Nia Coffer

                                                                           Street Traffick
                                                                                By Nia Coffer
Through the palm trees I look through a Black lens
To a world of fear which makes no “cents”
In second place with drugs at first
I glance at 3rd Street where dogs wait to patch up their thirst
Oakland, Richmond, and San Fran alike
A few of the largest “exchanges” in sight
Many don’t understand these hostile foes
While brushing streetwalkers puppeted by those
Who seek to exploit girls renamed
As prostitute, whore, or things used in their game
I write not to sway your perception of thought
Though I’m sure it is an idea you might have bought
I write to say that these lives exist
Past the stage and screen which hides traffick by mist
Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Author Bio: Nia Coffer is a sixteen year old high school senior at San Domenico School. She is passionate about the arts, especially dance and poetry. Nia uses her gifts to express herself and bring awareness to social justice issues in the United States and the world. The inspiration for the poem “Street Traffick” comes from the issue of human trafficking in the Bay Area.

Tyler Rose

The Beauty Inside
                                                                                               By Tyler Rose
I am writing this to remind people that in order to be beautiful you don’t need to look, dress, or act any certain type of way. Your beauty is not your lips, it is not your thighs, not your hips and not your eyes. Your beauty is who you are past the physical, it runs deeper than the skin.
Photo: Conni McKenzie
I personally have struggled with feeling self conscious because of the way that I look, but as I have matured I have come to realize that looks are irrelevant. We were born with the body we have; nobody gets a choice in how they look so at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. What matters is who you are as a person.
You are capable of achieving any goal you set for yourself: do not forget it. You might fail again and again, but persevere through it. Determination is a powerful and beautiful thing that can make your dreams into a reality. Be who you are and own it.  A beautiful thing about this Quesada Gardens community is how people all came together despite their differences to create a magnificent garden.
Author Bio: Tyler Rose is a upcoming senior in highschool. She loves all different types of art and martial arts. She is honored to be writing this.

Vianney Enriquez

                                                                                 As I Walk Past You…
                                                                                   By Vianney Enriquez

As I walk past you
I feel a sense of home
I smell an aroma that makes my nose tingle
I see an abundance of colors
I touch the smoothness of the petals
As I run past you
I feel the fresh air hit my face
I smell a variety of herbs
I see the parrots fly around the palm trees
I touch the leaves on the branches sticking out
As I dance past you
I feel a warmth around me
I smell clean sweet air
I see that little weeping blue cedarbehind the posing mermaid
I touch the roughness of the palm trees

Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Author Bio: Vianney Enriquez is a young woman from the Excelsior District in San Francisco. With Mexican roots, Vianney speaks both English and Spanish fluently. In her free time, she enjoys reading and dancing.

Yaretzi Hernandez

                                                                                               By Yaretzi Hernandez
Quesada Gardens: a garden full of different plants and flowers. As I walk through the garden I feel peace, I feel calm, I feel happiness — the kind that I haven’t felt in a while. I see the plants and the flowers, all of different sizes, colors, smells. They all make me feel at home. They remind  me of the home I left behind in Mexico when I came to San Francisco, a home full of fields in which crops and trees would grow, a home in which I would run around and play with all my friends, a home that I will never forget.

Photo: Conni McKenzie
Author Bio: Yaretzi Hernandez is a 16 year old girl that was born in Mexico and came to San Francisco when she was seven years old. Yaretzi is a very loving and caring person that likes to dance and to help her friends when they need it.

