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. www.flyawayproductions.com
By Elizabeth Skow
Literacy for Environmental Justice was founded in 1998 by community members to build a greener, more equitable future for itself. LEJ has been educating youth about their environment and leading volunteer groups to restore green parts of Southeast San Francisco for almost twenty years. They also run a native plant nursery that provides plants for many greening and conservation projects in San Francisco.
Currently, LEJ is restoring an area of Candlestick Point and building six campsites that will accommodate walk-in, boat-in and bike-in campers. It will be one of only two places in San Francisco that allows camping. The campsites will be available to the public, and will prioritize youth camping in an urban setting.
This project is in conjunction with expanding their garden and native plant nursery for eco-restoration on Carroll Ave. The nursery will provide plants for the Candlestick Point project and others in Southeast San Francisco. LEJ will have coordinated 1,000 youth and other volunteers who will have donated 3,000 to 5,000 volunteer hours by the time the work is finished. The project will also involve Parks and Rec in an effort to promote better use of San Francisco’s parks.
LEJ’s Executive Director Patrick Marley Rump has been working with LEJ since 1999. He got involved after he did some restoration work at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and heard about LEJ projects at Heron’s Head Park. He had noticed a disconnect between ecology and preservation work and the communities most in need of that work. As he was living in Bayview, he saw an opportunity to serve the community in which he lived.
Today, Literacy for Environmental Justice is looking for Board of Director candidates.
Patrick says the ideal LEJ board member would be rooted in Bayview, and would want to be involved in governance, planning and community building. That board member would have a connection or desire to connect with environmental justice work in Bayview, would want to impact the lives of young people here, and would bring to the board role some funds development skill.
If you are interested in becoming involved, please contact LEJ.
By Wei Ming Dariotis
Zubats! Goldeen! And Pidgeys, oh my!
Visitors to Quesada Gardens may now be coming not just to smell flowers and look at beautiful murals, but to catch Squirtles, Pidgeys, Zubats, and a few Sycthers — or, the latest craze: Pokémon Go, a mobile app update of the Nintendo game classic. In just a few short weeks, Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon, enticing adults as well as teenagers and kids to get outside and explore.
What I find most exciting about playing the game is the feeling of being on a scavenger hunt. It makes you feel like you are on an adventure. It is a game that encourages communal playing, and social groups of co-workers and friends, and even families, are organizing PokéWalks to PokéStops and PokéGyms.
Pokémon Go has reshaped players’ relationships with the urban landscape. Bayview, like the Mission, provides an important cluster of PokéStops, many of which are places of artistry, like our community murals or Founders’ Memorial. These are often places that might be passed by, or are located in obscure locations. But, as they are marked on the PokéMaps people follow on their phones, these places are made more visible.
Both the Quesada Gardens’ Community Mural, at the Quesada turnaround, and the “Bayview Is…” Mural on Newhall just under the Bridgeview Garden are PokéStops. At a PokéStop, players can collect items like PokéBalls, which are used to capture or collect the seemingly infinite variety of creatures. (Pokémon is short for “pocket monster.”)
In a form of augmented reality, players can see the Pokémon superimposed on their lived environment through their phones’ cameras. It can be quite exciting to see the fish-like Goldeen gently waving its fins among the flowers you can see in front of you in real life, or the Pidgey jumping up and down on the hood of your car (while you are safely parked, of course!). It blurs the line between the virtual and the real. Using GPS, the game tracks players and gives bonuses — like specially hatched eggs — to those who make the effort to walk. (Driving or riding a bike does not unlock the Pokémon eggs.)
Not only can players collect important items at PokéStops, or battle other Pokémon at PokéGyms, but they can also find specific types of Pokémon in environments that draw that particular variety. For example, Ocean Beach is the place to go for water-type Pokémon. This aspect of the game has encouraged notoriously neighborhood-bound San Franciscans to venture forth beyond neighborhood boundaries in order to collect a wider variety of Pokémon. (There are over 150 in Pokémon Go and hundreds more in other iterations of the game.)
After less than a month of being active, Pokémon Go already has more users in the United States than Twitter. The Pokémon world includes card games, collectible stickers (in gum packets), television series, movies, and video games for various gaming platforms (handheld, console, arcade, etc.), as well as stuffed animals and other toys, but Pokémon Go is already the most successful version of the franchise. It is so revolutionary that it will reframe how video game apps will be developed from now on, and it may just pave the way for other forms of interactive, place-based entertainment.
Images by Shane King
Shane King lives on the upper side of Quesada Avenue, which has a speed limit of 15 MPH, and he’s tired of seeing and hearing cars whiz by his house.
