Support for women in church leads to action
Fr. Jack McClure
On July 1, Father Matt Link took over and McClure’s role then transitioned to that of parochial vicar, helping out as a part-time priest on weekends and other occasions.
Father McClure, who is 70 years old, has a history of valued pastoral service in many Catholic parishes primarily in the Midwest, as a priest of the Precious Blood order. After he retired he welcomed the opportunity to come to San Francisco and work at Most Holy Redeemer within the San Francisco archdiocese. His current contract was due to expire at the end of June 2016, and he resigned in mid-September because moving to another residence meant he would not be available as needed at MHR.
Overall in the 15 months that Fr. Jack was at Most Holy Redeemer, “I was always so busy I didn’t leave the neighborhood much. Everything was pretty close, radiating out from 18th and Castro, which I saw as the downtown of the Castro.”
Given all this, how did it come about that he was told by the archdiocese in mid-September that he could not celebrate mass at MHR after August 27, and that he felt silenced?
While at MHR he had gotten to know a professional woman who had taken a year’s leave from her corporate work to volunteer at the Wijngaards Institute, a nonprofit that furthers the understanding of the value of the work of women in the ministry.
She asked McClure if he would consider sitting on a panel called “Breaking the Silence” that was part of an upcoming conference in Philadelphia. The sponsor was Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW), an international network of groups whose mission is to see Catholic women admitted to all ordained ministries in the Church. Fr. Jack would participate as “a male ordained person, minister and priest in the Roman Catholic tradition.” After much prayer, McClure decided to participate.
Afterwards he concluded that he was glad he went. It was very educational, he says, and “one of the most engaging conferences I’ve ever attended.” Woman of other faiths talked about their experiences as women in leadership, how some had experienced discrimination and violence at the hands of inappropriate power-based church organizations, and others experienced non-acceptance at church.
As reported in the National Catholic Reporter, two days after appearing at the conference he was told that he could no longer celebrate Mass at Most Holy Redeemer beyond the end of August. Word had come down from the secretary for San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
“I’ve learned a whole lot about myself in this process. I’ve had the most wonderful 15 months to live in the Castro and to serve at Most Holy Redeemer parish. I am so grateful to Archbishop Cordileone for this opportunity,” Fr. Jack said. “It may have been a rough ending as some have said, but it was an opportunity for me to come back and enter into the life of my religious community at a little slower pace.”
“I think that the thing I’ve learned the most is that without having had a word said to me, or without my really having said a word to anybody else, I’m truly silenced because people think I am. It hasn’t been proclaimed that I’m silenced by anybody that I know of,” he said. “I’ve simply heard that I can’t go back to Most Holy Redeemer.”
Fr. Jack says he enjoyed working with the staff at MHR: “They’re wonderful people and very active in the life of the Castro.”
He also relished the small town atmosphere of the Castro, likening it to the small Midwest communities where he grew up. Moreover, “the diverse population coming to the church has just been a blessing, with great acceptance, love and welcome right there in the middle of the Castro.”
Fr. Jack hopes the best for the church, even if his role has diminished since supporting the conference for women in positions of authority.
“I thought I went to the conference to participate in a dialogue in the spirit of Pope Francis and to say that I believe dialogue is really important. And obviously it is,” he said. “I’m certainly not wanting to do anything unkind for my church. I want to support our moving forward as the best church that we can be.”
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Community members came together on September 26 to raise money for the medical treatment of an eight-year-old student at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy diagnosed with an incurable illness.
Eight-year-old Zamora Moon is a student at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy battling the odds.
On July 12 her mother, Marisa Martinez, discovered that her daughter has DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma), an incurable cancer that occurs during childhood.
“It’s right on top of the pons of the brain so it’s inoperable because the pons takes care of breathing, swallowing, talking, and walking,” said Martinez. “So it all intertwines with the brain.”
Parents, neighbors, faculty and board members all came together to organize a fundraising event for Zamora this past weekend.
Kelly Clark, a fifth grade teacher at Harvey Milk and organizer of the event, said, “Getting everything together it took about seven and a half weeks. We were able to expedite it by using the mayor’s office downtown to really help us get this thing going.”
