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Letters to the Editor
There are two ways to send a letter to the Noe Valley Voice. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or use a stamp and envelope: Our address is Letters to the Editor, Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Don't forget to give us your full name and some form of address. (A phone number would also be nice-- we may need to get in touch with you to ask a question.) Thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you.
--Sally Smith and Jack Tipple, Editors and Co-Publishers
Serious Reaction to the Just for Fun Story
Shops Should Thank the Kids for Spending Money on 24th Street
Shame on you for publishing such an irresponsible article about the ranting of one store owner on 24th Street. Not only is it bad journalism, it's bad community building.
Since Michael Eddings arrived at James Lick Middle School, we've had far fewer fights and disruptions at school. Our test scores have gone up consistently over the past five years. There's been more staff contentment, and our parent group is larger. Could there be some other change on 24th Street that's caused students to misbehave? Perhaps rude store owners?
It doesn't take much looking to see that 24th Street is very white. In spite of the claim that Just for Fun hires minorities, the fact is that minority clerks are not usually visible in many stores on 24th Street.
Our "reputation" that makes community members so "wary" is apparently based on fear of the unknown, or in other words, fear of people of color. In the four years I've worked here and the seven years I've lived in the community, I can't recall a single incident of a student attacking or threatening a community member. We can only imagine that the community fears them because they are minority children.
The kids aren't lying when they say that store owners (and community members) are rude to them. I've seen it. And there's worse. Teachers have also found knives at the bus stops before the children are dismissed from school. That can only lead us to believe that community members are trying to implicate innocent students. Unfortunately, we don't have a principal of the community to go shout at.
You admit that the Merchants Association has not heard from other store owners, but take the word of one raging store owner to claim that there are other problems. Did you interview the owner of Walgreens? Why not quote him or her? My guess is that Walgreens does not want to lose the very large business that our children give them. The Merchants Association should thank these kids for all the money they spend on 24th Street!
I'm sorry that students behaved badly in a store. Those children should be held responsible for their actions. But as a teacher who (like most others) works long hours with little reward, I have to ask, who should hold them responsible after school? How would the store owner respond to an after-hours call from an infuriated merchant complaining about the illegal activities of one of his customers or employees? Besides, is chasing the culprit really the recommended way to handle shoplifters?
But more importantly, this "upscale neighborhood" should be smart enough to figure out that racism is insidious and often hawked in the guise of morality or principles. Stop fostering the view that our James Lick children are somehow outside our community. They are part of our community, and when you look at them you should be ashamed if you feel anything but the same love and hope you feel for children of your own family (color).
Try being kind to them and see if they don't respond just the same as your children do. The only difference in most of these kids and your own is that they've been given far fewer opportunities, many more obstacles, and less love and support from you. Shame on you for fostering hatred of children (and principals) of color.
Curriculum and Technology Integration Specialist
James Lick Middle School
Whose Faces Belong on the Bulletin Board?
I would like the owners of Just for Fun to be aware that I stopped shopping in their store because I don't feel welcome -- and I'm a 47-year-old Anglo woman who's pretty conventional-looking and not a bit inclined toward shoplifting. Being greeted by a bulletin board full of pictures of bad-check passers and shoplifters as you walk in the door does not say "Come in, we're glad to see you."
Maybe it was also the unfriendly service I received from one of the shop owners that left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sure people of any age are less disposed to rip off a place that's welcoming and respectful than they are a place that's impersonal and rigidly defended against them.
And I'd like store owner David Eiland to know that if I were a middle school student (or just as a member of the community), no amount of donated money would make me feel welcome in his store. Maybe he should learn social behavior or plant trees or participate in an after-school program as a way of getting to know the James Lick students and showing his goodwill.
More 'Students in Stores'
Could Be the Answer
After reading the Voice's November article "James Lick Students Barred from Shop on 24th Street," I felt it was time to add a different perspective to the crisis at hand. I'm also writing because I believe that within this crisis are the seeds for improved relations between students and the Noe Valley community. As a teacher at the school, I have had this goal for some time.
