San Francisco

How to Support the Black Community in SF Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

Brown Sugar Kitchen
Brown Sugar Kitchen
Brown Sugar Kitchen

The events of 2020, and their impact on the Black community, were a much-needed wake up call to many. From the devastating impact of COVID-19 on people of color to the shocking displays of police brutality that led to peaceful protests around the world, our country’s gross inequities (most of which have been deeply ingrained since its founding) have become impossible to ignore. But there are things to celebrate, too. The incredible triumph of Black organizers in Georgia and beyond. The swearing-in of our country’s first Black woman to higher office. Countless examples of Black power, Black ingenuity, and Black joy. While a new year, and a new administration, may signal a degree of change, now is the time to really take stock of what we learned in 2020, and to show up to support the Black community, today, tomorrow, and always. One relatively simple way to give back right now is to support Black-owned businesses, nonprofits championing the Black community, and bail funds supporting protestors arrested for demonstrating in your community. We’re resurfacing this guide of some of the ways you can make a difference in honor of Black History Month to encourage you to remember that this work happens every day, in times of crisis and recovery.

Courtesy of City of Dreams
Courtesy of City of Dreams
Courtesy of City of Dreams

Support local nonprofits & community efforts 

Grassroots organizations-the ones trying to make change happen from the ground up-are essential in this moment and are hugely important to support. Black Earth Farms, a Berkeley-based farming collective, focuses on creating food sovereignty in the community. Follow them on Instagram @blackearthfarms for updates and to learn how you can contribute.

Many of the gross inequalities faced by the country and the Bay Area’s Black community stem from a feedback loop of poverty and limited opportunities. City of Dreams is a Bayview-based nonprofit that is working to break that cycle with youth-facing initiatives for kids 8 and up who are living in San Francisco’s low-income and public housing communities. 

“Giving monetarily is always an easy option for those looking to give,” says Jarae Clark, City of Dreams’ executive director. “We are a small organization and depend heavily on individual donations from our supporters to maintain sustainability.” Other ways to get involved? By signing up to be a mentor, or volunteer with the organization in other ways. 

You can donate to City of Dreams here, and look into other ways to get involved here. Looking for more ways to help the community directly? Check out organizations like the Roots Community Health Center, People’s Breakfast Oakland, the East Oakland Collective, and the Anti Police-Terror Project (this resource, compiled by San Francisco-based creative Courtney Sabahi, has more information on organizations to support). Interested in supporting bail funds for protestors in the Bay Area and beyond? Broke-Ass Stuart has compiled a resource for that here.

Courtesy of Trevor Joplin & Jordan Pories
Courtesy of Trevor Joplin & Jordan Pories
Courtesy of Trevor Joplin & Jordan Pories

Donate to Black-Owned restaurants, bars, pop-ups & catering companies

Many restaurants are offering take-out and gift card sales, and an extensive list of Black-owned restaurants in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, and beyond, compiled by food critic Soleil Ho, can be found here.

Looking to contribute immediately? Employee support and rent relief funds have been set up at businesses including Minnie Bell’s; other Bay Area businesses include restaurant, bar, and community space 7th West; Swan Market stalwart The Cook and Her Farmer; beloved downtown Oakland bars Drexl, The Miranda, and Fort Green; San Francisco’s legendary Sheba Piano Lounge, home to incredible Ethiopian food and nightly live music; Richmond neighborhood staple Bella Trattoria; and San Jose’s Jackie’s Place.

Some businesses, in addition to offering takeout, have set up meal donation programs to support their community at large. These include Oakland’s wildly popular Brown Sugar Kitchen, and Red’s House, a San Francisco-based Jamaican pop-up dinner series, run by mother-son duo Chris and Sharon Russell. (Red’s House was forced to pause their meal donation program, but are continuing to fundraise for it via  GoFundMe.) 

Chef Sharon Russell is unequivocal about the importance of major systemic changes, and accountability, in stopping the cycle of violence and discrimination.   

“I’m  a mother first and a chef second,” she says. “As an immigrant, I have faced tremendous hardships in my life, and all I ever wanted was to create a beautiful life for my children and myself. Growing up on the island of Jamaica, you hear stories about America, the land of endless opportunities. But what you don’t hear and are not prepared for is the amount of hate and discrimination you’ll face because of something as simple as the color of your skin. A feature that should not factor into anyone’s decision making. People must be held accountable for racial injustices against people of color. There needs to be a better system in place that gives us a fair chance to succeed. We need better legislation for fair lending and housing practices for people of color. Hate breeds hate and we need to look into ourselves to access the truth about how to really affect change.”