“We were able to get around 50 volunteers for this event,” Clark said. “We want to show that the school is a community not just a place where individuals come to take. It’s about building capacity and investing. And you invest in children, you grow the community and build the capacity.”
Ron Machado, principal of Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, shared his thoughts on the event and about Zamora.
“When the community comes together I think we’re going to have a huge turnout not just from our school community but also from our neighborhood community,” he said.
Machado says Zamora is “a sweet soul like a loving big sister, loving daughter, loving friend, just beautiful all around.”
Hydra Mendoza, commissioner on the Board of Education, attended the event to help support Zamora and her family.
“As soon as Marisa and Zamora got the diagnosis everybody kind of stepped into action,” said Mendoza. “One of the things we know we wanted to do was organize a fundraiser with the community, and so we all got together to do that.”
Mendoza shared three goals to accomplish with the fundraiser.
“One is to raise some funds so that Zamora can be a part of some trials, one we know is in Bristol in the UK,” Mendoza said. “Just to be a part of the trial is $93,000 and then her family will need to fly there and have a place to stay.”
Mendoza said the second goal is “to bring awareness to childhood cancer, and her particular cancer is something that nobody talks about so we want to bring more visibility to that.”
“The third thing,” said Mendoza. “Was really to build community.”
On September 26, the benefit outside of the school on 19th Street featured live music including Katdelic Acoustic, Jenny Kerr Band, Pink Sabbath, Eric Madden, Harold Day & Experience and George Johnson. There was also a face painting booth, a booth to purchase shirts that say cancer sucks. Zamora’s mom also played her violin with some of the bands. In addition, one could view slideshow with pictures of Zamora along with her family and friends.
“We wanted folks from around the neighborhood as well as San Francisco to come out and support what we’re doing,” Mendoza said. “Marisa was a former teacher of the year recipient from the mayor so the mayor wanted to come and show his support to make sure that he is tapping into the resources as well as seeing what we can provide.”
“We just hope to raise a lot of money for Marisa and her daughter Zamora,” said co-organizer Jennifer, who is a mother of two. “She’s just a really special little girl, you know she’s really smart and just loves her friends and loves to come to school.”
Photo: Joshua Velasco
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This year’s parade is dedicated to drag performer Cookie Dough.
With the indomitable rainbow flag flying steadfast on a 70-foot flagpole in the center of Harvey Milk Plaza, overlooking an iconic neighborhood with neon signs and small shops selling delicacies as telling as penis-shaped macaroon cookies, there is perhaps no better backdrop than here for a street fair.
On Sunday, October 4th at the intersection of Castro and Market streets, extending from 16th and 19th streets, tens of thousands of attendees will corral together to celebrate the Castro community’s diversity and local talents. The 42nd annual Castro Street Fair will include multiple live entertainment and dance stages with hundreds of local artists and organizations lining the streets to contribute to the merriment. According to Fred Lopez, interim executive director for the Castro Street Fair’s Board of Directors, they expect up to 50,000 revelers to attend this year.
While it is traditionally a day of festivity and carouse, this year’s fair will carry a heavier significance for the local community.
“The Fair this year is dedicated to one of our beloved friends and colleagues, Cookie Dough,” Lopez said. “She was a welcome performer year after year on the stages of the Fair before her untimely passing earlier this year.”
Eddie Bell, a prominent San Francisco drag performer known on stage as Cookie Dough, passed away earlier this year from meningitis while touring with the “The Golden Girls” cast in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
“Cookie was a brilliant performer and a great leader,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said. “I miss her dearly, as do many members of the community.”
In Bell’s honor, attendees are encouraged to “wig out” and come to the Fair in drag. “It should make for a very fun day,” Lopez said.
The entertainment will pay tribute to Bell as well. The 18th Street stage will feature performances from members of “The Monster Show,” the Castro’s longest running weekly drag show that Bell founded. Electronic glam-pop duo Ejector will also be reuniting in honor of Bell.
Other acts to watch out for include the Whoa Nellies and drag band Muñecas on the Main Stage. The Dance Alley will feature performances from deejays Justime, Mystic Ray and Nark.
