A heart once nourished - Page 3

A murder in front of children leaves Ella Hill Hutch Community Center reeling
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A woman next to him in the car suffered a critical gunshot wound to the head.

Two more killings occurred further east at Larch Way, a popular location for murder in the neighborhood.

Burnett "Booski" Raven, a 32-year-old alleged member of the Eddy Rock street gang, was found bleeding at 618 Larch Way early Oct. 7, his body laying halfway in the street and containing at least 10 gunshot wounds. On July 22, police found 23-year-old John Brown, another purported Eddy Rock member, wedged under a Chevy pickup truck, dead from up to seven gunshots.

Brown had reportedly survived two prior shootings, but the Western Addition's cultural condemnation of "snitching" to police has so infected the neighborhood that he allegedly told police not to bother investigating either of the attacks.

Loïc Wacquant, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says neighborhoods like the Western Addition that once contained stable black institutions — schools, churches, and community centers that glued residents together — have been overwhelmed by the rise of a white-collar, service-based economy, the decline of unions, and the withdrawal of meaningful social safety nets.

Cities have responded to the resulting marginalization with more police officers, more courts, and more prisons. But the failure of those institutions to cure rising violence "serves as the justification for [their] continued expansion," Wacquant quoted Michel Foucault, the famous late UC Berkeley sociologist, in the academic journal Thesis Eleven earlier this year.

The roots of the Western Addition's tragedy go back to the early post-World War II era. In 1949, Congress enacted laws giving cities extraordinary powers to clear out land defined as "blighted." In San Francisco, that meant neighborhoods where low income people of color lived.

The Western Addition was devastated. Huge blocks of houses were bulldozed. Clubs, stores, restaurants — the heart of the black neighborhood — were wiped out. Many residents were forced out of the neighborhood and sometimes the city forever; others lost their property and their livelihoods (see "A half-century of lies," 3/21/2007).

By the 1970s, neighborhood activists were hoping that at the very least the Redevelopment Agency would pay for a recreation facility for kids. But city officials wouldn't put up the money, recalls the Rev. Arnold Townsend, a longtime political fixture in the city and associate pastor of the Rhema Word Christian Fellowship.

Townsend said activist Mary Rogers — whom he calls "the greatest champion kids ever had in this community" and a famous critic of redevelopment — gave up on City Hall and went to Washington DC, where she sat in at a meeting that happened to include Patricia Harris, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Jimmy Carter. Rogers, joined by a group of colleagues from San Francisco, bumped into Harris afterward.

"[Harris] shook Mary's hand like politicians do, and Mary wouldn't let her hand go until she had a meeting," Townsend said. "They were having a tug-of-war over her hand."

Rogers' determination paid off, and enough political channels opened up that money for the center became available. Then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein cut the ribbon for the $2.3 million Ella Hill Hutch Community Center four months after the supervisor's death, complete with outdoor seating for seniors, a gymnasium, tennis courts, and child-care facilities.

A young counselor named Leonard "Lefty" Gordon who worked at the Booker T.

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