The Legacy Of Harvey Milk and the Future of our Queer Community
My speech for Hearing On Castro LGBTQ Cultural District at HPC
My name is Shaun Haines and I am a longtime resident of San Francisco and I have lived, worked and played in the Castro neighborhood for many years. I am speaking to you today on behalf of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District Working Group.
I remember the first time I came to the Castro. I was 19. My parents had thrown me out of the house. I had begun expressing my needs as a young gay man to have a connection with our queer community. We didn’t have an LGBT Center then or an GLBT Museum. There was no such thing as Strut.
In the Castro like thousands of LGBTQ people, I found a place where I felt safer and better understood than anywhere else. Until then, I had only seen the Castro on TV.
My entry into our community involved sneaking into The Café one afternoon to have my first drink. Yes, it was easy back then. By the time I exited the bar, the Castro became a sea of people - and it was glorious. In that moment, I knew I had found my queer community and that I was home. That was my first Pink Saturday, an unofficial annual street celebration on the day before Pride Sunday.
Why create a Castro LGBTQ Cultural District?
Sadly, Pink Saturday no longer exists, in the Castro. Halloween in the Castro no longer exists. The structure and resources that will guide us in keeping the Castro queer, safe and inclusive for all, as we know it must become for our youth, women, seniors and trans communities, just don’t quite exist the way we need them to exist. Critical legacy events and institutions that sprang out of the Castro and our resiliency as LGBTQ people have been in decline and we must act now to right our course because we have big plans for our future.
Our community is under the same pressures as the entire city in dealing with displacement and gentrification in a harsh economy that is eating away at our foothold. Amid our bright colors we are seeing and feeling the erasure of our unique culture and community. With your support, we plan to turn that around.
We expect to highlight the importance of LGBTQ people to the Castro’s history and ensure that we have a place in its future. We see official designation as a Cultural District as a vital resource that will help us to unify as a community and work together to identify the problems that our LGBTQ people and communities face here in the Castro. The resources of a Cultural District well help us establish better collaboration with each other and city hall to create effective solutions to address our biggest concerns.
How the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District came into being.
On Wed 2/7/2018 over 25 community leaders gathered at the Castro Country Club to answer an important question. To protect, preserve and better our community should the Castro become a formal Cultural District?
The answer, unanimously, was an emphatic YES!
Our work group formed to begin the task of carrying out this directive from our community to ensure the establishment of an official Cultural District for the LGBTQ+ community of the Castro. We have set the stage for an official Advisory Board for the Castro LGBTQ.
With a mission of preserving, sustaining, and promoting the queer history and culture of the Castro and uplifting underrepresented demographics.
Cultural District and continue to prepare for success. We are composed of various community leaders that lead our committees which have been meeting regularly to share updates and engage with the Castro community. Our initial work group of over 30 is sustained by a core group including: Terry Beswick, our Acting Chair, Jesse Oliver Sanford Chair of Governance, Andrea Aiello Chair of Map/Boundaries, Moisés García, Co-Chair of Legislation, Andrew Shaffer and myself (Shaun Haines) Co-Chairs Outreach & Inclusion and more who stand prepared to take the District into the next phase.
Together we have conducted over two dozen meetings with community members, community leaders, local businesses, organizational leaders and among our Co-Chairs. As news of our effort to establish this Cultural District have spread. We have attended various Castro community events such as Castro Street Fair, OurTownSF, Atmosqueer and visited local LGBTQ organizations to make people aware of our opportunities. To date we have reached well over 25,000 people. Our progress is closely followed by more than 1,000 individuals and with the support of allies such as our local LGBTQ news media and LGBTQ nonprofit organizations we will continue to reach thousands more.
Included in our presentation package, today, is some of the feedback that we have collected from our community and includes over 44 letters of support. Some of our most powerful supporters include our friends at the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, the Rainbow Honor Walk, Castro Street Fair, Cruising the Castro, the Castro CBD and the Castro Merchants. We have collected hundreds of responses to our survey and anticipate hundreds more as we move toward official designation through Supervisor Manndelman’s ordinance. As a district that represents its community we have given the community leadership in our process of evolving our priorities for the development of our plans and vision for our Cultural District.
My Name is Shaun Haines and I am Proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy which supports the implementation of a Cultural District for the LGBTQ community of the Castro. Speaking on behalf of our committee, we value your support in helping us ensure that our LGBTQ community here in San Francisco’s Castro become officially designated as a Cultural District and provided with the resources necessary to restore and preserve our culture and lift up our community to its greatest potential.
"We must act now because we have a lot of great plans for our future in the Castro," said Haines.
We are working to show City Hall that we have the support of the businesses, organizations, associations, and individuals that live, work, and play in the Castro. Read the text of our Community Support Letter below, and add your name by using the form at the bottom of the page.
Gay African-American activist Shaun Haines (Co-Chair Castro Cultural District Out Reach and Inclusion) noted that transgender people, women, and bisexuals want more inclusion in the neighborhood. He said that as a native San Franciscan he's excited by the establishment of cultural districts.
"We have seen too much displacement, gentrification, and the loss of access to resources and community activities have been profound," Haines said. "I see cultural districts as a valuable tool and opportunity to be a positive force to push back against these issues and to bring our focus on to uplifting underrepresented demographics in the Castro."
Proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy and Castro LGBT Cultural District to ensure that our LGBTQ community here in San Francisco will have the resources required to preserve our culture and community.
I believe that a Cultural District representing the LGBTQ community of the Castro will bring us together. We will use this amazing new resource to shape our own destiny. Through the benefits of our Castro LGBTQ Cultural District we can guarantee that our heritage and diverse cultures will not be erased or forgotten but uplifted for all to see, experience and live within.
Our Trans, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer, Gender non-Conforming and Gay family of all ages and racial backgrounds including our allies will work together. Thus we will find comfort amid these difficult times in our ability to create and consider new opportunities to stabilize diminished institutions and uplift underrepresented aspects of our community.
Our legacy is one of resilience in the face of challenge and hardship. We rose together to defeat the Briggs initiative baring us from teaching in schools. We rose together to fight against HIV/AIDS. We rose together to win Marriage Equality.
We shall rise together to ensure that our legacy and community, here in the Castro, will continue in full glory for generations to come.
We are working to show City Hall that we have the support of the businesses, organizations, associations, and individuals that live, work, and play in the Castro. Read the text of our Community Support Letter, and add your name by using the form at the bottom of our page. Please also take our survey and sign up for our mailing list! www.castrolgbtq.org
Thank you to the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission for your unanimous vote today in favor of Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's ordinance establishing the Castro Queer Cultural District, and to everyone who came out to show their support! (Click below for video). Next steps: The San Francisco Youth Commission and the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee.
Sign up at www.castrolgbtq.org for news and updates.
I am an Associate Member of our San Francisco Democratic Party (DCCC – Democratic Central Countee Committee), a former Delegate of our California State Democratic Committee, Founder and President San Francisco Black Community Matters – A Chartered San Francisco Democratic Club, founder and Executive Director of San Francisco Impact Partners – an organization focused on issues concerning poverty and homelessness.
Because I have been dedicated to positively affecting our community in various positions of civic engagement and leadership. I have learned the importance of working collaboratively with diverse groups on many key issues affecting San Franciscans.