The fair is free for all attendees, with a suggested donation of $5 to $10 dollars at the entry gates. Proceeds from the gates will go to more than 25 community nonprofit organizations working in and around the Castro neighborhood. Last year, the Fair donated over $74,000 dollars to many organizations, including the Castro Country Club, the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association.
The Fair began in 1974 as the brainchild of gay rights activist and local community leader Harvey Milk. As the business owner of a camera store, Milk started the Castro Street Fair as a means to promote local businesses.
“I think that’s what a street fair should be—for the neighborhood, about the neighborhood, by the neighborhood,” Milk said in a video interview filmed during the 1976 Fair.
And while the Castro Street Fair today may be much more elaborate and grand in scale than it was over 40 years ago, there is no doubt that the spirit of community is still alive, vibrant and thriving on this annual occasion.
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Officials, locals gather for safety plan
A group of concerned citizens called for a meeting with Supervisor Scott Wiener and SF Library officials to discuss ongoing problems at the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Branch Library.
More than 60 people met in the library on September 14 to discuss continuing issues surrounding homeless encampments on the library grounds and along the intersection of 16th and Prosper streets. In addition, escalating incidents of aggressive behavior by transients while in the library have made some of the residents fear for their safety and that of their children.
Supervisor Wiener, an 18-year resident of the neighborhood, told the crowd that the issues of homelessness and street behavior are part of a larger citywide issue. Wiener said the issue should be addressed with a better approach targeting needs of transients, services that can be made available to them and enforcing a basic standard of behavior. He acknowledged that his office has received photos from citizens showing the encampments, garbage strewn about and bicycles being disassembled and stripped.
Also speaking were SFPD Mission Station Captain Daniel Perea, Cathy Delneo, chief of branches for the SF Public Libraries, Roberto Lombardi, facilities director for the SF Public Libraries, Greg Carey of Castro Cares, and Riann Parker of the SF Public Health Homeless Outreach Team (HOT).
Perea said that officers have a problem compelling people to do what they don’t want to do. The officers can issue citations and fines, but these go mostly unpaid, and when a warrant is issued they are not enforced, as there is not consistency in the city and no prosecution. Perea reiterated that many on the street are there by circumstance, as they have no other place to go. When calls come into the stations, the first question is, “What is the threat to public safety?” Officers respond then as they can, although the number of officers in the city is well below levels that are considered adequate.
HOT’s Parker detailed that there are outreach specialists in the Castro every day for at least two hours, and their main concern is getting to know the people on the street and getting them into programs with benefits and medical care. For the roughly 50 percent who refuse help and do not want to move, the goal is to help them “try to be better neighbors.”
Carey informed the crowd about Castro Cares, the local program that provides services such as street patrols and beat officers for shifts during late nights and early mornings as well as case officers to assist in guiding people into shelters and the system for benefits. The additional security is paid for by donations from the public and businesses and has made a difference in the neighborhood. Castro Cares is a two-year pilot program to fund additional compassionate help to those living on the street and to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives, works, shops, plays and visits the Castro and Upper Market district. The program is managed by the Castro/Upper Market CBD as the lead organization but includes the SFPD, the Castro Merchants, local neighborhood organizations and associations, the SFDPH, local churches and individual business contributors.
Lombardi and Delneo addressed the frequency of library incidents throughout the city and at the Eureka Valley branch, which is in the top tier in numbers of incidents such as transients yelling, swearing, or otherwise harassing people to the point where police officers are called. The incidents are happening both inside and outside the branch and include people sleeping in the planter boxes, pitching tents and camping on the library grounds and even on the roof of the building, as well as other problems such as drinking, drug use and the frequent use of the sidewalks, alleys and front porches of nearby homes as “bathrooms.”
The facilities director acknowledged the desire by some citizens to erect a fence around the property and to chain off the parking lot but cautioned that structures such as fences also provide an anchoring point to attach tarps, plywood and other building materials. He asked the citizens in attendance to consider forming a smaller “working group” to meet with the library staff and himself to craft realistic options to make the library a safer and cleaner place. The use of different lighting, more sweeps by DPW, more safety patrols, tree trimming, building a wall or fence and better utilization of the city 311 service were items that were discussed.