To give the current incident some background, in 1991, when a James Lick Middle School student had a problem with a store owner, the former principal came up with what she deemed a logical solution: keep the kids off 24th Street. The principal stood outside and with her own body physically blocked groups of African-American and Latino children from walking past her onto 24th Street. Eventually, a Caucasian child came up to her and said, "But I live over this way." The principal, intending no favoritism, had the other students move out of the way to let that child through. Ironically, the school was under a federal court desegregation order, which brought African-American and Latino students to Noe Valley to counter the isolation of segregated neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the civil rights of the students were being disregarded, and the hundreds of well-mannered, exemplary students were being punished for their school affiliation.
Here are some of the negative lessons we all learned from this "denial of access" approach: The students and the neighborhood learned that the school had no confidence in their own students. African-American and Latino children learned that they were not welcome in Noe Valley and that their rights could be revoked whenever people with power found it expedient to do so. Students learned about a willingness people can have to generalize and hold all 500 students accountable for the actions of one. (Why not go further and ban all males from Noe Valley, since the student was male?)
Why doesn't this approach work? Besides the inherent racism and ageism, it doesn't work because it doesn't get to the cause of the difficulty. Students and store owners are two very different cultures, presenting obstacles of age and sometimes ethnicity that many people find hard to bridge. Keeping the two groups apart only strengthens the stereotypical views they have of each other. Only through personalization, working together face to face with common goals, can there be a building of mutual understanding and trust.
To this end, from 1991 to 1997 I ran a program through the school called "Students in Stores." In this program, I placed students in Noe Valley businesses to help them gain work experience and to build personal relationships with residents of the neighborhood. The program integrated math and science, along with experiences in resume writing, job interviews, and management skills. Over the years, the program came to include 70 Noe Valley businesses that gave their time to help educate young people and help break stereotypes.
I was not able to run the program last year (due to curriculum pressures), nor this year (I am on sabbatical -- the program will hopefully resume next year).
When the most recent shoplifting incident at Just for Fun occurred, I was distressed to see that the store's initial reaction was the standard "get those children out of Noe Valley" approach. This surprised me, because I have placed students in Just for Fun and the store has been supportive and helpful.
It also surprised me that according to the Voice article, the school complied with the pressure to send students directly home after school (most students do not live in the neighborhood). This did not fit in with my image of the positive work the principal has done to improve the experiences of African-American and Latino students at the school. I was saddened by the prospect of another generation of children learning the same terrible lessons.
What should be done? I believe the way to go is toward personalization again. There should be organized dialogue between the students and the store owners about how the students would like to be treated in stores, and what they must do to be treated that way. Projects must be started for neighborhood improvement and education, where students and shopkeepers work together for the common good. Stores participating with the school should be supported by the school, and the school must be supported by the community.
As for the shoplifting, students should be made accountable for their actions and encouraged to make amends, possibly by performing a service for the store, writing an apology, or making it clear to other students that stealing is not a "cool" thing to do. This will serve as a much greater deterrent to shoplifting than any police action or denial of access could ever be.
Finally, I'd like to express my profound warm wishes to those Noe Valley businesses that undertook their responsibility to help make the world a better place for our students by teaching them work and life skills through the Students in Stores program. I list only those that are still in the Noe Valley area that have helped over the years: A&A Market, Accent on Flowers, Allure, the Animal Company, the Ark, Astrid's Rabat, Bank of America, B.J. Droubi Real Estate, Chinese Medicine Works, Classy Sweats, Coast Federal Bank, Colorcrane, Common Scents, Cotton Basics, Cybelle's Pizza, Diamond Corner Cafe, Dr. Jiminez-Cox DDS, Dr. Jones Optometry, Dr. Kinney DDS, Dr. Savio DDS, Eye-Q Optometry, French Tulip, Gallery of Jewels, Gladrags, Global Exchange, Guys and Dolls, Hahn's Hibachi, Hot Headz, Indigo V, Java 'n' More, Joshua Simon, Just for Fun, Little Bean Sprouts, Martha & Brothers, Millie's Coffee, Natural Resources, Noe Valley Bakery, Noe Valley Computer, Noe Valley Cyclery, Noe Valley Music, Noe Valley Nursery, Panetti's, Paper Plus, Peek-a-Boutique, Phoenix, Posh Bagel, Rabat, Real Foods, 17 Reasons, Small Frys, Spinelli's, Starbucks, Supercuts, Terra Mia, Tom's Peasant Pies, Thrifty Jr. (now Rite Aid), Tien Fu, Video Wave, Xela, and Zephyr Realty.
