Community remembers tenaciousness, caring spirit of Bayview activist

Espanola Jackson, a longtime Bayview-Hunters Point resident and community activist with four decades of experience dealing with environmental, social and economic justice issues, died early Sunday morning in her Bayview home.

She was 82 years old, and according to family members suffered from several health complications.

Friends, family and fellow community activists said Jackson’s drive stemmed from her core belief that San Francisco residents should have access to a safe environment where everyone is treated equally.

Marie Harrison, a community organizer with the environmental and social justice organization Greenaction, first met Jackson when she was in her late teens and worked alongside her to advocate for their community throughout the decades.

“She was never one to not speak her mind,” Harrison said. “But I think that was her way of talking to young folks and giving them the power to speak their mind and not be afraid.”

Jackson’s early work involved helping residents in public housing address basic needs like access to repairs or help in threat eviction. She was a unwavering opponent of development at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and on Treasure Island.

That included the construction of thousands of homes by Lennar Urban at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

In 2010, Jackson battled against the outdated sewage-treatment vats that left the smell of human waste in the streets of Bayview, as reported by the San Francisco Examiner. She ran for the District 10 supervisor seat in 2000, 2006 and 2010. “She was a master of the public comments forum,” said activist Tony Kelly. “She ran for city government because she wanted a say. She wanted to shape the debate.”

More recently, Jackson worked with Joshua Arce, a candidate for the District 9 supervisor seat and civil rights attorney. The two met in 2007 and
collaborated on several projects, including advocating for the rights of low-income tenants, establishing a solar incentive plan for San Francisco residents and shutting down the Potrero Power Plant, according to Arce.

“We, in some of those cases, worked in small, diverse, but very powerful coalitions,” Arce said. “She was insistent in the fact that one person can change the world.”

Besides her work as a community organizer and her presence at City Hall, Jackson was a mother to six children. “Everything that my mom did was not for her,” said Jackson’s daughter, Gwendolyn Jackson Rich-Fagan. “When she did a job, she never did it for her kids. It was for the community. That was her love.”

Mayor Ed Lee in a press release called Jackson a “great community leader” whose legacy will live on.

“Though sometimes a lone voice and often thought provoking, she made sure City government listened to our diverse communities and understood the impact to our working families,” Lee said.

A public service will be held for Jackson from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Grace Tabernacle Community Church at 1121 Oakdale Ave., San Francisco.