With the involvement of the Prosper/Pond Neighborhood Group, the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, Castro Cares and other citizens working with the library staff and the supervisor’s office, a compassionate plan to increase safety and security at the library (and in the neighborhood) can be developed and implemented. Even though the city staff and departments do much work, sometimes citizen action, neighborhood involvement and “ownership” is the key to making a real and lasting change.
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Strut’s new treatments for HIV/AIDS
If you’ve noticed some new and exciting activity on the main drag of Castro Street outside of the usual nightlife and daytime strolls, you’re not alone. After almost four years of construction and planning, the center is almost set to open, with a soft open planned for what will hopefully be before the end of October, according to SF AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano.
With fundraising almost complete — now at $12 million of their $15 million goal — the program is still on its way to the grand vision created through extensive research in collaboration with Bain & Co. and the city of San Francisco.
The new program will be called Strut, a name which is so greatly suited to this new wave of treatment as it functions as the pivot from treatment focused on disease and sickness, and into a phase of treatment as holistic service. The new name invokes the center’s goals to encourage its visitors to walk with pride, to have no fear, and to focus on the strength of the community.
This vision works on the new, optimistic — yet no longer improbable — belief that we can see the eradication of AIDS in our lifetime. In order for this to happen, the new center at 470 Castro St. will lead a global movement in this new form of AIDS and HIV treatment for the new nature of the disease in the 21st century.
What is most important to remember for the shifting tides is that AIDS and HIV no longer have to be a death sentence. Now, with proper treatment those with the virus can live — and live well.
Although this change is in the air, there are still 50,000 new infections per year in America, with roughly 300 of those occurring in San Francisco. An overwhelming 90 percent of those cases were in gay or bisexual men. If these statistics are any indication at all of worldwide trends, it is gay leaders and gay organizations that are set to take center stage on the elimination of the disease.
Because of this, the changes our city and the SF AIDS Foundation make toward treating, healing, and preventing the spread of the disease will be looked to by many international contemporaries. In fact, Amsterdam’s vice mayor, Eric van der Burg, will be in San Francisco in October to watch and learn from the efforts that our fair city is leading for this cause.
“We have a large responsibility,” says Giuliani. “People are watching us.”
The center will function on a transmission prevention model that will teach not only safe sex but also offer services for mental well-being, aid for drug addiction, workshops on navigating health care systems, as well as community support groups for some of the most afflicted communities such a young bisexual black men (DREAAM) and gay men over 50 (50 Plus).
The Foundation aims to make Strut an inviting place in one of the most inviting neighborhoods in which to be gay in the whole of the nation. To mirror the changing face of AIDS and HIV in both the media and the global community, so too must the face of treatments and clinics change.
“The days of the old STD clinic hidden in the community… are long over in SF”, Giuliano said. Instead the center will focus on operating out of a space of no shame and no stigma, a stance that they hope will spread to all considerations of the virus within the gay community and the world at large.
The goal is for those who are infected to stay healthy, get the care they need, and to practice safe sex, and to, ultimately, get them to a level where they are no longer infectious, something that can finally be seen as a possibility.
Until the 470 center opens later this month, you can learn more about their campaign, their goals, their research, and their ethos on their website at StrutSF.org.
The best way to help at this phase to learn more and to change the stigma both within the gay community and within the community at large.
Anti Airbnb measure takes on opponent’s war chest
With the average price of a 1-bedroom at $3,400 and a 38-percent increase in evictions since 2010, the housing crisis in San Francisco is undeniable. Concerned citizens are pushing to enforce strict regulations on local tech giant Airbnb and similar sites with a new ballot measure this November, Proposition F.
Airbnb, a major player in the so-called sharing economy, connects homeowners acting as “hosts” with “guests” seeking short-term accommodation. The platform has served as a lucrative means for people to rent out their units or rooms at high rates for short amounts of time. In turn, some say this encourages them to push out existing tenants. An SF Chronicle investigation recently showed that Airbnb had 4,238 local hosts with 5,459 listings, while HomeAway/VRBO had approximately 1,000 listings and FlipKey had 359.