Ysa Metke

 The Quesada Gardens Remix of Success
 By Ysa Metke
“The accomplishment of one’s goals, an attainment of wealth, position, honors, etc.”
–Merriam Webster Dictionary
While this is the dictionary definition of success, I believe success is more complex than one definition, not something that can be summed up into a couple of sentences. Success is subjective.
To me, having a career that allows me to own the biggest house, or copious amounts of clothing and clutter isn’t what will give me satisfaction in life. Personally, materialistic things are a temporary fix, nothing more than a distraction. Success to me is having the flexibility to live a comfortable life, having chosen a path that leaves me healthy, and living to my fullest potential.  I’d like to not have the stress and anxiety of not knowing if the bills can be paid as I’ve seen growing up so often.  This is just me, just one opinion, while values differ across the board.
Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Having spent three weeks in the Quesada Gardens, I’ve gotten a chance to get to know some of the neighbors and hear their stories.
I’ve thought about it as a whole and collectively: the entire block and the environment that’s been created is an achievement. The community that’s been built and the changes that people have been able to make is a success in itself.  The success stems from those hardworking in the neighborhood, such as
Charlie Castaneda having found success in her dog walking business, A Girl and Your Dog, something she, as an entrepreneur, grew and cultivated. This is one of many examples of the neighbors and their own experiences that contributes to the current Quesada Gardens.
Author Bio:  Born in San Francisco,
Ysa Metke is a rising sophomore at Independence High School. She enjoys socializing and creativity.

Guest Editor’s Note

Girls Fly, Girls Write
By Wei Ming Dariotis
“How do I join up?” asked eight-year old Richess, after watching both the noon and 2pm site-specific performances on July 29th, 2017. Invited to show her stuff, she improvised a quick dance enthusiastically, accompanied by rhythms provided by the girls, ages 13-19, in this year’s GirlFly in the (Quesada) Gardens Program. The program brings together ethnically, racially, and religiously diverse girls from neighborhoods all over San Francisco, and as far away as Richmond and Fairfield.

 Jo Kreiter stands arm in arm with some of the girls from this year’s GirlFly group Photo: Brechin Flournoy

That diversity is the key for GirlFly in the Gardens, which ran on the 1700 block of Quesada for the third time this summer (the program runs every other year). In 2015 I was a guest speaker in the educational program taught by long-time community organizer Jeffrey Betcher, who hosted and taught for the first two GirlFly in the Gardens, and I was hooked.
The team teaching this year was lead by Jo Kreiter, of the well-known aerial dance FlyAway Productions and recent recipient of the Rauschenberg Foundation 2017 Artist as Activist Fellowship; choreographer Megan Lowe; and USF student intern Conni McKenzie.
After daily warm ups and ice-breakers lead by Conni, the girls split into separate stations: the Bridgeview Garden(Bridgeview/Revere and Newhall), for a dance choreographed by Jo; the viewing bench and tiled stairs at Newhall and Quesada, in a dance choreographed by Megan, and a song written and performed and her band; the four other stations on Quesada were choreographed by the girls with help from Megan and Jo.
A short snack break back at their base in the home of Quesada neighbors Hydra Mendoza and Eric McDonnell, and the girls were ready for Writing as Activism, which I taught with an amazing group of guest speakers (see “Writing as Activism Guest Speakers”).
The GirlFly girls’ writing reflects their curiosity and passion to connect and improve people’s lives. Public streets can be threatening for girls, especially for girls moving their bodies very visibly. When they danced, I could see them moving through this fear and reclaiming the space for their strength, creativity, and humanity to be admired, instead of being catcalled. As we watched them, they also watched us, and saw what happens when you start to talk to your neighbors and work together to improve your environment.

