The San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) is accepting proposals for “The Dream Keeper Initiative” – formally known as the City Reallocation Fund – under which $120 million from the San Francisco Police Department and Sheriff’s Office budgets is being redirected to nonprofits that serve the Black community.
“We know that to actually see true lasting change we need to focus on helping entire families, from early education for kids, to job training and workforce support for their parents, and serve communities that have been systematically harmed by past policies,” said Mayor London Breed.
Half the cash, $60 million, will be spent over the next two years. “Whether the money will be spent this fiscal year or this calendar year will vary depending on when funds are released. They might run over fiscal and calendar years. For instance, grants starting before June 20, 2021 will mostly likely cross over into 2022,” said Sheryl Davis, San Francisco Human Rights Commission executive director.
Roughly $15 million will be spent to promote community health and well-being, through restorative justice, food security, and Black home ownership programs. Another $7 million will be used to create a guaranteed income program. Six and a half million dollars will be dedicated to tracking expenditure outcomes and impacts. Six million dollars will go to Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) training and development programs for youth and adults, supporting preparation program stipends, higher education financial incentives, and arts opportunities.
Five million dollars will be spent to increase municipal employee diversity, by improving human resources infrastructure to expand Black participation in civil service jobs, particularly in underrepresented roles. Programs that support families and address youth academic and social-emotional learning needs within a cultural and racial equity context will receive $3.6 million, to pay for literacy and early education programs and family engagement, offering families resources, workshops, and access to services.
Three million dollars will be spent to support Black-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs, with business development, technical assistance, and anti-displacement services. Art and cultural nonprofits in low-income and Black communities will be provided $2.1 million, to help Black-led and Black-serving creatives – theater companies, artists, and artist collaboratives – build the organizational capacity needed to compete for grants. Two million dollars will be spent to create culturally affirming spaces; commercial corridors in historical Black neighborhoods and incubation hubs for small businesses and community groups, where Black cultural events can be held.
“We are working with several partners and academic institutions to do evaluations and case studies on this project,” Davis said. She added that the community stressed the need to be able to pilot new ideas and learn from failures.
The first funding round, $687,500, will go to organizations that serve the Black trans community. OEWD will distribute another roughly $250,000 to organizations that assist Black-owned small businesses and entrepreneurship.
African Americans who have been virtually meeting – including Black San Franciscans, municipal workers, those with historical ties to the City, and individuals who own, operate, or work at businesses in San Francisco – have proposed that funding be allocated to Black theater groups that stage productions that inspire and unite the Black community. Organized under African American Theatre Alliance for Independence, the African American Shakespeare Company, PUSH Dance company, AfroSolo Theater, Cultural Odyssey, and SF Recovery Theater want support for such productions as “Don’t Drop Dead On Stage: A Musician and Performing Artist Survival Guide,” conducted by composer, musician, and arts business specialist Idris Ackamoor; and “Mask Up: We Wear Masks to Save Our Lives,” an online feature by AfroSolo to be presented on Facebook and Instagram.
The second round of grants will focus on programs which address public safety, provide mental health services, and support youth, seniors, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
“Shortly after that, there will be a call for proposals from organizations that promote home ownership, early education, and provide opportunities for family engagement. It is exciting to see organizations receive funding as folks come together and continue community meetings,” said Davis.
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, who serves as Board of Supervisors president, said he and Mayor Breed want Black-led organizations to dictate how resources are distributed from the City Reallocation Fund.
“I consider this to be our first step toward reparations. We are looking at this through a lens of equity. The funding is providing resources for people to thrive and see positive outcomes,” said Walton. “We have to work together to make sure the outcomes are real and are acknowledged.”
Through online conversations, African Americans defined funding categories and a grant schedule. Meetings were held in June and July, and at least once weekly between September and November, hosted by the Human Rights Commission. Occasionally, San Francisco Police Department officers participated in the gatherings, as Black community members or to listen to concerns about law enforcement practices.
Sergeant Michael Andraychak, SFPD public information officer, said recommendations from the Alternatives to Policing Steering Committee, a group formed by Mayor Breed last fall, were designed with community involvement in mind rather than from a law enforcement perspective.