Thanks again to all of these stores, and to those who wanted to help but couldn't, due only to logistics.
Math and Science Teacher
Lick Middle School
What the Story Left Out
It was with concern and sadness that I read your article entitled "James Lick Kids Barred from Shop on 24th Street." The one-sided reporting, with the clear interest in sensationalizing a bad situation, caused me to question the professionalism of your publication. As a longtime Noe Valley resident and a parent of both a former and a current student at James Lick, I question the purpose and intent of the article.
While I fully support the merchant's expectation of acceptable, respectable behavior from the James Lick students, I believe that acceptable behavior is also a requirement of merchants and reporters. By not covering the full story, your reporter clearly demonstrated irresponsible behavior, much like the type that we are working to change in our students.
Why did you present the merchant's story about a shoplifter without mentioning that the behavior of the merchant is also not above reproach?
Why would you suggest that our principal is not interested in the students without mentioning the many things that the school community does to help teach the students become responsible neighbors? The fact that we take shoplifting seriously, and would request the involvement of the police, clearly shows our intention of teaching the students that stealing is not acceptable.
Why would you suggest that other stores are having big problems with students without mentioning the merchants that welcome the children in their stores?
Why would you mention that several longtime residents "steer clear" of James Lick without mentioning the many neighbors who support our school by helping in our cleanup efforts and getting to know our teachers and students?
Why would you publish an article that clearly damages the reputation of our school without considering the long-term effects of such a story?
Being a community of teachers and learners, we look for the positive lessons that can be learned from every experience. I believe that two things have been learned. On the positive side, the James Lick community has been reminded how important it is to maintain open communication with our neighbors, to help to avoid the frustration that was experienced by the merchant. On the negative side, the students have witnessed, firsthand, the damage that can be done by irresponsible reporting. Shame on the Noe Valley Voice for teaching that type of lesson.
I believe we need to work together to improve the behavior of both the children and the adults. As the voice of the neighborhood, I would expect you to hold your reporters to the highest standards of behavior and to help all of us address and resolve issues that arise. Noe Valley can only become a better neighborhood as a result.
'Lily' Noe Valley Should Stop Branding James Lick Students
I am a 40-year resident of Noe Valley and I was seriously disturbed by the article in your November issue, "James Lick Kids Barred from Shop on 24th Street."
Although the attack on James Lick students didn't totally surprise me -- as our students are often blamed, and have been for years, for a variety of incidents in our lily Noe Valley -- the prominence given this article was not only unsettling but very worrisome to me.
A few misconceptions need to be addressed. First, Lick children range in age from 11 to 13 years. These children are hardly teenagers, or as stated, teens with reputations.
Secondly, our principal, Michael Eddings, is doing a fine job. He is a hardworking administrator and teacher. This year, for example, while faced with staff reductions and federal cuts (due to our students' academic improvements), he and the faculty have set a higher priority in staffing our after-school homework club. This club attracts more than 60 students, certainly a better use of our excellent teachers than patrolling our privileged neighborhood.
Thirdly, shoplifting is a crime, commit-ted by an individual, not an entire school, and should be dealt with on that level.
These misconceptions cannot be easily amended. But by far the most damaging component of this article is its implication that our diverse student body, our students of color, are not welcome in this neighborhood.
Last year my 11-year-old daughter, a James Lick student, visited Just for Fun after school. She was with her friends from school. Four of the young girls walked right into the store. When her three girlfriends of color trotted in behind them, they were told by the store's owner, "Two at a time!" The girls retorted, "But THEY..." My daughter quickly felt the sting of injustice. Imagine how she felt when she faced her friends on the outside. Imagine how they felt!