Affecting change, and creating a place that feels safe among these challenges, is a major inspiration for why Red’s Place came to be.

“Being a person of color comes with a set of responsibilities we bear from birth to death,” says Christopher Russell. “I am tired. We are all tired. The people want to live in harmony and are tired of the yellow tape that one has to cut through just to survive. There has to be an easier way to live amongst one another with our differences. This is why Red’s House was born. It came from a place of safety and warmth. My goal has always been to create an experience from a rich culture that has been imitated, watered down, and duplicated unsuccessfully. It is our culture, my family’s heritage, their sweat and tears that made it possible to do what I do today.”

kalm korner by kehinde
kalm korner by kehinde
kalm korner by kehinde

Shop from & donate to Black-owned businesses

Small businesses, having been slammed by the economic slowdown surrounding COVID-19 and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, need your support.

“Align with Black people, Black organizations, Black businesses, etc. and ask them in what ways you can help, and then help,” says Kehinde Koyejo, owner and creator of Oakland-based clean self-care company Kalm Korner by Kehinde. “Be a real ally and a real advocate. When you spend your dollars in communities of color you are helping small business owners support their families, build their business and advance their communities. Be a conscious buyer, which simply means you consider ‘the social, environmental, ecological, and political impact of your buycott or boycott actions.’ When you spend your money you are either contributing to the problem (systemic racism) or contributing to the solution (equality and equity). We all get to choose and, right now, our freedom to choose is our power to create real change.” And when you make these purchases, amplify that message as best you can.

“Help by making a purchase at kalmkorner.com, and posting your order once it arrives,” she says. “Send a loved one a Kalm Korner care-package to encourage and promote self-care during these times. Referrals are a great way to support my business and other Black-owned businesses and donations are a great way to support as well. Small businesses were hit hard during COVID-19 and are struggling to keep afloat. Plug a few local Black-owned small businesses, like @kalmkorner, on social media using popular #buyblack hashtags. You can find a list of popular hashtags for buying Black on Google.”  

Kalm Korner is a part of the Oakland Indie Alliance, as is Mohari Wellness Lounge, an acupuncture, massage, and health wellness education center. 

“We’re not looking for donations,” says Dr. August-G Varlack. To support the business directly, book massage, acupuncture, or nutritional counseling services to treat both physical pain and mental health issues. 

Dr. Varlack, who is “a Caribbean New Yorker from a Civil Rights family,” encourages white supporters of the movement to read this piece for ideas of how to start taking action in their communities. 

For more ways to support Black business owners, check out the Oakland Indie Alliance’s Small Business Repair Fund, which is prioritizing Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-owned businesses. Other Black-owned businesses in the organization include sex shop and adult gallery Feelmore, holistic tea company Teas With Meaning, downtown Oakland-based oo la la! gift lounge, massage and wellness center Downloaded Wellness, and Oakland Acupuncture

Continue to educate yourself & support Black-owned bookstores while you do it

It’s always beneficial to be open to reading, learning, and most importantly, listening to the Black community. Meaning it’s always a good time to support Oakland’s Marcus Books, the oldest independent Black-owned bookstore in the US, with an inventory full of books by and about Black people (you can shop from and support other Black-owned bookstores around the country here; find a useful starter reading list here).

“The COVID-19 pandemic struck as we entered our 60th year of business,” says team member Hank Oliver, whose great-grandparents founded the store, and whose grandmother, Blanche Richardson, continues to work with her siblings. “Our community’s health and well-being has always been a priority for us and we were happy to do our part to maintain socially distant business practices. Still, like so many other independent businesses already working tirelessly to compete with larger corporations, we were hit hard by the shelter in place.”

Marcus Books has set up an anniversary GoFundMe, to hopefully support many more decades of business, and of being a focal point in the Bay Area community.

“Thanks to the generosity of our community near and far, we were inspired to shift our focus from surviving the shelter-in-place to thriving in spite of it and other forces threatening our space. Words can’t hold our gratitude for this continued support,” says Hank Oliver. To shop for books from home, call 510-652-2344 or visit Marcus Books on Bookshop. You can also join their mailing list here. 

Businesses like Marcus Books are essential-especially as we commit to doing the work to make meaningful change in our community, and our country.

“For those looking for ways to cope, support, and turn feelings into action: building cultural and intellectual awareness through reading, learning and using your means to protect Black-owned businesses, institutions, and safe-spaces from erasure are key to supporting us and the Black community at large both now and always.”

More ways to get involved?

Check out a list of national organizations we’ve compiled here. If you have thoughts on other businesses you’d like to see included in our local stories, please email [email protected].

Lauren Sloss is a contributor for Thrillist. 

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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