Prop F aims to curb the use of short-term, vacation-rentals. The measure was created by Share Better SF, a coalition of hotel unions, landowners, housing advocates and neighborhood groups to restrict the use of short-term rentals offered via online marketplaces.
If passed, Prop F will limit short-term rentals of a unit to 75 days per year regardless of whether or not the host resides in the unit. It also prohibits short-term rentals of in-law units. The existing law limits such rentals to 90 days a year if the host does not also reside at the property, but places no limits if the host does reside at the same property. The current law also requires hosts to register with the city, although few have actually done so.
Prop F would require hosts to submit quarterly reports on the number of days they live in the unit and the number of days the unit is rented. They must also pay a hotel tax and comply with building codes. Hosts must post a public sign that indicates home sharing occurs in their building. The initiative also allows interested parties to sue hosting platforms for violations.
Share Better SF canvassed across District 8 on September 26 to spread the word about what they feel are fair and reasonable regulations.
“Prop F puts stricter limitations on companies like Airbnb so that they don’t squeeze our housing stock, and it also acts to thwart landlords who evict tenants so they can turn their properties into de facto hotels,” activist and mayoral candidate Stuart Schuffman stated. “We can’t let multibillion dollar industries and corporations decide what our laws should be, because if we do, the laws will only favor them and their shareholders. And that’s how we, as citizens, lose what’s ours.”
But many homeowners in the Castro argue that Prop F is too extreme and invades their privacy.
“As a Castro resident and an employee of a nonprofit organization for the past four years, sharing my home while I’m on vacation or traveling for work has helped me be able to continue to afford to work at a nonprofit organization in San Francisco and get by,” Jesse H.N. said. “The nights I am away and share my home total around 90 nights per year. In addition to believing that 75 night per year cap is too restrictive, I am more concerned about the language surrounding lawsuits, in-law units and privacy.”
Mayor Ed Lee and District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener also stand against Prop F. Wiener believes the measure will hurt many local residents who rely on income from renting out a room in their home.
“We absolutely need to crack down on abusive short term rentals where investors own units and rent them out as permanent hotels,” Wiener said. “That kind of behavior is illegal, it should be illegal, and we need to continue to increase enforcement. But, Prop F goes well beyond cracking down on abusive short-term rentals by also cracking down on regular San Franciscans who are just trying to make ends meet.”
Prop F has proven to be the most expensive measure on the ballot this year. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Share Better SF has raised over $200,000 towards the cause. Since July, it has received $89,312.58 in donations. The largest sum came from Unite Here, a union representing hotel workers threatened by the impact of short-term rentals, followed by the San Francisco Apartment Coalition.
Airbnb has currently spent $8 million dollars on their campaign against Prop F called San Francisco for Everyone. This amount may seem like pennies to a company valued at $25 billion dollars, and it may be cheaper than getting fined up to $1,000 per day by the city per any listing posted on its site that doesn’t comply with the regulations imposed by Prop F.
San Francisco for Everyone has run a series of television commercials claiming that neighbors will be suing each other if the measure passes. Prop F would allow all “interested parties,” (anyone living within 100 feet of a rented unit) to sue the host for potential violations of the new rules. The campaign has been effective so far. Airbnb told Forbes Magazine that support for Prop F has fallen from 45 percent in July to just 34 percent at the end of September.
With the polls just a month away, the battle is in full force. Airbnb is doing everything it can to make sure Prop F doesn’t go into effect, while the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the San Francisco Tenants Union are hosting events to shame the company they are calling “AirbnReaper.”
Gifted Local Artist Leaves Mark on Area
Part of the murals at Mission High School painted by Edith Hamlin, 1937-38.
Edith Hamlin (1902-1990) was part of the California and Southwest art and cultural scene for half a century from 1925 to 1980. During her 55-year career, she was acknowledged as an outstanding muralist and painter. Her interest in the arts began at an early age and later she won a two-year scholarship to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. While there, she was one of four students chosen to paint a mural on the school’s walls and at age 22, she wanted to be a muralist.
