This is a pivotal time for Black people in the City and County of San Francisco. On the one hand, as a community and as a city we can be proud that we have a historic number of Black leaders in elected and department head positions at the local level. Yet simultaneously, the continued outmigration and the collapse of the economic power of Black people in this city requires a laser focus on policies that can improve our community. We need leaders that will work to dismantle the injustice that we have suffered as a people, not continue to find ways to tear us apart.
As two Black men in elected leadership in San Francisco, our hope was to work collaboratively with our elders to advance real changes that would help make San Francisco better for the few of us that remain. Some may consider this message speaking out against this ill-informed and ineffective leadership as an indication that we are ungrateful and don’t appreciate the sacrifices of the people that came before us. That is not the case. We show deference to our elders, but are no one’s doormats. We reject the destructive approach of anyone that seeks to demean us personally or call us racist for policies that we believe are in service of our community. The City of San Francisco entrusted us to lead and that’s what we’re committed to doing.
Over the past several years, the leadership of the San Francisco NAACP has again and again showcased that they are out of touch with what’s actually happening in the Black community. They continue to support policies that are detrimental to the very people they claim to represent. It’s evident they don’t represent anyone but themselves.
Here are some facts (just a short list):The national body of the NAACP was against charter schools and their treatment of Black students and how they start schools with students of color and then kick them out to privatize schools. The SF NAACP has supported charter schools.
When we got together with several Black leaders and CBOs and worked to pass legislation to shut down juvenile hall in SF for a better option that would serve Black youth well, the SF NAACP opposed (and is still working hard to sabotage the work). This is the number one indicator of future incarceration, yet the SF NAACP leadership supports the current juvenile hall.
When we hired a Black superintendent to lead the San Francisco Unified School District, the current NAACP leadership was upset at our hiring a Black man, indigenous to San Francisco to lead the district.
When Black students advocated to remove the racist murals that remain on the walls at Washington High School (whether you agree with intent or not, they offend several communities of color) and the Board of Education voted to remove them from public view, the SF NAACP leadership sided against our students, saying they needed to learn a lesson about their history, as if it started at slavery.
When Tetra Tech falsified testing at the Shipyard and put many Black people in the community in jeopardy, NAACP leadership invited them to a meeting vs. ostracizing them as a company set out to do harm.
We are simply saying this: maybe the current leadership of the SF NAACP is out of touch with the needs of the Black community in San Francisco today. We need The SF NAACP to advance critical issues and work with us to empower Black students and families. The current leadership has shown again and again it isn’t fit or capable to lead.
Go out into the Black communities of San Francisco. Speak to the Black families in the Bayview Hunters Point, the Western Addition, Lakeview, the black professionals or our residents facing housing insecurity, and ask them who they consider their leaders. You’ll be hard pressed to hear anyone mention the SF NAACP, yet they continue to claim that they speak for the Black community.
This is a sad truth, but it is the truth. We decided to run for office to support our community and improve the lives of each and every resident that needs our systems to work for them.
That said, if we want to truly see change for Black people in this city and implement policies that make our lives better, we need leadership that’s interested in solutions, not name calling. We believe that new leadership at the SF NAACP can join us in making good on the issues that continue to plague our community, including housing injustices, chronic absenteeism and truancy, the academic achievement gap, inquitable hiring practices, economic viability, cannabis equity and police reform.
Join us for real change! We will no longer allow our people to be oppressed. We demand equity. If you want to be a part of this discussion for change please contact Supervisor Walton’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 415-554-7670.
Shamann Walton is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 10. Stevon Cook is president of the San Francisco Board of Education.