SAN FRANCISCO – Two hundred fifty banners featuring the Filipino residents, workers and community organizations of the Filipino Cultural Heritage District now fly over the streets of the South of Market (SoMa), as the community celebrates Filipino American History Month.
The banners are part of a campaign to gain visibility for SOMA Pilipinas within the district and the city. This banner campaign highlights families, youth, seniors, artists and workers that live, work and provide services within the cultural district.
The awareness campaign comes on the heels of a unanimously-passed cultural district resolution by the San Francisco board of supervisors last May. Spearheaded by Supervisor Hilary Ronen, the resolution creates “a process for the establishment of cultural districts in the City to acknowledge and preserve neighborhoods with unique cultural heritage.” SOMA Pilipinas was designated as a cultural heritage district in 2016, and last year received a state designation by the California Arts Council.
Sabrina Pacheco of Gold Metropolitan Media, the city light pole banner company that applied the banners said, “The SOMA Pilipinas Community Pride Campaign marks a step towards place-making for the Cultural Heritage District and offers a powerful new way to enhance the spirit, energy, pride, and vibrancy of the community.”
Strengthening visibility and celebrating culture is integral to SOMA Pilipinas’ mission.
Despite the community being priced out of SoMa, the district still contains the largest concentration of Filipino residents, cultural assets and social services in San Francisco. The campaign was launched prior to the Board of Supervisors vote on major funding decisions under San Francisco Planning Department’s Central SoMa Plan.
The immediate need to be visible in the face of rapid development is clear when the Filipino community has historically been pushed out of their homes, non-profit space and small businesses. “When I looked up and saw (the banners) on the way to work, I felt proud yet melanchoIic because it was a hard struggle to get to this point. Two years for me but 100 years for the community,” said Desi Danganan, executive director of Kultivate Labs, a SoMa based non-profit.
Mary Ann Magsaca, a SoMa resident said, “SoMa has kids and families, in spite of what others say, we live and thrive here and the banners represent that.” She is featured in the campaign with her two young daughters that attend Bessie Carmichael Elementary.
“The concept to us behind the pole banners is to show the complex vibrancy of our SOMA Pilipinas neighborhood: a beautiful spectrum of layered stories of who the people are that have defined this part of the city. We are happy, fun-loving, fearless, strong. Being visible in this way is our way of saying, if you see us – truly see us, displacement is not an option.” said Irene Faye Duller, An Otherwise Co. Co-Founder.
Asserting the presence of the working class, newcomers and cultural bearers isn’t only an outward-facing message to decision makers, tourists and San Francisco neighbors. This campaign also sends a message that empowers and supports the people that contribute to SOMA Pilipinas.
Juvy Barbonio, a social worker at South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), believes being represented alongside other Filipino women “represents Filipina empowerment — Pinay power.” Rey Novicio, Program Coordinator at Filipino Mental Health Initiative-SF says, “It feels like warm hug to see the beautiful brown faces of community warriors and service providers who share the same values and passion as you do.”
The banners are spread out throughout the district and can be found especially on Mission, Howard, and Folsom Streets, as well as on 4th, 5th, 6th 7th & 8th and 9th Streets.