It's these kinds of occurrences, this stereotyping of our students, that reinforces the perception of racism. While our principal, our teachers, and parents try to move toward harmony, articles and incidents like these take us backward. We need to think about this.
Teri Cahill (ex-patron of Just for Fun)
Teach Tolerance, Not Polarization
When I saw the November Voice, I asked friends and neighbors what they thought of Just for Fun (I stopped patronizing the store several years ago after I watched a man storm out onto the sidewalk and berate a mother for letting her child press his hands and mouth against the store window while he looked at the display).
The response from more than 10 people was fairly consistent: the store was described as having two owners, one of whom can be nice, and another who is consistently aloof and rude or hostile. So before blaming the principal of James Lick for a deterioration in relations, I would ask how much the Just for Fun owners might have contributed to a breakdown in communications.
I was also intrigued by the reporting in the article. First, I had to read three-quarters of the way through the story, to an inside page, before reaching a quote from the head of the Merchants Association who said that "he had not heard any recent complaints from [other] store owners." Surely a balanced article would have placed this quote closer to the lead.
Second, I cannot understand why this incident warranted front-page coverage, while more serious crimes (e.g., armed robberies) are buried in Officer Perillo's "Police Beat" column.
We all have an ability to teach by way of example. Let us choose to teach civility and tolerance, not hostility and polarization. When you encounter James Lick students, treat them as you would want your own children to be treated. Over time, the students may surprise you by responding in kind.
In the Spirit of the Election
As the recent election has shown, San Francisco voters are deeply concerned about public education, whether they have children in public school or not. They know that our children are our future. The fate of our public schools will determine if we all go forward together as a nation or whether we become increasingly polarized in ability, incomes, and lives. Noe Valley was second only in voter turnout to the Upper Market/Eureka Valle area.
As a parent of a student at James Lick Middle School, I am deeply grateful for that vote. But there are people who do more than just vote every two years, people on the front lines of this number one election-year issue.
You cannot find a group of more dedicated, hardworking teachers than those at James Lick. They are pioneering instruction and assessment techniques in their efforts to reach the entire student body at the school. There are parents who put in countless PTA hours after working all day at their own jobs.
And there are community businesses working to make a difference. At those businesses, if you mention James Lick, a small percentage of the cost of your purchase goes back to the school. It isn't a huge amount of money. But since a teacher receives $300 a year for supplies and has to divide that by about 75 students who need even the most basic supplies like books and colored markers, every little bit counts. And you can be sure that I go out of my way to shop at the stores that are trying to do something positive for the future, for our kids.
My son and I have frequented 24th Street shops, and over the last five years I have been very sensitive to which stores have discriminatory policies against children, making them feel guilty because of their age. I avoid those stores.
I hope that in the spirit of this "education election," we as a community of kids, parents, businesses, and educators can take another look at what we can do together for our number-one concern, beyond just casting a vote. There is no us-against-them. We are all a part of this neighborhood, this city, this country.
If we can't succeed on 24th Street, how can we expect any change in the state or the country? The election is over. Let's work together now for real change.
Thank you, Rosie (and the SFFD)
At the first of November, a fire broke out in a vacant apartment in my building located on the southeast corner of 24th Street and Chattanooga. Rosie, who was on duty at the J.J. corner grocery on the southwest corner, heard the fire alarm and notified the authorities immediately. Rosie is ever watchful of activities in the neighborhood and cares a great deal about what is going on.
Due to Rosie's quick action and that of the SFFD, the fire was minimal, as was the damage. We are truly fortunate to have people like Rosie in our neighborhood and the professional women and men who serve on the San Francisco Fire Department.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you!
Robert M. Rowland
Los Gatos, Calif.
'My Last Prescription'
Dear Noe Valley community:
This letter is for those of you I've known since the Thrifty days, and particularly for those of you who are still with me at Rite Aid.
