“I Heard That”: Change is Coming … to the Fillmore

by Rochelle Metcalfe on October 29, 2008

PEOPLE GET READY FOR THE CELEBRATION!!! We are near the FINISH line come the night of November 4th it will be over, and BARACK OBAMA will be declared Our Next President!!! BLACK FOLKS ESPECIALLY want to celebrate – JUNETEENTH STYLE! To borrow an expression from JOSEPH SIMON, Jr., “It’s a GOOD time to BE BLACK AND ALIVE! “ A’SHAY!!!

I wanted to fly to Chicago and be there Election night to celebrate in GRANT PARK, but had second thoughts – understand more than 70,000 people expected; actually I don’t think its a good idea BECAUSE OF RACIST Hate mongers who might try to upset the celebration! My instincts tell me there’s a plan somewhere by those who do not want to see a Black man in the WHITE HOUSE and MAKE IT A BLACK HOUSE! ENOUGH said for now; the NEXT column appear the day AFTER the Election!

ONCE AGAIN folks gathered on DA ‘MO last Saturday afternoon for a CELEBRATION – this time the REVIVAL of the renovated Fillmore Center PLAZA (Fillmore and O’Farrell.) and dedication of the “HARD BOP” sculpture created by English artist JOHN ATKIN, which depict musical notes and the curves of musical instruments. NEVER did get a clear glimpse of the piece, centered on the 16,000 square foot Plaza which had been closed off for several months, leaving many wondering WHAT’S UP???

What’s a celebration without music! A FREE concert (noon-6 p.m.) featured stellar musicians – B3 organist Booker T. Jones and group (closer)…remember Green Onions?; stunning vocalist Goaple, swinging rhythms of Vinyl, and KIM NALLEY who kicked off the afternoon ( missed her performance!). Fillmore Center VIPs present: STEVE BOYACK, Vice President, LARAMAR Group, headquartered in Chicago, manages the Fillmore Center, flew in town for the occasion (congratulations – he’s a NEW FIRST TIME father)…DOUG ZARYBNISKY, Property Manager, and PAUL HYAMS, Regional Manager.

Fillmore Street businesswoman, known as the HAT LADY – MRS. DEWSON (HEARD she is on the Center’s Board – called her but she declined to say YEA OR NAY!!! Called Boyack in Chicago and told THERE IS NO BOARD!) introduced former San Francisco MAYOR WILLIE BROWN, Jr., invited to dedicate the statue.

After much picture-taking with those who wanted to pose with the famous gentleman, Brown shared with the diverse crowd his history in the Fillmore, originally from MINEOLA , Texas (Mrs. Dewson hails from PARIS, Texas) memories of a time when Fillmore was alive with Black businesses, nightlife; recalled he worked as a shoe salesman at Florsheim shoes, located on Fillmore near Geary, THE SPOT for stylish men footwear, and his experience traveling the HOT spots on Fillmore and Divisadero Streets. BY THE WAY, the day was my FIRST opportunity to congratulate Willie on his NEW column featured in the SF Chronicle – GOOD READING!

Brown proclaimed the FILLMORE HAS RALLIED BACK – SURE, but not as was originally planned on the drawing board in the mid-90s under his watch! Blacks DID NOT GET A PIECE OF THE ACTION as was planned! People like myself, looked forward to a bustling TOURIST destination featuring black culture, but also included DIVERSITY WITH CLASS! Great that Yoshi’s, 1300 (celebrated their FIRST ANNIVERSARY last night) have joined on the street with SHEBA Lounge and Rasselas – ALL fine establishments in the JAZZ Preservation District between Eddy and Geary – MORE IS NEEDED – too many businesses do not FIT!!!!

LEARNED PLANS are afoot TO CONVERT THE Fillmore Center COMPLEX INTO CONDOS!!!! Thus tenants will be forced to move IF they can not afford TO BUY their unit under the market rate !!! Boyack told me they are “SEEKING the opportunity in the future to convert to Condos!” AND GOOD NEWS – a business tenant has been found for the former site of Powell’s Restaurant there on Eddy near Fillmore, but will not open UNTIL February!;…The GODFATHER – SF Redevelopment Board member Commissioner LEROY KING not too happy about the idea of Condos at the Center;

Dist. 5 Supervisor ROSS MIRKARIMI, up for reelection which should be a SHOO-IN, told me what I needed to know about the fate of ELLA HILL HUTCH Community Center! BOTTOM LINE – LEADERSHIP need to GET OFF THE POT and SUBMIT REQUIRED PAPER WORK to get the money that is waiting to operate the Center!!!! DID YOU HEAR ME, HOWARD SMITH???

