Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bayview at night?!!

National Night Out is Tuesday, August 5th from 5pm to 8pm on Third Street at Oakdale. See you there!
The nights haven't always been friendly here.

In 2002, our little group of Quesada Gardens members was looking for a place to meet in the early days of the organization. We didn't want to meet at our members' houses because we feared retaliation from the folks who then controlled the block.

One evening, we met in the Third Street storefront next to the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper offices with the permission of the Ratcliff's. At the close of the meeting, we talked about whether or not we wanted to meet there again. The feeling was unanimous: we felt on display and in danger given the big windows overlooking a desolate street.

Mind you, this was no group of shrinking violets. We were already over 20 residents strong, from diverse backgrounds, including folks who had lived on our block all their lives. And we were organizing to address issues others pulled the blinds down on.

We ended up meeting at the library on Third and Revere, in the community room which had no windows and felt safer.

After community-building transformed the daylight hours on our block, we decided to try something similar at night. The Quesada Gardens Outdoor Film Festival was born, and more than a hundred residents gathered over several weekends to test the dark waters. Most of us felt uneasy. But, by the time the festival came to a close, we knew we would never go back to fearing night where we lived.

Many of those same people who attended that early meeting in 2002, attended a Just for Us...and YOU TOO! event at Upper Crust Deli in January. There we were, along with new Bayview friends, on bright display behind plate glass windows. At the end of the gathering, many folks commented that, while they may have thought about the risk, they wanted more events like that one.

Last weekend, the outdoor film festival happened again. More people attended in just two nights than attended last year in three. Young people on the block played video games on the projection system until nearly midnight. No one thought twice.

This Tuesday, businesses and law enforcment are joining in a national program called National Night Out. Some of the organizers broke new ground before with the same program, and all involved understand how important community-building is to sustainable change. Sure, you can call the police when there are problems. But coming together to share the night can prevent problems altogether.

The Quesada Gardens Initiative still meets regularly. These days, we usually meet at one of our homes on the block.

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