Writing as activism leader Wei Ming Dariotis Photo: Brechin Flournoy
I was so deeply moved by the community these girls created in just a few weeks and their eagerness to learn about the worlaround them. They were so delighted with the parrots and hummingbirds, the neighbors’ dogs and the cats that roam the block. They got to eat Rithy’s fresh collard greens, smell pungent sage and rose-scented geranium and lavender. They could smell the breath of the garden and dance to its song.
We Quesada Neighbors will miss their daily dancing, their music, and the vision they bring us of hope in the future. Each step they made has left a footprint; they are part of us, now, part of Quesada Gardens.
Writing as Activism Guest Speakers:
Elizabeth Skow, neighbor and Bayview Footprints editor, explained how publishing the longest-running blog about the Bayview works, and her life as a musician.
Myla Ablog, environmental engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, shared her experience as a Pinay scientist who loves to get her hands dirty teaching youth and repairing the environment right here in the Bayview.
Hussain Abdulhaqq, neighbor and expert gardener, told us how trees talk to each other using a mycelium network, and how insects, animals and plants in Quesada Gardens communicate with other species using signal flags (colors) and other signs.
Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer, chair of Africana Studies at SFSU, explained how Hiphop provides the tools to “remix” our stories.
Rochon Perry, publisher of Cedar Grove Books, shared her experiences of being an SF native and Black women entrepreneur in the world of independent publishing.
Charlie Castaneda, neighbor and owner of “A Girl and Your Dog,” told us about moving from Mexico and building a business and a community through compassion.
Ashoka Alvarez, who grew up on Quesada and is a recent graduate of the UC Santa Cruz environmental studies program, shared what it was like to learn in her classes about the nearby Superfund site in Hunter’s Point, and how she is determined to make a difference by reshaping environmental policies.
Tony Robles, poet and children’s book author, and recent runner-up for SF Poet Laureate, read his poetry based on observations of life on the streets of San Francisco and wisdom gleaned from his elders.
Additionally, neighbors Maxine Kraemer and Linda Pettus generously shared their stories in one-on-one interviews.
Other neighbors we ran into while in Quesada Gardens:  Rithy Chan fed the girls collard greens from his own garden; Davon Frasca let everyone Dasha and Ilya, his beautiful Russian wolfhounds; and Scott Ying shared how he recently became a gardener just by watering, then weeding, and now transplanting.
Author Bio: Wei Ming Dariotis is a Quesada neighbor and has been a professor of Asian American Studies at SFSU since 1999; she is co-editor of War Baby/ Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013), and is currently co-editing Fight the Tower: Asian American Women Against Injustice in Academia (with Kieu Linh Valverde).
more GirlFly:

June and July garden and volunteer photos

In June and July Quesada Gardens organized and hosted several volunteer groups, including Habitat for Humanity, Good Eggs, Youth Conservation Corps, Bloomburg and ARC of San Francisco.

These groups, organized by our tireless-but-probably-exhausted Co-Chairperson Shane King, help to keep our garden tended and weeded. Carlos John Davila and Co-Chairperson Craig Cannon led groups, helping direct the workers and organize the game plan.

Joel and Mary McClure, as they have for years, directed volunteers at the Bridgeview Teaching and Learning Garden, a project they maintain.

Neighbors Carlos Davila and his daughter Meah, Wei Ming Dariotis and Hussain AbdulhaqqTai Tran and Mark Philpot, Jeffrey BetcherMaxine Kraemer, and Rithy Chan are just some of the neighbors who have been working very hard to make the garden beautiful and welcoming. Thank you everyone. And I’m sorry if I missed anyone, I’m not ALWAYS watching!!

Please enjoy some photos from the volunteer groups and from some neighbors working in the garden.

Elizabeth Skow

Jeffrey Betcher neatens plantings on sidewalk in front of the Pettus’ home. 
Images: Craig Cannon
The models posing with their traffic cut-outs. One has been installed on Quesada Ave.
Hussain Abdulhaqq in his skirt of Nastertium.
Wei Ming working in a terraced section of the gardens.
Images: Maxine Kraemer

GIRLFY in the gardens again!

This year’s GIRLFLY poses on the Quesada Gardens’ Tiled Steps located at the Newhall end of Quesada Avenue

Photo by Megan Lowe

Have you seen young women dancing in the Quesada or Bridgeview gardens? It’s that time again! GIRLFLY is creating a site specific dance and studying writing as activism here in our neighborhood during July. You may see them practicing in the gardens, Tuesdays through Fridays.GIRLFLY and Quesada Gardens have been collaborating since 2013.

GIRLFLY brings neighborhood and neighboring teen girls to the gardens to make site specific dances, to learn from the community building that has gone on here, and to deepen the neighbor to neighbor activism that has blossomed here along with the gardens.  Our long time ally and partner Jeffrey Betcher has been front and center in making this partnership a success.

This year we are making dances that explore both diversity and support in and around the Bridgeview Garden, on the long tile steps at the Newhall end of Quesada, and in locations on the Quesada Gardens’ median.  We are also enacting a writing-as-activism project led by SF State ethnic studies professor and QG neighbor Wei Ming Dariotis.

We have 19 girls ready to dance and make a difference. Come see their performances in the gardens on July 29th at noon and two PM.