Her paintings are in five museum collections including a painting of her husband, Maynard Dixon, in the California Museum in Oakland. Two murals remain in San Francisco at Coit Tower and Mission High School. Both were funded by government-supported art programs in the 1930s.
She had lived in New York for four years when she heard there might be work in San Francisco. She learned to drive a Model A and got home in time to get the job. As one of 26 muralists (four women) she was chosen for a pilot program at Coit Tower. Its success changed the way artists worked during the Depression. The artists were chosen because of their abilities not their need, and no socialist messages were allowed.
At Coit Tower, Edie learned fresco painting on the job and created a bucolic scene of two duck hunters and a frightened deer almost drawn to scale. They are not the flat wall decorations murals became in the late 40s. Here mural is not open to the public since it is on the second floor in a small space.
After I organized Coit Tower’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1984, Edie and I became good friends. During the next six years, I visited her studio often. It had a huge Hopi clay pot, several large woven baskets, and one of her large paintings of the Southwest rested on a tall easel.
Three years after she finished her Coit Tower mural, she was funded by the Works Project Administration (WPA) to make “architectural paintings” at Mission High School during 1937-38. She chose the location and themes. It was a prestigious mural that took a year to complete and she supervised four assistants. At that time, she was one of the city’s best artists.
“The WPA mural at Mission High launched my career as a muralist,” she said in an interview now in the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.
At Mission High, both of the 8’ x 24’ panels are painted in tempera, a method of using egg yolks, minerals for colors and water. She drew inspiration from an Italian muralist in the 14th century, Giotto, who has been called one of the greatest painters. His frescos showed people who appeared realistic as though they had stepped out of nature. Several other panels he painted in egg tempera. Christian themes, fresco and tempera methods of painting continued through the Renaissance in the 16th century.
Like Giotto’s work, her figures were full-bodied and the colors remained bright by using tempera way of painting. Her mural’s themes were building of the Catholic Mission Dolores and what life was then. She wanted the students and other viewers to know that this is the oldest part of San Francisco and it was an international center even then.
During the project, her friend Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) offered his help painting 40 faces of Spanish conquistadors on horses, missionaries and indigenous Indian families.
Edie and Maynard shared their fascination with the Southwest and the Plains Indians’ way of life. “My eight years with Maynard were the best years of my life!” she said in her interview with the Archives of American Art.
While working on the WPA mural, Edie’s studio was a few doors from Maynard’s on Montgomery Street in the city’s small art colony. Maynard’s former wife, Dorothea Lange, the famous photographer, once had a studio on Montgomery Street at the end of the block.
Edith Hamlin, artist and muralist, is important to our understanding of the California and Southwest art and culture from 1920-1980. She was part of the experiment called the PWAP at Coit Tower and received many WPA mural commissions. Her involvement helped revitalize the arts during the 30s-40s. Maynard was of considerable importance to the arts and both benefited from their marriage. She has influenced generations of muralists and figurative painters in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Writing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Heather Jacks, a San Francisco based author, has joined forces with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to produce a beautiful coffee table book about their lives and history. She and they will host a fundraising party for the book at Cafe Flore in the Castro on October 14th.
It’s wonderful that you’ve had the idea for a book about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. They are part of our every day life here in the Castro but not too many people really know their history or get the in-depth story of what they do. What gave you the idea to do this? How did you become involved with the Sisters?
