N ENXETX G I O INO NP RPERSESS S T EGNEENREAT R AT
by Lucely Chel, 17, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Tenderloin Clubhouse
I N I NO UORU R V I LV LI LALGAEG E S ASNA NF RFARNACNI CS ICSOC’ OS ’ S T ETNEDNEDRELROLI ON I N T HTRHORUOGUHG H T HTEH E YEEYSE SO FO IFT SI T S Y OYUOTUHT H
In Our Village Edited by Barbara Cervone
San Francisco’s Tenderloin Through the Eyes of Its Youth
A photovoice project of What Kids Can Do, Inc. and Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Tenderloin Clubhouse
In Our Village
San Francisco’s Tenderloin Through the Eyes of Its Youth
A photovoice project of What Kids Can Do, Inc. and Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Tenderloin Clubhouse
Edited by Barbara Cervone
Providence, Rhode Island
Copyright ÂŠ 2015 by What Kids Can Do, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form, without written permission from the publisher. ISBN 978-0-9815595-8-2 CIP data available. Cover photograph by Chris Muzar, 19, alumnus of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Tenderloin Clubhouse Next Generation Press, a not-for-profit book publisher, brings forward the voices and vision of adolescents on their own lives, learning, and work. With a particular focus on youth without privilege, Next Generation Press raises awareness of young people as a powerful force for social justice. Next Generation Press, P.O. Box 603252, Providence, Rhode Island 02906 U.S.A. www.nextgenerationpress.org 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A place to call home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Variety and community . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Space enough
Danger and safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Talking about food
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Hard work and sacrifice
. . . . . . . . . . . . 19
An arm around . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Jonell’s story
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Sports and play . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Public art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Wired and wire-less PhotoVoice
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
The Syringe Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Albert’s story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Eslah’s story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Hopes, dreams, and advice . . . . . . . . . . 57 Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Preface , our small nonprofit What Kids Can Do (WKCD) and its publishing arm, Next Generation Press, have worked with young people across the globe to document daily life in the communities where they live. The In Our Village series now includes over 60 such books, representing the work and voices of youth from North Hollywood to New Orleans, from the jungles of Nepal to a coffee-growing village in Ethiopia. In each instance, the youth have taken photos (or produced drawings) and gathered stories that capture what matters most to them in the “village” they call home. Adult allies have helped every step of the way. In May 2014, I visited the Tenderloin Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco for a feature story I wanted to write about the organization. There I met Kay Weber, the tireless visionary who directs the art programs at the Clubhouse. He was eager to show me the photographs that his students, first- and second-generation immigrants of all ages, had been taking as part of an afterschool neighborhood photovoice project. The Tenderloin, while a thriving immigrant community, is best known for being the epicenter of San Francisco’s untouchables: the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill. These were the subjects that drew our young photographers. The resulting exhibit, “Ain’t Nothin’ Tender” turned heads at the San Francisco gallery where it hung—and no wonder. Lucely Chel’s photo of a homeless man embracing his dog while sleeping on the sidewalk is unforgettable. Chris Muzar’s picture of the street mural on the wall outside the Tenderloin Club’s teen center dances with light and shadows. In less than an hour, Weber and I agreed that I should return to the Tenderloin in the summer. Together, with a corps of the Club’s teen leaders and younger students, we would create a book-length photoessay about this extraordinary neighborhood as seen by its youth. As part of our In Our Village series, it would draw young readers from around the world.