Dec. 31 will usher in a new year for us, and for me it has special significance because after seven years in Noe Valley I will be leaving my position as pharmacy manager of Rite Aid on 24th Street. There are many reasons for my decision.
First and foremost, I no longer feel I can physically, mentally, and spiritually handle the demands of the job. I typically work 12- to 14-hour days, and those hours are invariably spent on my feet.
I literally feel as if I am going into work to do battle sometimes -- with doctors' offices and insurance companies, as I attempt to obtain refill authorizations for your medications; with the legal demands of my profession; and even with the fax machine, that now-pervasive tool of voiceless communication.
Due to the pressures of "multi-tasking," I have made mistakes, or not had an answer for you when I felt I should have.
Secondly, the remodel has been rough, and while the store is finally almost done and looking very nice, it no longer feels like "my space" anymore. It is now very clearly Rite Aid's space.
Therefore, I am choosing to take my career in a new direction. I will let you know as soon as my plans solidify.
Meanwhile, I would like to express my appreciation for your loyalty -- to me and to the pharmacy -- in spite of all the obstacles you've been made to endure over the years (no parking, among others!). Your faith in me as your "neighborhood pharmacist" has touched me deeply.
I would also like to ask my canine friends to continue their tradition of doggedly pulling their owners inside to get a biscuit. This means you...Chelsea, Bisou, Kadou, Dancy, Bosco, Buster, Deli, Alisha, Annie, Ollie, Flintlock, Ditto, and all the rest of you kids.
I wish you all good health in 1999, and a very Happy New Year. Please take good care of yourselves.
Rite Aid Pharmacy
4045 24th St.
P.S. Don't be sad, Clarabelle. I'll ask my replacement to take good care of you.
Noe Tenants Flex Their Muscles
The Noe Tenants Association came about when the San Francisco Tenants Union began an outreach program in various San Francisco neighborhoods to build a broader base for a citywide tenants movement. In August 1997, Ted Gullicksen, director of the S.F. Tenants Union, and a volunteer coworker, Miguel Wooding, kicked off the first meeting at the Noe Valley Library.
We have met on a number of Saturday afternoons since then to provide a forum for the concerns of tenants in our neighborhood. We give information on tenants' rights and support for tenants in the midst of crisis. We discuss legislation that upholds our rights and tenants' issues in the forefront. We collectively plan goals and initiate activities to make positive things happen for us. Our group efforts have significantly contributed to the achievement of changes that directly benefit all tenants. We are proud to be a part of this effort.
At this time, we want to express our sincere thanks to members of our group who have:
* Volunteered their time to attend meetings
* Distributed campaign literature door to door,
* Gathered signatures for petitions and ballot arguments
* Made voters aware of tenant issues by tabling on 24th Street
* Participated in the phone banking drive
* Used their expertise to write ballot arguments for the Voters Handbook
* Rallied in support of the moratorium on evictions of seniors, disabled, and terminally ill persons, against Prop. E, and for Prop. G
* Written, faxed, and called the S.F. Board of Supervisors in support of tenants' issues
Enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season!
The Noe Tenants Association
(For information, call the S.F. Tenants Union, 282-6622.)
Help for Guatemala Family
In June and July, helped by friends from the Noe Valley Ministry, I sold raffle tickets on 24th Street, as part of a fundraiser to "Help Send Sarah to School."
Global Exchange was also a willing partner in this endeavor, and more than $1,000 was brought in. As a way of saying thank you to those who graciously contributed energy and money, I would like to give a brief status report.
Sarah is a 10-year-old girl who lives with her mother, brother, and sister in Quetzeltenango, Guatemala, where I lived and worked last year. Her father died a few years ago of untreated diabetes, and her mother ekes out a living by cleaning the language school I attended.
Sarah is a bright child, and I liked her attitude. When I asked her what she might do when she grew up, she answered confidently, "I'm going to be a doctor."
The free schooling available to her leaves much to be desired, but a good high school, books, and supplies will cost about $2,000 for six years. When school starts in January, she will be in her new place, thanks to your support and generosity.