The first project I did with SF Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was Project Nunway in 2014. I was asked to design a dress, which was fantastic. Previously I knew nothing about the Sisters. I phoned Sister Zsa-Zsa, who was coordinating the event, as I had a signed record from Jane Weidlin and The GoGos. I have a line of record bags called Rock A Record, and thought I would make the signed album into a purse that they could use in their auction. She thought it was a great idea but they had no auction...so, why don’t you do one Darling?! I put together the auction and it raised over $4,000.00, which was fabulous. I attended their grant giving event and was so happy to see how many wonderful and fringy organizations received grants. Many would never be funded any other way. Grants were given to art, LGBT, historical preservation, homeless programs, etc. It was awesome. I knew this was a group that walked the walk and I LOVED them. I was just so sold on what their mission was and that they actually do what they say they’re gonna do. It is a lifelong commitment they make. Why do they do that? Who are they? What are their personal stories? What drives them to commit to service within a community for life? I want them to be understood. That was the mission, the goal. Hopefully we can celebrate these amazing people who dedicate to their community, and it’s not just San Francisco. Of course that’s where it started but they’re worldwide now. They [began] in 1979 in the Castro. There were four founders; three are still alive; one has just passed on. I’m happy to have the opportunity to interview the remaining three for this project. It’s really amazing to me because I feel like I’m a pretty educated person but doing this project has absolutely revolutionized the way that I think. I’m just blessed and honored to be able to do this.
I’m not surprised to hear that they donate to all sorts of groups, including fringe groups. Part of their mission statement is “We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty.” They’re very life affirming.
And they cross everything, all generations and divides. Their history is very, very interesting to me. This is going to be an art book, a big oversized art book with amazing photography, very intimate stories, history, culture, and evolution. It’s a coffee table book. You read books like And the Band Played On, and they’re always mentioned but it is a little more of a side note. They haven’t really gotten to be the front and center. I think it’s important; I think it’s hugely important in San Francisco. The question I had when I first started this was why San Francisco? Why not New York or London? What was going on in our city in 1979 that allowed the Sisters to form and bloom. I’ve really been looking into that question and it’s fascinating.
You’re going to be having a party at Cafe Flore in the Castro for this book on October 14th. What will be happening at the party? I’m sure that some of the Sisters will be there.
I’m very excited about his! Cafe Flore generously donated their [venue]. We have a photo area where [you can] get pictures with Sisters. Veteran Sisters and newbies [will be] coming out to host this evening. We have a lot of people donating alcohol to us to sell and we get to keep all that. We have a really cool silent auction, lots of cool art, lots of cool stuff. I have another autographed record bag by Martha Davis and The Motels! It is super cool. I also have my other book that I’m working on which is book on Bay Area buskers. [Buskers] are people who perform on street corners in exchange for money. We’ll have live music there. We’ll have a raffle; there’ll be go-go boys. It should be a lot of fun!
You had mentioned the other book that you’re working on about Bay Area buskers. This will be your second book about street musicians. You’ve already published one about New York City buskers that won a book of the year award.
It was pretty spectacular. I independently produced it. We produced it all here in San Francisco, so that was very cool. That will be my second one in that series. It too is a limited edition coffee table book. I’m gonna be crowdfunding; I use RocketHub, which is like Kickstarter. It’s fantastic; I’ve been successful on it previously.
What brought you to this type of work, of wanting to create these books? You had been in the music industry prior.
I had worked in the music industry. I actually went to USF, the Jesuit school, here in San Francisco back in the ‘80s. I lived here in the ‘80s as well. I love, love, love music; I love the music industry. Music, just like publishing, has really changed. Fortunately I tend to change along with it. With music I had previously worked A & R; I had done concert production; I worked for a major label at one point. I always worked writing; I’d always be writing bands’ bios. Just a few years ago I started a little blog that really seemed to catch on. When I first started it I didn’t intend to do a big art book. I was just doing these articles and people were seriously digging it. I realized with buskers, that there again is kind of a mythology. People look at buskers and they’re like, “They’re vagrants; they’re hacks; they’re homeless; they can’t get real gigs - that’s why they’re on the street.” I found that to be predominantly untrue so I really set out to celebrate that lifestyle, that piece of culture. That’s really where the love of that came from. I’m always about busting down mythology. I grew up on Indian land and that informs the way I operate today. It’s about busting down mythology. It’s the same in some respects with the Sisters.
A lot of people have maybe a judgement or a thought and a lot of times those judgements are incorrect. I just really want to try to break those mythologies, bust the myths if you will.
Local writer Heather Jack is releasing her coffee table book about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at Cafe Flor on October 14.
Photo courtesy of Heather Jack
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© Castro Courier 2014
© Castro Courier 2014