I love San Francisco and the Bay Area. With its art, music, and food scenes, there’s always something happening. People are constantly creating and finding ways to express themselves and sharing this with others, which to me, is what it means to be human. Plus, everyone is diverse and socially aware (read: not Trump supporters). Being there just makes me feel empowered and alive.
Anyway, do you ever have that one random moment that totally exemplifies why you love something? One of mine for San Francisco happened around this time last year. While my friends and I were wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf, I was also texting my aunt to see what she was up to. She is one of my many cool aunts, by the way: a SF native, working as a school teacher, doing yoga at nights, and drinking loose leaf tea from local markets. She invited me to a performance that my cousin had choreographed with a local group of 20 somethings.
My family picked me up, and we drove 15 minutes to a warehouse, then settled in the makeshift bleachers. The room was dark, a little cold, but warmed by the people- everyone knew everyone (except me). After folks had the chance to catch up, the interpretive dances started: one about understanding your sexuality as a queer woman, another showing the passing of time, the next proving that a healthy relationship happens when people work together and support each other.
As as we were waiting for the last one, a homeless looking man came by asking for change. Some people looked away, awkward and helpless, others ignored with little outward remorse, a few handed some spare coins. Each subsequent denial broke him down a little more than the last, and eventually one of the choreographers asked him to leave.
I felt awkward too. I’m not new to seeing homeless people and gentrification is not new to this area, but I felt it more than usual that weekend. There were much more people living out of their cars, more families living in the streets, and more high rise condos than I remember. A lot of my discussions with people were about their city changing. Now, here we were in this space, watching someone who likely was affected by the soaring cost of living that we had all been complaining about. Now, presented in a place we weren’t expecting to see him, we didn’t know what to do.
But then, he started dancing! He was one of the performers! His movements were stories about the hunt for safety, shelter, food, and human connection, and through the process, he took off his dirty layers to show that he was human too. At the end, he gave a quick talk about how ever since he moved here, he had been houseless, not homeless (his words- not mine. I guess it’s more like you live on your friend’s couches than on the streets). Even so, coming from a small southern town to a large liberal city, he finally found a community of other gay black artists and had no regrets.
Experiencing his performance, and just generally watching free interpretive social justice themed dances at 2 in the afternoon, put many things I like about San Francisco in a box.
NOTE: All pictures in this piece are so pretty because they actually came from Pexels. I did not take any of these pictures!