From the start, our young collaborators shared our determination to show the tender aspects of the Tenderloin, an area known mostly for its rougher side. They achieved that through their photographs: of each other, their families, kids playing, wall murals and sidewalk art, community celebrations, and more. (Virtually every photo in this book was taken by a member of the Tenderloin Clubhouse.) But the same message came through clearly as they spoke with warmth and candor about growing up in a neighborhood that others shun. Their words will open your heart. Barbara Cervone, President, WKCD and Next Generation Press Providence, Rhode Island November 2014
Introduction From an interview with Esan Looper, Tenderloin Clubhouse director in San Francisco’s most impoverished and eclectic neighborhood by choice. I did. When I had a chance to become the director of the Tenderloin Clubhouse in 2010, I jumped. College and work had taken me to New England for fifteen years, but the corner of Eddy and Leavenworth Streets was where I’d started. I was coming home. There are lots of stories about how this tightly packed area in San Francisco’s downtown came to be called the “Tenderloin,” but it’s always been a neighborhood where alternate lifestyles flourished, crime ran deep, and mental illness and poverty took their toll. It’s also been a place where new immigrants found their legs, one group of refugees giving way to the next. The one story you didn’t hear often was how the Tenderloin was a village where people cared for each other despite the odds. Finding community where you least expect it is one of the stories I hope you’ll learn here. Unlike most of the kids whose voices and images fill this book, I never lived in the neighborhood. Instead, I grew up going to the Tenderloin. In 1977, my parents purchased the historic but dying Cadillac Hotel, where decades earlier the neighborhood’s reputation for all-night partying drew visitors from miles away. My parents cleaned up the Cadillac, turned it into a residential hotel for ex-offenders, and once a year invited city dignitaries to pay their respects. Championing the disenfranchised, the underserved, those who were down on their luck or living in tough circumstances—this is what my parents did. They knew everyone, and they were as likely to introduce me to a transgendered person in the neighborhood as San Francisco’s Mayor Diane Feinstein. And when it came to making the Tenderloin cleaner, safer, and nicer, they did everything they could. Fighting for height restrictions on new
buildings to keep wind tunnels away. Chastening restaurant owners who dumped kitchen grease on the sidewalk. Lobbying local politicians to limit liquor licenses in the district. Cleaning up parks. Hosting piano concerts in the Cadillac Hotel lobby. My parents believed that each of us has a right to human dignity, and that’s what they practiced. They believed that if everyone does their part, we can build a better world together. That’s what they showed me. When I walk the same Tenderloin streets now that I walked years ago, a lot has changed. Still, I see what has always made the neighborhood special to me: family winning over despair. Sure, there’s the people who are making the wrong choices, the addicts, the homeless who conduct their business on the sidewalk because it’s all they have. But what grabs my eye is the mother of a child I know, the grandfather who walks his granddaughter to school every day. I see people making a life for their family. I see happiness And I see adults like me looking after other people’s children. I see a village. Still, I wonder—and worry—about how “our” kids, Tenderloin kids, will make their way. Some things I know. I know that poverty and the legacy of having parents who came here to escape squalor or civil war at home confounds these young people’s progress at every step. Their drive to succeed is a wonder. I know that growing up in this neighborhood, you learn early on to have your head on a swivel and to be cognizant of what’s happening around you. It may be feces on the ground. You have to be aware. It could be that someone is drunk. You have to be aware. Vigilance becomes second nature (as it does for the drug dealer who knows he should conceal his transactions from kids passing by).
And I know that coming of age in the Tenderloin teaches a lifetime of empathy. Kids at the Clubhouse will swap stories about what they’ve seen lately: three transvestites with leopard-skinned tights; a man pushing a cart with his sleeping bag and his cat; a weary family, maybe just arrived from Yemen, lugging six heavy suitcases. Like all port cities, diversity seems the rule, yet in San Francisco’s Tenderloin there are few limits. But it’s not just tolerance—the realization that there are many ways to live—that kids in the Tenderloin learn. They learn empathy. The mentally ill are mentally ill, they aren’t bad. There are people who unfortunately have to sleep on the street, but they aren’t bad people. There are folks who make poor decisions with poor results, but they deserve support and not degradation, care and not anger. The practices of one culture are not better or worse than another, they’re simply different. Everyone deserves respect. Growing up in the Tenderloin, you develop an ability to see goodness when others just see darkness. You learn the positive places where you can go, where you can be, where you can see adults making a difference, where you can make a difference of your own. No doubt, the young people who have contributed to this volume—Albert, Eslah, Francelle, Jonjett, Naim, Yessenia, and so many more—will move on and out of the Tenderloin. This is what they are supposed to do. This is why their parents came to America: to give their children opportunities they could barely imagine. Wherever they go, though, I bet these young people take with them all they learned growing up in the Tenderloin, lessons they won’t find anywhere else.
San Franciscoâ€™s Tenderloin Through the Eyes of Its Youth
A place to call home , . About sorrow, loss, and hardship. About kindness, hope, and dreams that don’t die. The Tenderloin is a nation of people from somewhere else, wanting to belong. It is a village of families and singles, longing for a place to call home. “Most of us were born in the Tenderloin, but our parents and grandparents, our aunts and uncles were not,” says Naim, a teen leader at the Tenderloin Clubhouse. Naim’s parents are from Yemen. John’s met in a Vietnamese prison camp. Evelyn’s parents moved from the Philippines when she was five. Marco’s parents are from Mexico. “They moved here because they wanted a better job. Here, my dad works making marbles and my mom works cleaning houses,” he says. Twelve-year-old Evelynn’s parents are from all over. “My dad is Filipino, Spanish, Puerto Rican, part Dutch, and a little bit Jewish,” she explains. “My mom is half Chinese, half Ecuadorean, and a quarter Spanish.” They met in an English class after they had moved separately to the United States. “I know my parents are from China, but that’s about it,” says Rutherford, who has attended the Club, along with his twin sister, for three years. “I’ve asked my mother many times to tell me more, but she never does. I used to get mad, but now I think it’s too hard for her to talk about it, about what happened to her back there.”
