Monday, June 18, 2012

James Baldwin at Hunters Point

On Tuesday, June 19th at 7:30pm, "James Baldwin in San Francisco: Hunters Point Then and Now" will be screened at the Luggage Store Gallery located at 1007 Market Street. The event provides a rare opportunity to see two films: "Take This Hammer" and "Black San Francisco."

James Baldwin wanted to discover the "real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present."

"There is no moral distance," he said, "...between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham." 

That was in the spring of 1963 when Baldwin was taken on a tour of San Francisco by Orville Luster, Executive Director of Youth for Service. Baldwin, at the height of his fame as a novelist, essayist, playwright and activist, met and talked with members of the local African American community of that time, including young people at Hunters Point and in the Fillmore District.

A mobile film unit recorded Baldwin's visit to Hunters Point and other San Francisco locations. The film that resulted, "Take This Hammer," was produced for public television. 

"Take This Hammer" is filled with Baldwin's insightful and mostly spontaneous comments about the gap between our ideal of San Francisco and the reality for so many of the City's residents, observations that remain relevant. It includes fascinating footage of a San Francisco landscape that no longer exists.

In the film, it is still possible for today's audiences to glimpse the forces that have turned Bayview Hunters Point into its present incarnation, and to better understand the social conditions its residents faced generations ago.

Fifty years after "Take This Hammer" was produced, filmmaker Caroline Bins created a follow-up film: "Black San Francisco." She interviewed many of the same people from the earlier film about how much, or little change has occurred with regard to the issues discussed half a century earlier.

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