I knew Sup. Chris Daly was going to get slammed for his Feb. 23 vote against placing a $412 million earthquake-safety bond measure on the June ballot. I knew it when I heard him say the following: ''I care more about the people at the jail, the people who are there involuntarily, if we have a seismic incident, then I do about the rest of the people at 850 Bryant."
Daly noted that he would have supported the bond package if it included money for new lockups, as was originally proposed.
'What about the people in the jails?" Daly asked. "These are San Franciscans, my constituents, folks who are disproportionately people of color, folks who are disproportionately low-income and have been caught up in the criminal justice system.''
What I later discovered was that several key figures in the local prison reform movement, including Dorsey Nunn of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and Rhodessa Jones of the Medea Project, a visionary theater model for incarcerated women, were sitting in the Chambers, awaiting commendations as part of the city's ongoing Black History Month celebrations.
Later that same afternoon, Sup Ross Mirkarimi honored Jones (left) and Idris Ackamoor (right) for their work with Cultural Oddysey. And afterwards, I caught up with Jones by phone to see what she thought of the plan not to rebuild the jails on Bryant Street , a decision apparently made to reduce the price of the city's proposed seismic safety charter amendment by $250 million.
Jones, who conducted a residency at San Francisco county jail that resulted in the Medea Project, told me that these kind of inequitable decisions illustrate why she got motivated to do work inside jail, in the first place.
"When we walk into the jail, we try to educated the prisoners that they have no rights and no safety," Jones said. "We are trying to find ways to infuse their lives with the political reality and end recidivism."
She also noted that she has not been able to take the Medea Project inside the local jail because it's gotten so crowded.
But last time she was there, the women were primarily black and brown and, according to Jones, "they are the fastest growing number inside."
Jones, who is currently working on the issue of reparations and "how the prison-industrial complex looks so much like slavery," told me that in the 20 years since she began the Medea project, she's learned that figuring out the questions around any issue is central to understanding it.
"So, are these folks not human beings as well? How do we transform the humanity? And what would Christ do? A lot of people don't have any connection with an issue until it's sitting at their dinner table," Jones said.
Meanwhile, the Board also honored a dozen other local African American leaders,
These honorees included Brian Gadsden (at the podium) and Herve Ernes
Sup. Carmen Chu recognized Kenyatta Scott of Abraham Lincoln High School (in red at the podium.
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi recognized Don Lacey (KPOO FM) and Marcus Books.
Sup. Daly recognized Bobby Bogan (at the podium below) of Seniors Organizing Seniors.
Sup. Sean Elsbernd recognized Courtney Johnson Clenendin, and Sup. Bevan Dufty recognized John Weber (see below); emperor of the Imperial Court
Sup. David Campos recognized Karen Huggins (at the podium) for her work with residents of San Francisco Housing Authority properties, describing her as a “force of nature.”
Sup. Sophie Maxwell, whose district is the subject of our cover story recognized Emily Wade-Thompson (at podium below), George Wahington Elementary School principal.
Supervisor Avalos recognized Joseph Lambert and Elba Clemente-Lambert, (both at podium below) who run the Creative Music Emporium.
“We are the last remaining African American owned store in San Francisco, and the only independent music store south of Cesar Chavez," the Lamberts said.
On the way out of the press box, I couldn't help photographing this cutting in a file compiled by local African American videographer and blogger Ace Washington, who is passionately concerned about the ongoing exodus of San Francisco's already dwindling black population.
Anyone want to hazard a guess what the 2010 census is going to reveal? (Here's a clue: it's doubtless less than it was ten years ago).
Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this video clip of Bobby Bogan talking about how he used to be in a gang and recruit for the gang, but is now working for and with seniors, one of other most vulnerable populations in town besides blacks, children, folks with disabilities and, you guessed it, prisoners of color.
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