Monday, September 23, 2013

Get It Together SF Chronicle

  This is a photo of my family I took blindly with the camera behind my head back in 2009.

Behind The Head Family Shot

It is not a terribly good picture, just a snapshot.  But it is a snapshot of some of the people I love the most in this world doing something both terribly mundane and terribly important, riding our bikes through our city to do whatever it was we were doing that day.

Today, this picture was stolen and used without my permission in a vapid, stupid and insulting piece on the SF Gate blog.  The writer, Peter Hockaday, decided it was OK to just take something that was not his and use it to write about something he knows nothing about.  That something is the neighborhood I grew up in and always think of as home, even 20 years after I moved out of it.  This neighborhood was the birthplace of SF's current bicycle movement.  This neighborhood was the California birthplace of the Sanctuary Movement.    I could go on.

This is what I had to say to him about that.

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Adrienne Johnson and I am the woman who took picture #25 in your blog post of Sept 23rd, 2013 entitled "You Know You Live In The Mission...". First off, I am sorry, but I never gave you permission to use my photo in your piece. As a member of the journalist community you know that is not OK. As this is a photo posted to my personal account on Flickr and is posted with a copyright that barres your use of it without my permission, I can see no reason for you to leave it there, or to have even used it in the first place. This is especially true as you did not contact me through  that account, or any other, to ask for my permission. FYI, it would not have been given, and here is why.

I consider myself a San Francisco native. I have lived here for all but 3 months of my life. From 1971 until 1983 I lived in the Outer Sunset- before Trouble Coffee, before Java Beach, even before Other Avenues, back when there was still a Judah Street tunnel to the beach. From 1983 until 1989 I lived in the Mission. I lived there back when Valencia St. was half boarded up and was populated mostly by the lesbian community. Back when La Rondalla was still open and you could get midnight chicken soup and underage margaritas while drunk female impersonators sang into their drinks at the bar. Back when Pancho Villa first opened and the whole neighborhood got food there after the '89 earthquake and took it to eat in Dolores Park, not because it was cool, but because everyone was afraid to be in their homes. Back when the Mission Theater was a shithole movie house the whole neighborhood went to to see B movies in while yelling at the screen (not in its soon to be fancy art house fashion which will only show Spanish language films when they win Best International Film awards for their brave portrayal of crossing the boarder illegally). My mother was the person who got stop signs at 20th and Capp and helped the police clear out the crack dealers in the mini park so that the kids could play there once again in 1984. The garage of the building I lived in was where the Carnival Floats used to stage from at the beginning of the parade. My first apartment when I left home at 19 was on South Van Ness between 15th and 16th in 1989, and so you know, at that time that area was considered to be the most dangerous place in California with the most rapes, robberies and murders of any part of our state. We moved there because we were  too poor to stay in the Sunset. We stayed because it was the best place in SF to live if you were poor and wanted a decent quality of living.


I moved out of the Mission during college and I now live in Sunnyside, in an apartment I have lived in for 20+ years. My four children, 2 of whom are in this picture with my husband, were all born at CPMC (one while I still lived in the Mission!). My husband was born at Chinese Hospital. We are not hapless "visitors" to the Dark Side of Town hoping to get back to our all Caucasian enclave of Noe Valley (your intimation, not mine). We are native San Franciscans riding through our own home town.

