an interview with a man from Spain.
“It was so beautiful,” he explained, “It rained the next day and all the chalk drawings were gone.”
The Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy teaches tolerance and nonviolence starting in the 1st grade. The students learn to celebrate their diversity and the school aims to develop strong family-school-community connections. The Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy is a place that teaches students to excel in school and it nurtures creative critical thinkers in an inclusive community.
The students come from a spectrum of backgrounds with regards to ethnicity, family structure and socio-economic status. With busing, the school has students from neighborhoods ranging from Hunter’s Point to the Inner Richmond.
“What sets this school apart is its dedication to teaching students the values of civil rights and social justice. We celebrate diversity,” Kelly said.
Milk Plaza Redesign Put on Hold
Harvey Milk Plaza is slated for a facelift, but the SFMTA-led project is on hold for one year to allow the Castro Community Benefits District to “run a community-driven art concept at the Harvey Milk Plaza.”
The Castro Community Benefit District (CBD) and the Castro Merchants Association were the only community groups invited to planning meetings in the initial rounds. Both groups have mentioned interest in increasing the memorialization of former Supervisor Milk as well as additions such as an elevator needed to keep up with laws.
The change is a part of the Castro Accessibility Improvements Project, which includes initiatives like the ADA compliance, replacing and expanding the station level area, widening the sidewalk on Market Street, removing the planters and widening the above-ground brick walkway, and adding a second elevator.
Due to the requests of the Castro CBD and the Castro Merchants Association, the SFMTA, according to the public information coordinator, Kelley McCoy, has chosen to halt their renovation projects to allow the public art to be developed in tandem with the accessibility updates.
“The SFMTA is not a part of the CBD redesign committee but we are holding our project so we can work with them in construction later on,” McCoy said. “[The] public art will likely go through a community design process held by the CBD.”
Executive Director of the Castro CBD Andrea Aiello, who is presiding over the project, was unable to comment at this time. Expect updates and opportunities to contribute ideas and feedback in the coming months.
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© Castro Courier 2014
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