A speed bump was installed, to little avail. So King, Co-Chair of Quesada Gardens Initiative, brought up the idea of traffic calming cutouts shaped like local children and pets. He thought that putting up cutouts of the people and pets who actually live on the block might make speeders think about who lives here. Maybe they will slow down.
“I thought of this solution for three reasons,” King said “It’s a reminder that speed limit is 15 MPH on the street, it’s a way to show speeders who’s lives they are risking, and it is a way to show all the kids on the street they are honored members of our community.”
There are nine kids under ten on the 1700 block of Quesada. The cutouts should be finished and placed by mid-August. They will be placed in the garden in view of drivers.
If you have an idea for our community and would like to get involved, Quesada Gardens Initiative welcomes you to join us at our community building meetings the first Thursday of each month at 6pm. All community members are welcome.
by Casey Berkovitz
Imagine an organization that promised to open new parks, playgrounds, or open space in San Francisco without getting rid of any existing structures – and without taking away resources from other programs. That is exactly what the Shared Schoolyard Project has been working to create: through collaboration with a number of San Francisco agencies, and fundraising from private donors, the project has opened 28 schoolyards for public use on weekends, with plans for up to nearly 80 schools. In the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, Bret Harte Elementary School and George Washington Carver Elementary School will both be accessible for kids and families to play and gather.
The Shared Schoolyard Project is working to raise public awareness and support for the Project by hosting kick-off celebrations like the one on September 26th at Bret Harte Elementary with Principal Jeremy Hilinski and a number of community-based organizations.
More information is available on the Shared Schoolyard Project’s website
BMAGIC’s big annual event, Back to School Celebration and Backpack Giveaway, is this Saturday, August 15th from 11am to 3pm at Youngblood Coleman Park. Early risers are invited to do cardio conditioning, Thai Chi and yoga at the baseball field from 10am to noon.
A Geography of Their Own is a video created as part of the GirlFly at the Quesada Gardens program which included dance performances throughout the showcase art and garden projects in the heart of San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.
A group of teenage girls spend the month of July at Bayview’s showcase community building project, Quesada Gardens, where they created and performed a series of site-specific dances for a moving audience. It was the second time for the GirlFly at Quesada Gardens program, a partnership project of Flyaway Productions and Quesada Gardens Initiative.
On Saturday July 25th, beginning at the Bridgeview Garden in the heart of San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, crowds of neighbors and dance enthusiasts followed young dancers down the hill to the center section of the elaborate Quesada Garden, along the way pausing to watching dances that communicated the girls’ experience of a neighborhood.
While creating the dances, the girls were part of a community curriculum led by Jeffrey Betcher that included discussions with highly-involved community members on issues ranging from environmental and food justice to art and activism. Those discussions informed the dances, which were choreographed by Jo Kreiter and Celine Alwyn, and helped the girls find a focus they could relate to directly: cat-calling on city streets.
In a program feedback survey, one participant noted “I would not have been talking about cat calling and its impact. I would have just ignored it instead of addressing it.“
While they had strong opinions about their experiences on the streets they travel, the girls were consistently positive about the potential to change things for the better. The power of direct involvement and grassroots advocacy is a central theme of Quesada Gardens since its own grassroots emergence in late 2002.
“I couldn’t believe there could be so many amazing people on one block,” said another GirlFly participants. “Hearing their stories and how they contributed to our community gave me hope.”
Following the final dance, the audience was invited to watch a brief video the dancers had created with Cynthia Blancaflor. Creating the video was part of the month-long program in a unique community setting.
by Wei Ming Dariotis
The words “garden” and “dance” don’t often appear in the same sentence, but maybe they should be linked more often, if my experience as a gardener with the presence of 14 young dancers on our Quesada Gardens block recently is any example.
During the 4 weeks that the young women were choreographing and then rehearsing their performances, I looked out my window and saw them moving through and around the garden in ways that created spaces that hadn’t previously been significant. Their dances called my attention to parts of the garden that I didn’t really see before.
Before they came I knew who they were because the Quesada Gardens community had been planning for the program and I’d seen the video of their previous visit—and I totally supported them in theory. Yet, my first reaction when I saw them moving through a bed of tomatoes carefully tended by my neighbor, Shane, was to say, “Don’t step on the tomatoes!” They quickly reassured me that they were very aware and respectful of the work we gardeners do in the garden, both by stepping carefully and by working themselves to prune, weed, and clean out trash from the space. It might have been to make their dancing easier and safer, but it also meant they were giving to us and to the garden.