There are families in the Mission!!! Thousands of them!!!! They have lived there for decades. If you see a family in the Mission and your first thought is "how did they wander so far from Noe Valley", then you have no business writing an article about the neighborhood in the first place. Just because the wave of people coming into SF now is young and childless and stupid rich does not mean the City is, too. If you want to write an article about the neighborhoods of SF, then get off your butt and go talk to some people in those neighborhoods! Go find out about the family that started the Pancho Villa group of taquerias, or better yet, go find some of the people who owned older taco shops that went out of business or one of the older restauranteurs who don't make burritos and talk to them. Maybe try talking to the proprietors of the old watch repair shops on Mission street? How about the people that own Sun Fat Seafood so you can get a perspective on the Chinese population in the Mission (hint, it is big and has been there for a looooong time). Ever thought of learning the history of the Victoria Theater on 16th? How about the Anarchist Movement (much of which was recently booted out of the 17 Reasons Why building that houses Thrift Town) that still populates the area. Maybe you could go talk to Don Rafa's daughter about all of the fixed gear bikes she doesn't sell. How long before these businesses are run off because the landlord wants to charge more for the crap building that was paid off 20 years ago that he refuses to fix? Do I hear Jack Spade calling to take that spot? Oh wait, that already happened.

Most of all, do not poach my photographs and assume it is OK to use them to ridicule anyone. The fact that I wake up every day knowing that at any time my landlord can and will sell my home and that I will be Ellis Acted out of it and out of the City I have called home for 43 years makes me sick. The fact that I attended F.S Key Elementary, Aptos Middle School, George Washington High and City College of San Francisco will not save me from being evicted. The fact that the very first burrito I ever ate was from La Taqueria 20 years before Zynga was even thought of will not change the fact that the people who think families only live in Noe Valley are the reason my old place at 20th and Capp is now listed at close to $4000 a month! This attitude, this cluelessness, is behind what is driving the families of the City out and I do not want to be associated with it.

You stole a photograph, whose subjects and history are unknown to you and put them into your story to make a stupid, racist, classist point. It is your bad luck that it was the wrong photo to steal. I am quite sure that wasn't your intention, but that does not matter. You didn't know that the Mission is what I consider home and I know I am there when I see mothers picking up their kids from school and carrying their backpacks home to change into their play clothes. I know I am in the Mission when I see the paleta sellers pushing their carts down the street. I know I am in the Mission when Spanish speaking evangelists are yelling into bullhorns at the 24th street BART station or when Mexico is playing El Salvador and BolompiƩ explodes in screaming. Want to talk to a local family? Go to any one of the funeral homes in the neighborhood and you will see huge, local, multi generational Mission families mourning their dead. You will see that those families are Hispanic, black, Asian, white... None of them are worrying if their clothes are cool enough (only people who come slumming in exclusive clubs in the 'hood do that). Or maybe try hanging out at any one of the soccer practices or games around the entire neighborhood. You will find out fast that they are all locals playing and that none of them work at Twitter or want to be pushed out of their own neighborhood. Maybe they can tell you about the days when the Mission was a Sanctuary Zone for political refugees from Latin America and you can tell them where the Sanctuary Zone is for them now that their presence is no longer welcome in their own neighborhood.

Stop playing into this ridiculous farce of "hip". The Mission is not the next up and coming neighborhood for the young and clueless. It is a neighborhood with a strong history and culture that San Francisco can not afford to lose. The Mission is a neighborhood that is being systematically drained of everything that brings people to it in the first place- the art, the culture, the diversity and the comfort of being in a place where families live their daily lives. It is the canary in the coal mine. My family, a native family, may not look like what you think the Mission looks like, but then you don't know what the Mission looks like because you chose the lazy route and bought into the hype. Start writing about the people who need to be written about to help them try to save their homes and businesses. Get off your butt and be a real journalist who asks questions and looks for answers.

And take my picture off your site.

Thank you.

Let the SF Gate (a blog published by The San Francisco Chronicle who should know and expect better) be put on notice.  I am tired of this crap.  When I published this article about being threatened by an SFPD officer in an unmarked car here on the blog the SF Gate chose to re-publish the article and then did nothing to stop the threatening, demeaning and offensive comments directed at me and my family on their site.  Now they are stealing my property to put in their silly, vapid, unresearched crap blog posts that reduce human beings into stereotypes that destroy any real conversation from happening before it starts.

There. Now go back to your lives citizens.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


green lane

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
–Lost by David Wagoner


Portland, OR
August, 2013.