The scholarship will be administered by Foundations for Education. This nonprofit organization will get her grade reports three times a year and offer troubleshooting and support. It will also send us (Noe Valley Ministry and myself) regular academic progress reports.
Anyone who missed the opportunity to contribute, and who would like to do so, can send a tax-deductible donation to the NVM Scholarship Fund. I can assure you, it will be money well spent.
Beer and Milk: A Memory
I first met Harvey Milk and his lover, Scott Smith, in 1973 when they opened a camera shop at 575 Castro St. At the time, Harvey was running in his first campaign for supervisor with a very "bohemian" look: ponytail, mustache, jeans, and barely any money to run a campaign. Unfortunately, Harvey lost the election that year, but he knew another day would come. After that first election, he changed his appearance to a very clean-cut image, including a suit and a haircut.
I was born in the Castro District in 1932 and grew up there. My wife was also raised there, and we have never lived anywhere else. This was when the neighborhood was Eureka Valley and predominantly Irish, long before the gay migration of the 1970s.
In 1974, I was a young teamster official and was assigned to direct the boycott of Coors beer. The boycott was going well, and at one point I was invited to meet with William Coors at his brewery in Golden, Colo. I felt we could talk man to man and settle the dispute.
Initially, Mr. Coors was unwilling to agree to any of the terms offered. I told him that as soon as I returned to San Francisco, I would meet with Harvey Milk, who was a strong leader in the gay com-munity. Coors replied, "I never heard of a gay community. What the hell is it?" I let him know he would soon find out.
The next day, I met with Harvey and told him I needed the support of the gay community. He agreed, but only on the condition that I would put openly gay people into teamster union driving jobs. I agreed, and the first openly gay person dispatched was Howard Wallace, who just happened to be a gay activist in San Francisco. Mr. Wallace later became a union leader and was a very good friend for over 25 years.
In turn, Harvey talked to the gay business owners who served Coors beer. The owners removed Coors from gay businesses in the Bay Area, and the word went out all over California.
It was the final blow to the Coors empire, and in the process the gay community found jobs in the union. Harvey told me after, "We now know the unity and power of the gay community." My friendship with Harvey grew stronger, and at one point a neighbor of mine asked my wife if I were gay because of my friendship with him.
After 25 years, the gay community continues to support the boycott. I'm not sure why the majority of gay people don't buy Coors beer after all these years, but I would like to think it had something to do with their respect for Harvey and what he stood for. I was always proud I endorsed and supported Harvey since he first ran for office until he was finally elected supervisor on Nov. 8, 1977.
A couple of weeks after he was sworn in, I went to visit him at his office. He was very busy on the phone talking to young gay people all across the country who had called him for support. As I was leaving, Harvey told me, "You gotta give 'em hope."
On Nov. 27, 1978, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone (I never met Moscone, but I knew of his hard work and love for the people and city of San Francisco) were assassinated by Supervisor Dan White at City Hall. After Harvey's death, another gay politician and friend of Harvey's, Harry Britt, took over for him as supervisor from District 5.
I know if my friend Harvey could say one thing, now 20 years after his death, it would be, "You can win with unity and power. If a person or product discriminates against your community, you must fight back."
Today we have more gay politicians than ever fighting for your rights. Give them your support. It pays off.
A Rocky Mountain Thanksgiving
I am a former resident of Noe Valley, now living in Denver. I'm writing to let you know your article ["Thanksgiving Potluck from the Voice Staff," November 1998] brought back some powerful memories. The afternoon talks with my neighbors, and the exchanging of holiday recipes, are things I really miss and will always treasure. Thanks.
The Parrots Are Happy
I am one of the subjects of the article on the parrot flock ["Filmmaker Hears Call of the Wild (Parrots)," November 1998 Voice]. I just wanted to make sure that writer Suzanne Herel got a big thank you from me. Usually articles about the parrots and my project contain some errors -- which isn't all that big of a deal -- but this one was refreshingly accurate, and I appreciate it.