The Fillmore Heritage Center on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Three months after shooting, Fillmore Heritage Center to host events

Nearly three months after a shooting closed the Fillmore Heritage Center, hailed as a cornerstone of the Fillmore’s Black community, will host a series of events.

Nearly three months after a shooting closed the Fillmore Heritage Center, the space at 1330 Fillmore St. that is hailed as a cornerstone of the Fillmore’s Black community is scheduled to host a series of events this weekend.

But how soon the center will permanently open, and who will operate it, is unclear.

In March, Fillmore Supervisor Vallie Brown called for the center to temporarily close citing safety concerns following a fatal shooting that killed one and injured five others. The newly revitalized community center had reopened its doors under new leadership late last year, following a near five-year vacancy.

A spokesperson for the New Community Leadership Foundation (NCLF), the nonprofit that operated the center in partnership with local celebrity boxer Karim Mayfield and the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation (SFHDC), confirmed Tuesday that its doors will open temporarily this weekend to host the San Francisco Black Film Festival and Juneteenth celebration.

NCLF is vying to permanently lease the 50,000 square foot space.

“These are historic community events for the Fillmore — Supervisor Brown didn’t want our community to miss out on an opportunity to continue to have these celebrations in the venue,” said NCLF spokesperson Majeid Crawford.

The four-day film festival will take place at the center starting Thursday, and the organizers of the local Juneteenth celebration will host a paint party there. Celebrating its 69th anniversary in the Fillmore District, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., and draws thousands of people to the neighborhood.

Juneteenth organizer Tamika Chenier said that hosting the event at the center will be an opportunity “for unity and executing positivity.”

“Supervisor Brown heard from the community that given how big this celebration is and how it’s been a cornerstone for the community, it’s important to have that central space reopen for the celebration,” said Brown’s legislative Aide, Shakirah Simley. “

“The supervisor wants to keep the corridor activated, but there is still internal review that needs to happen in regards to reopening of the center itself,” said Simley. “The issue is that the city needs to be mindful…because of the violence that happened previously.”

The Fillmore Heritage Center was built in 2007 as one of the last projects of the Western Addition redevelopment program with the goal of revitalizing the stretch of Fillmore Street once known as “the Harlem of the West.”

After winning the bid for the center’s reactivation last fall, NCLF and SFHDC opened the space as an access point for housing, workforce development and educational resources for the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as a nighttime entertainment venue. It hosted more than 300 events in the three months prior to the shooting, Crawford said.

SFHDC will likely continue to be involved in its future operations, said Simley.

The groups’ had planned to seek a permanent lease after their six-month lease expired in April, but have yet to submit a proposal due to the increased scrutiny by city and police officials following the shooting.

Crawford told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday that a security plan was submitted to The City and approved by the police department two weeks after the shooting. The plan includes two security guards on the street level “at all times” during scheduled events, as well as additional security cameras.

Crawford added that NCLF held a number of public meetings in recent months to gather input on safety concerns and how the center would best serve the community, and plans to submit its proposal for a lease renewal by the end of the month.

“We are looking at the possibility of bringing in a consultant for the center’s entertainment theater space — not because we can’t do it ourselves, but because it is something that will make everyone feel comfortable,” said Crawford. “NCLF is creating a list of different people, organizations and other groups that could possibly partner with us as it relates to the 412-seat theater space.”

At a press conference held Tuesday members of the Fillmore community called on city leaders to address issues plaguing The City’s black community — from outmigration to disparities in housing, education, health and employment, as well as economic disadvantages, which advocates say are reflected in the Fillmore Heritage Center’s persistent vacancy.

“The City has an unholy alliance with black people here. There is no “stick-to -it-ness” when it comes to our survival, our justice. There’s always the start of something, then the stop,” said Felicia Jones, a community advocate and SEIU 1021 member. “The shooting was unfortunate, however, how many other businesses have had shootings but not none of those businesses have closed? As black people, we are just under a different standard.”

Deven Richardson, SFDHC’s director of real estate, said that the center is still envisioned as a hub to connect The City’s black residents to crucial housing and workforce services.

“We need space for black people. The heritage center is a space that represents an area where black people used to live and run businesses, and the center was created to preserve the heritage of African American Jazz, the music and culture that came out of that neighborhood,” said Richardson. “What we are saying today is that we need to continue to use that space until The City figures out what they want to do with it.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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