“The Department’s participation thus far involves providing historical background, interpreting police data, and public safety concerns. This group is very enthusiastic about creating a system that would address calls for services which had been traditionally handled by the police. The approach is a holistic one, looking at socioeconomic issues, equity and inclusion, law reforms, housing, underserved communities, and systems of care already in place, among other challenges,” said Andraychak.
Nancy Crowley, San Francisco Sheriff’s Office communications specialist and media spokesperson, said her agency is committed to the City’s Racial and Social Equity Action Plan, which mandates that municipal expenditures be driven by equitable outcomes and accountability. SFSO has developed its own plan, Sheriff’s Alliance for Equity, which calls for advancing equity by reducing racial and ethnic-based disparities in SFSO’s activities.
Phelicia Jones, founder of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, a grassroots organization that advocates for police accountability and reform, wants more resources to be dedicated to the Black community.
“One hundred and twenty million dollars spread out over two years, during a pandemic, is not going to create equity for all the disparities Black San Franciscans are suffering and have suffered in the past. The concerns that the Black community faces are long-term hardships. This is a work in progress,” said Jones. “They have known that Black folks have been concerned about these problems for decades. We want to see changes in how SFPD and SFSO do their jobs as soon as possible. A number of departments, including the Department of Public Health, Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families, and the Human Services Agency, have not done a good job of being equitable to the Black community. They have failed to provide adequate services for Black San Franciscans. Funding community organizations that can provide necessary services is appropriate.”
Melissa Hernandez, a member of the No New SF Jail Coalition, roughly 25 San Franciscans who want less policing and closure of the San Francisco County Jail, wants grants to be directed to help people with criminal convictions find housing and jobs.
“Right now, the jail is a hotbed for infection. The goal is to help people receive re-entry services that are meaningful and help them stay out,” said Hernandez.
“We borrowed against reserves to provide cash grants for shelter, food, and necessities for members of the Black trans community,” said Aria Sa’id, co-founder and executive director of The Transgender District, a nonprofit that serves the Tenderloin. “We are currently working to provide financial assistance, cultural programming, and funding for entrepreneurship and development among members of the Black trans community.”
The Human Rights Commission provided The Transgender District with funding in 2020. Over the next three years The Transgender District wants to establish a shower program, offer free laundry facilities, and create a wellness center on Sixth Street.
Participating in the HRC-hosted meetings helped Sa’id realize that the Black community is supportive of trans people. “It has been endearing and heartening to see Black women who do not identify as trans stand in solidarity with us. There have been so many people who have spoken out for us, offered financial support, and shown themselves to be allies and advocates. I was apprehensive at first. Going to the meetings has shown me that we are in this together,” said Sa’id.
Tuquan Harrison, HRC LGBTQI+ advisor, who oversees implementation of policies and funding to support the City’s LGBTQI+ community, said The Transgender District was one of several Black trans-led and serving organizations that HRC supported.
“The HRC also provided TGI Justice Project and several other organizations with funding, with about $200,000 going to support the Black transgender community and transgender communities of color in San Francisco. These organizations are doing so much to help people remain housed during the pandemic and disperse funds in an equitable manner that the City is learning from them,” said Harrison.
“They can’t fall back on “business as usual” practices,” said Geoffrey Grier, director of SF Recovery Theater, a grassroots organization of actors that stage productions that encourage salvation and hope. “There is the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Black community has been in a social pandemic. Individuals and neighborhoods are suffering because of racism and injustice. Changes need to come now.”
Grier, who has trained SFPD officers in crisis intervention, said law enforcement agencies prefer to conduct in-house exercises. “To do a fair training, you need to have a neutral third party. The unwillingness to have outside and community input has worked to their detriment. After all these years, we find ourselves here, with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people killed by law enforcement officers,” said Grier.
Ebon Glenn, director of operations for the San Francisco African American Arts and Culture District (SFAAACD), is pleased that the Black community is brainstorming how to utilize resources, particularly as dedicated to the arts, which “…is self-expression. It’s a way to be able to be heard and in some instances, to have your statement be immortalized on a mural or through a poem that could be a historical document. The arts allow the expression of positivity, unity, and togetherness, that drafting of a positive narrative.”
