Yesterday, something incredible happened in San Francisco. London Breed, former president of the Board of Supervisors, became the first black woman elected as mayor of San Francisco. And she is now officially Mayor-(elect) Breed. Make sure you put some respect on that!
And, I couldn’t help but share on social media that the little “poor” black girl from San Francisco inside of me was jumping for joy.
Yes, I am a native San Franciscan. I know what you’re probably thinking… The last thing you think of when you think San Fran is black people. And that is exactly why Breed’s win is so important.
For the last six months, I have been following her journey as a potential mayoral candidate after the sudden death of the late Mayor Edwin Lee back in December. That’s when all eyes turned to Breed. And just like that, she became acting mayor of the city. And then again, just like that San Francisco hopefuls who were excited about seeing a black woman from the “hood” in power took a blow to the stomach—which they are used to (I’ll explain in further detail a little later)—when they stripped her of her interim position in favor of Supervisor Mark Farrell.
Being Black in San Francisco
Over the past few decades, the city’s black population has dwindled to less than 5%. Some people have even referred to it as an exodus with all of the long-time residents being pushed out of the city after it was “sold to the highest bidders.” Exclusive contracts and properties being given to developers and affluent people for the urbanization and redevelopment of the city are directly related to the displacement and gentrification that is happening as I type.
Imagine growing up in a city where you feel invisible, the only time you see people who look like you is in your community; attending school in a district that is deemed the worst for black students in the country; and, living with anxiety that your family will no longer be able to afford rent. Now add gun violence and poverty on top of that. That is a reality for many black residents of San Francisco even though they contribute to the economy, the culture, and make the most out of being from one the best cities in the country.
Mayor Breed is someone who has lived that reality and openly shared part of her experience growing up in the Plaza East public housing in the Western Addition, which is just walking distance from City Hall where she will now be leading the charge.
The Housing Crisis
In an op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle titled, “Powdered milk and moving vans: The fight for affordable housing,” Breed wrote about growing up in poverty; the uncertainties of housing as a life-long renter; and her fight for affordable housing. As a native, her story hit home and exposed the tale of two San Francisco’s. There’s the one that often looks like a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge and shots of homes in Alamo Square (think Full House). And then there is the reality of full homes and low-income units filled with several people and families who have to live together because of high rent costs and their inability to earn enough to be a part of the middle class, which according to Pew Research is $64,451 to $193,354. Yet, the average cost to rent in the city is more than $3,000 a month and the house price has climbed to $1.61 million.
And what’s even worse, is when you can walk a two block radius and see rundown government housing and homes selling for millions in some of the roughest neighborhoods because people with money have realized that “that part” of the city actually is nice, has a great view, and isn’t sinking. And while the housing crisis isn’t just a “black” issue in the city, they are being pushed out at alarming rates. My family was pushed out in 2014 after having the experience of living in just about every underprivileged neighborhood the city has to offer with temporary stays in Oakland during hard times.
You get where I’m going with this…
London Breed Is Hope
While Mayor Breeds sole focus won’t be on the housing crisis, I am hopeful that her win will be proof to every black child growing up in the pockets of San Francisco (Bayview Hunters Point, Lakeview, The Western Edition, Sunnydale, Double Rock, Army Street, Alemany Boulevard, and Potrero Hill), and those holding on to what they have left that they too can make it. I believe that there is room for them in the city and opportunities for them to rise to the occasion above adversity like Breed.
Here’s to Mayor Breed, her resilience, and all of her black girl magic!