“I Heard That:” A San Francisco Pioneer Passes …

by Rochelle Metcalfe on September 28, 2011

Many of you would not know MRS. ELOUISE WESTBROOK, a Bayview Hunters Point PIONEER who made a difference in the lives of many!
An outspoken, feisty, fearless woman, afraid of no one, no matter their status in life or power! A woman who had POWER, INFLUENCE, a go -getter, respected by many, that included SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN. The two became very good friends.

Mrs. Westbrook is a legend – she fought for the rights and injustices for not only her people but other groups. An advocate for those in need of food, shelter; jobs, accessible healthcare – she was a VOICE throughout the city to help them speak up for their rights! This dynamic lady organized people in South of Market, and Hunters Point communities to rally. She was Known throughout the San Francisco Bay area, state and nationwide!

Mrs. Westbrook’s LEGACY will be particularly remembered for her outspoken advocacy in 1973 when she led a delegation, under the authorization of then Mayor Joseph Alioto, to Washington, D.C. to get federal funds to build homes in Bayview Hunters Point! City officials had failed. Successful in her efforts got $30 million from THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION!

During the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, the Lady was hell-on-wheels, lifting up her community! In memory, there are several Health facilities that carry her name; one, the Westbrook Plaza Health Center and Housing Complex named June 2011 in her honor in the South of Market Area of San Francisco, CHARLES RANGE, Executive Director, spoke at her services. About 7 years ago, due to illness, this tireless fighter was bedridden. Otherwise her voice would have been heard urging health care for all; low income housing in Bayview and jobs!

I knew of her many exploits, but did not meet Mrs. Westbrook until the late 80s when employed at the Multipurpose Senior Center on Yosemite (renamed George Davis Senior Center) where she was an active member as were her team known as the BIG 5 – QUEENS – OCELA WASHINGTON, JULIA COLEMAN, BEATRICE DUNBAR and BERTHA FREEMAN.

Mrs. Westbrook passed during the wee morning hours of September 13; she was 96! OH, HAPPY DAY! The Black spiritual cry, “Gone up Yonder” expressed the Lady is with her Lord, REUNITED with SHEROES and HEROES of Bayview Hunters Point!

Rev. KENNETH R. REECE presided over the HOMEGOING CELEBRATION of her life which took place last Wednesday morning (September 21) at Cornerstone Baptist Church on 3-street and Paul, where she’d been a member for many years. Born in Gatesville, Texas, came to San Francisco in 1949, established residency in south of Market community and later moved to Hunters Point. Cornerstone sanctuary was filled with those who came to pay their respect, love, and condolences to the family. There was an entourage of San Francisco police motorcyclist across the street in BJ’S Restaurant parking lot, waiting to escort the body to Golden Gate National Cemetery !

Members of Mrs. Westbrook’s proud family spoke endearing of their mother, grandmother; she planted the seed in their hearts to carry on in her memory. Program was lengthy with many VIPs listed to speak, among them: Mayor ED LEE expressed, Elouise was “truly an inspirational woman,” recalled she worked to help the ASIAN communities in their struggle for justice …

Former MAYOR WILLIE BROWN provided laughter when talking about his experience with the lady who would curse him out “she use to SCARE me!” Demanded he take her calls; often would show up at his office unannounced. “She was a pure, unadulterated SISTER!” Warmly stated he was there to celebrate her profound capacity to love. Noted in closing, looking upward, “Miss Westbrook, I don’t have to take your calls no more!” …

Rev. AMOS BROWN – “she fought a good fight – LEAVE her alone!”… Rev. CECIL WILLIAMS explained he was the MESSENGER between Westbrook and Feinstein and husband Richard Blum … delivered Westbrook’s demand or requests in her desire to be heard! SENATOR FEINSTEIN, via satellite, on DVD, recalled many fond memories (1969 urban renewal meeting in Bayview). Elouise was like a second mother to her. Several years ago she threw a gala birthday party for QUEEN ELOISE!

MINISTER CHRISTOPHER MUHAMMAD, leader San Francisco Nation of Islam, married to Mrs. Westbrook’s granddaughter, spoke; actor DANNY GLOVER recalled 1971, when he was involved with Model City and how he met Mrs. Westbrook – “My SHEROE”. Also speaking that morning were: CHARLIE WALKER, AL NORMAN; CLAUDE EVERHARDT, DR. SODONIA WILSON (former San Francisco School Board member); DR. CEASAR CHURCHWELL – Westbrook’s dentist; ARCHBISHOP FRANZO KING; former San Francisco Supervisor and Assessor DORIS WARD; CATHY DAVIS, Executive Director Adult Day Healthcare Center, and Dr. George Davis Senior Service.

Reigning BVHP Queen ESPANOLA JACKSON looked pure as the driven snow in all white from head to toe – stunning regal white chapeau! In my estimation, ESPANOLA is the last of THE BIG 3 – an era of STRONG Black women who fought for their community – MARY ROGERS for the Fillmore/Western Addition (passed several years ago), and Mrs. Westbrook.

Espanola STILL fighting for jobs and other vital issues that effect BVHP; often seen seated up front at San Francisco Board of Supervisors meetings! This lady knows the history of BVHP like the back of her hand! As long as she draws breath – MRS. JACKSON WILL CARRY ON!! Mrs. Elouise Westbrook will beam down proudly, hollering, Espanola, KEEP THE FAITH – DON’T GET WEARY!

E-mail Rochelle at iheard@earthlink.net

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