I felt inspired to give in return, and spent a bit more time than I might have otherwise under the summer sun (which we have in abundance in the Bayview!) pruning and weeding and generally trying to tuck everything into shape. I also felt inspired to start a mural on the side of my steps in my driveway, as a kind of artistic call and response. Seeing the girls dance every day—especially the solo taking shape on the stairs right across from my bedroom window—filled me with creative energy. My high school and college dancing days may be mostly over (never say never), but I can still swing around a paintbrush.
My favorite interaction, however, was more direct. Neighbor Jeffrey invited me to participate in the education portion of the girls work, so I got to meet with them for a (too brief!) lesson on feminism, Womanism, and Pinayism related to how we as women experience walking down city streets. I shared my own experiences of being their age growing up in San Francisco, and how I have handled catcalls, for better and worse. We talked about what those experiences mean, especially for women of color. The girls also analyzed poems I brought them and I realized that they were equally astute intellectually as they were physically impressive. We could have talked for hours. I wish all my neighbors had had the same opportunity to talk with these amazing young women and just gotten to know how smart they are—how brilliant they are.
The day of the performance was so exciting! I had taken the opportunity to invite friends and neighbors over to enjoy barbecued peaches and nectarines from the Alemany Farmers Market, as well as veggie and beef burgers and chicken, of course. We stayed out all day, through both performances, and we met several new neighbors (including the new owner of the castle on Newhall). It was an exciting, community building experience. The dances were just amazing. As often as I had watched them rehearsing, seeing them perform the dances wholeheartedly brought another level of intensity and emotion to the experience.
In the end, as a gardening neighbor, I feel our garden has become a more sacred and beloved space because of the energy brought by the dancers.
A San Franciscan born in Australia, Wei Ming Dariotis teaches Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and is the co-editor, with Laura Kina, of War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). She is co-chair of the Quesada Gardens Initiative.
The participants in this summer’s GirlFly at Quesada Gardens program had a lot to say about their experience dancing, video-making and learning about community building in the heart of Bayview.
I couldn’t believe there could be so many amazing people on one block. Hearing their stories and how they contributed to our community gave me hope.
In Their Own Words:
“GIRLFLY has made me more aware of the world outside my personal bubble.”
“This program has made me believe that I can achieve my goals.”
“When doing site work, your very presence can lighten a community.”
“It has given me the opportunity to meet activists who can become networks for my business/community goals.”
“I lost a sense of naivety on my beliefs of what the world is like. I’ve gained a sense of appreciation for building my community.”
“From the morning technique class I got a looser body, better control, cardio/stamina that I didn’t have before.”
“From the filmmaking I got a higher range of knowledge about cameras.”
“I will do a project for East Oakland or possibly look into becoming Mayor of Oakland. “
“I learned that you can’t just film willy nilly. Your film has to have a purpose.”
“I would not have been talking about cat calling and its impact. I would have just ignored it instead of addressing it. “
“I learned to extend and perfect my movements.”
“I have learned that any community, no matter how scary from the outside, can be changed if people join together. I am looking forward to doing some community organizing, as well as working to preserve the rich culture of the Bayview.“
“I learned how to dance as part of a group and to take instruction from a choreographer. “
“I learned to speak up and be heard or no one will.”
“I won’t go out with a boy who cat calls, instead of a nice respectable boy.”
“I have become more of a feminist. I got confidence from my own dance making.”
“This program has made me believe that I can achieve my goals.”
“From the guest activists I got great advice.”
“Dance means to me now that you can send a message and make connections with those around you.”
“I couldn’t believe there could be so many amazing people on one block (Quesada, 3rd to Bridgeview). Hearing their stories and how they contributed to our community gave me hope.“
“This program has reinforced my goal to become someone younger girls can look up to as a role model.”
“Before this program I loved dance because I love story telling. But dance also brings out community. All these people who came up to us with smiling faces and enjoying our rehearsals made me feel like I was helping the community.“
“I didn’t think I was a risk taker before I started, but being kind of thrown in from Day One really helped that.”
“I learned how to make a story from scratch and tell it through my body.”
“learned that I don’t need to lead a worldwide revolution to make a difference. I can start in my own home, neighborhood, or school.“
“Before the program dance to me was just something fun to do. Now dance means change.”
“I fell in love with dance again.”
“You taught me how I can fight for what I believe in and make a change; GIRLFLY has made me want to speak up.”
“I learned to appreciate the small parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed.”
“From listening to the guest activists, I got that we are the change of the world.”