SQFT "Block Friday" Blog Example

The writing below is an excerpt from Anthony’s WordPress blog for SQFT. “Block Friday” was a community event on November 23, 2012. The blog was originally published with photos at: http://www.yoursqft.com/black-jesus-community-and-conversation-swapmeet-sfs-block-friday/


It’s Black Friday – and if it’s a Friday, that means it’s time again for swap/meet SF, a collective of interactive artists hell-bent on getting San Franciscans to meet their neighbors. But curators Jessica Watson and Chris Treggiari are having no part of the usual consumerist madness associated with the day after Thanksgiving. Instead, they’re putting on “Block Friday,” a community potluck centered on sharing a Thanksgiving dinner with your neighbors right on the sidewalk outside A Temporary Offering, a cool new pop-up space in the gritty MidMarket neighborhood.

2:00 pm rolls around, and I find myself serving dessert. As I dish out slice after slice of crisp, pie and sweet bread – at least 150 individuals served – I see the full diversity of San Francisco file before me. But the diversity is more ethnic than economic, because most of these people are homeless. As our guests gather to spend time with each other around a good meal, something more than turkey hits me in the stomach: even in a city as wealthy as San Francisco, there is still so much need. Serving the dessert allows me the privilege of adding a little sweetness to the lives of my neighbors, but still my conscience nags: “I wish San Francisco had a place for everyone.”

After my dessert duties wrap up – every morsel of food gone by 3:00 pm – I survey the tables to witness the art left behind and spend a few minutes chatting with the guests. It turns out they have all kinds of concerns: Jenna is creating a digital platform that shows people how to shop for healthcare – something most of us will be doing more of when Obamacare rolls out; Shaka wants his name known, so he’s tagging the table in a way that leaves it emblazoned in your mind forever; Ray is shy about admitting that he has a talent for drawing, though the delicate plants he’s sketched around the words “Love Peace Respect” provide abundant proof.

Then I see what looks like a black Jesus crayoned in bold strokes on the table. I look up and see that it’s actually a self-portrait of its creator: Isaac. He’s got long salt-and-pepper dreads tucked inside a crocheted floppy hat, and a nose ring, and the kind of wise eyes that can only be described as soulful. He tells me a long tale about his days as an entrepreneur of holiday cards, how he stopped making art when his supplies got stolen, how programs for this-that-and-the-other come and go at the homeless shelters. Then Tay Rolla catches my eye: he’s a rapper hawking his wares – a CD called  “Transformation” – atop the stage of undulating-wood-slats-and-bright-lightbulbs crafted by the good folks at StreetStageSF.com. Tay assures me, “My stuff is all positive, all a good time, no negativity, feel me?”

Both Isaac’s and Tay’s entrepreneurship inspire me. They make me think that ingenuity given access to resources results in transformation. What if we could apply that formula to affordable housing in San Francisco?