Talented musician DEE SPENCER, a VITAL part of SFJAZZ, performed at 1300 later that evening. GIRLFRIEND told me musician KHALIB is interested in the MUNI Sub Station there on Fillmore and Turk, submitted a proposal to put up a JAZZ school – wish him luck! The sub station is the LAST PRIZED property in lower Fillmore!

The Plaza renovation gave SHEBA LOUNGE more space to the outdoor front patio, BUT they may have to pay ‘MO MONEY on their lease which THEY DON’T WANT – PROMISES TO BE SOME CONTROVERSY THERE!!!! Before leaving the street enjoyed a glass of champagne on the patio, introduced to owners NETSANET ALEMAYEHU and ISRAEL’S pretty sisters. Rassela’s AGANOFER SHIFFERAW, of Ethiopian roots, in the mix, I took a fancy to the green cap he wore with a red star in front, promised to get me one! Invited to the OBAMA CELEBRATION Election night at Rasselas!

When you want to know something ASK. I’d been hearing RUMORS Aganofer is interested in selling Rasselas! ONE who like to get the 411 from the HORSES mouth, he gave me some double talk about “If somebody has CASH money – NO BS – WILL SELL!!!!” IF I had the money would buy the spot and MAKE IT A REAL JAZZ CLUB HAPPENING!!!;…

It was such a beautiful day in the sunshine, cheered by the presence of many folks I seldom see since the DISRUPTION of DA ‘MO! Conversed with GREG and KAREN RICHARDSON-JOHNSON of MARCUS BOOKSTORE (Spirit of BOP CITY) holding their sweet grandchild. Extraordinary PHOTOGRAPHER MONA BROOKS, taken in by the sweet child, constantly aimed her camera. BY THE WAY, Mona captured myself with OBAMA…I tell her we are forever BONDED!!!:…While talking with Karen, introduced to tall, golden complexion gentleman, son of the lady WHO FIRST OWNED JACK’S TAVERN/JACK’S Nightclub when on Sutter Street! STAY TUNED on this one!!!

Noted Fillmore era photographer DAVID JOHNSON, who STILL resides in the Fillmore and taking pictures, featured in the “Harlem of the West” book about the Fillmore Jazz era. Personally expressed my sorrow in the lost of his wife earlier this year; renown BARBER REGGIE PETTUS, of Chicago Barbershop on Fillmore, donated many of the celebrated photos also shown in the book; PETER FITZSIMMONS, curator of LUSH Life GALLERY, where the VIP reception was held for artist John Atkin over the weekend;…so nice to meet sweet and smart young school grader SHARONDA NELSON who attend Dr. William Cobb Elementary School on California Street near Divisadero; Always happy to rap with retired SF Policewoman ARLENE DRUMMER, a member of Officers for Justice who recently celebrated their 40th Anniversary!;…

The CHILDREN’S COMMUNITY ADVOCATE – MELVIN SIMMONS, manned his booth and POPCORN machine in front where I sat during the dedication; EUGENE PONDS remembered for popular BROTHER-IN-LAW’s BARBECUE on Divisadero and Grove, now wheelchair bound, served the BADDEST RIBS on DIVIZ (HEARD another barbecue joint will open on Divisadero and McAllister); JULIUS BANKS – during a phone conversation, stated he enjoyed himself, BUT expressed the event was the – ‘’LAST CELEBRATION FOR BLACK FOLKS” … Actually, my brother, the celebration was NOT ABOUT US!!!!

THIS morning will be attending the FUNERAL OF MERL SAUNDERS. So much to say about the B3 ORGANIST WHO PLAYED JACK’S TAVERN, and went on to perform with the GRATEFUL DEAD. Merl MISSED death on 9/11 when visiting back east, changed his plans to return Tuesday, 9/11,. caught a flight Monday to get back to the Bay Area to watch MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL … IRONIC, within months suffered a stroke! Merl passed Saturday. Will have more to say next week. My sincere condolence to his family.

IN CLOSING…I don’t believe I’ve ever heard 49er management or coach PUBLICLY APOLOGIZE to fans for poor game performance! SURPRISED when new coach Mike Singletary apologized Sunday for the team’s poor performance!!! GAME PLAY was so disappointing I left my seat at half time, and watch the game in The Stadium Club!

E-mail Rochelle at iheard@earthlink.net

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