SFAAACD, which has created murals and banners in Bayview, doesn’t intend to apply to the City Reallocation Fund. It receives monies from the Transient Occupancy Tax. Glenn, who participated in the HRC-hosted meetings, said he hopes arts organizations will create work that’s culturally competent, accurately represents the Black community’s history and ethos; intentional, and share significant Black social and historical events.
“If you put the money in the hands of the right organizations, we could see those dollars go directly to work, funding artists to beautify our neighborhoods, nonprofits that organize youth talent shows, and more,” said Glenn.
Edward Hatter, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House executive director, wants funds to be used to hire counselors and therapists of color to speak to low-income youth.
“There has been violence, a lot of shootings during the pandemic. Almost all of the referrals have been to white counselors. Young people clam up when encouraged to talk to someone who doesn’t look like them and doesn’t have training in how to talk to them,” said Hatter.
The number of homicides in San Francisco has risen over the past two years, from 41 in 2019 to 47 in 2020, though in Bayview-Hunters Point the number declined from 14 to 13 over the period. According to the California Partnership for Safe Communities, a violence prevention organization that closely examined all 162 homicides in San Francisco from January 2017 to June 2020, the key to reducing street violence is to “focus on and invest” in a small number of “groups” that have committed the majority of homicides and shootings over the last 3.5 years.
Hatter said that having many types of services in one location, as offered at Potrero Block X, in the Annex-Terrace housing complex, isn’t helping residents.
“Even during the pandemic, having all the services right where you live is contributing to that “8-block syndrome.” People are not being motivated to unlock themselves from a tight radius. This becomes crippling,” said Hatter.
“On-site services are a safeguard against displacement, as they provide residents with access to services they need while reducing challenging barriers such as transportation, time and cost,” retorted Damon Harris, vice president of community development for Bridge Housing, which manages Potrero Block X.
Delia Fitzpatrick, program liaison for Our Kids First, an afterschool program offered at Longfellow Elementary, Guadalupe Elementary, and Denman Middle schools, believes that mental health services for youth will help the Black community as a whole.
“Strong personal connections help children of color throughout their lives. Counselors and social-emotional training is important, especially during the pandemic. The children can’t play, hug, and talk face to face with people outside their household right now,” said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said having online HRC meetings made it easier for her and other childcare professionals to join the larger conversation. “Before the pandemic, it was hard to get Downtown. I had to deal with parking, traffic, and public transportation issues. I needed so much time to get to a meeting, but I was also often needed onsite. With a virtual meeting, I can take time to be a part of the conversation and be visible,” said Fitzpatrick.
Felisia Thibodeaux, executive director of the Southwest Community Corporation, a nonprofit located at 446 Randolph Street which serves older adults and persons living with access and functional needs – concerns obtaining goods and services – in Lakeview-Ocean View, Merced Heights, and Ingleside said funding is needed for outreach to seniors who may be isolated.
“The Black community has been severely affected by racism. The time is now for funding to be directed to communities serving Black seniors and Black-led organizations in marginalized communities,” said Thibodeaux.
Southwest Community Corporation conducts wellness checks in person and by phone. “When we call, they say they are okay. When they open the door, we see what we couldn’t hear over the phone. Our seniors are disheveled and not eating well. They appreciate a conversation and additional resources, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, hygiene and cleaning supplies, and adult diapers. Since the pandemic began, we increased the number of seniors we serve from 40 to close to 200, based on community referrals,” said Thibodeaux.
“These funds will start to reverse the harm done to the Black community,” said Gina Fromer, chief executive officer of Children’s Council of San Francisco, a nonprofit that provides services to families and early childhood educators. “When we reinvest in early childhood education, better health outcomes, and systems that support Black children as they grow, the need for policing in our communities will start to go down.”
Fromer, a sixth generation San Franciscan who grew up in Bayview, said there’s power in the conversations that the Black community is having. “We’re able to speak our minds about where funding goes and what we need to accomplish. I’ve learned that if I can’t do something, another individual or organization will. Our collective impact of directing where the money goes and evaluating the changes it makes is bigger than the $120 million. The meetings, and our commitment to change, are restructuring, reestablishing, and reenergizing the City’s Black community,” said Fromer.