and you’ll learn more geography. There are kids with roots in five continents and twenty countries. Some ten- and eleven-year-olds in the club’s art room make a list: Vietnam, China, Yemen, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Japan, Yucatan, the Pacific Islands, Cambodia, Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Turkey, Nicaragua, El Salvador. Walk around the block and you’ll meet the Club’s neighbors: the homeless, the mentally ill, disabled veterans, addicts, prostitutes, the permanently unemployed, and more. “It isn’t easy on the eyes,” says Francelle, age 14.
, the visitors to the Tenderloin come to volunteer, not to sightsee. Sometimes they arrive by the busload to assist in soup kitchens and other organizations that rely on their help seven days a week. This is the poorest and most densely packed neighborhood in San Francisco. Over 25,000 people live here in roughly 50 blocks, a quarter of a square mile. Of those, roughly 1,500 are homeless. More than a third of households subsist below the federal poverty level. The Tenderloin also has the highest concentration of youth of any district in San Francisco: over 4,000 of its residents are under 18. Many speak of the obligation they feel to realize their parents’ dreams. “Our success will make their journey and all of their sacrifices right,” says Albert, whose family comes from Vietnam. “We carry this knowledge with us every day.” He will be the first in his family to attend college. “We stand on our parents’ shoulders, and they stand on ours.”
Variety and community ’ - , they “go paranoid” at all the human variety, he says. But for this young man the variety is a blessing. It demands tolerance, he explains, which strengthens character and, in turn, builds community. “Growing up here has made me more open and aware,” he says. “It has deepened me personally. I’ve seen so much and I’m a better person for it. The community is stronger too.” Albert agrees. He says the best way to learn tolerance is through personal experience and in the Tenderloin he checks his stereotypes about people everyday. “It’s so easy to see only one side of the story. I’ve learned there are many different reasons and circumstances for why people do what they do. Being open-minded, that’s what it’s about.” What is tolerance? “Being able to accept and endure all of the difference around you, both the good and the bad,” Francelle says in one breath. According to Naim, this acceptance often translates into an environment where everyone simply goes his or her own way. But in the Tenderloin, interdependence and watching out for one another combine with tolerance. This is not a place where people are left on their own to stumble, or where success goes unnoticed. Generations attend to one another. Programs like the Boys & Girls Clubs provide a home away from home for neighborhood youth.
stitch together a safety net for anyone who needs it. At the soup kitchens, staff and volunteers try to greet clients by name. “The homeless, most of them don’t have families,” says Eslah, whose Yemeni parents support her every step. “For those that are homeless, friendship fills a hole.” “It feels like a village here, everybody knows everybody, people take care of each other, you feel known,” says fifteen-year-old Joline.
’ and folks of all ages, not motor vehicles, claim the intersection of Jones and Turk streets. This is the fifth year that San Francisco’s “Sunday Streets” festival has joined with local groups to create a day of fun and community building in this packed neighborhood. “I heard there’s food and dancing and hula hooping and face painting,” young Elias tells his friend in Spanish, then translates into English. “I wish I’da gone.” Sunday Streets moves from one San Francisco neighborhood to another throughout the year, but this Sunday’s event had a distinctly Tenderloin flavor: booths offering free services to the poor—including foot washings, haircuts, clothing, and manicures—stood alongside the face painting. Two months earlier, lion dances, firecrackers, and stalls selling New Year’s flowers and Vietnamese food had filled nearby streets in what’s called Little Saigon. It’s the annual Tet Festival, the big event for the Tenderloin’s Vietnamese community. More than 20,000 people from across the Bay Area came to join in, hoping to catch the good luck each Tet Festival promises.
Space enough , a decent cheap apartment for a family of five is as scarce as water in a desert. The Tenderloin is probably the last workingclass neighborhood in San Francisco where newcomers with little money can find a roof over their heads and some degree of security. Nonprofits like Mercy Housing offer immigrant families a place to settle. “But you have to be creative to live here,” says Mark, part of the Club’s youth staff. Most give up space to get a lower price. Wendy, 15, lives in an apartment with two rooms, a small kitchen, and a small bathroom. “We used to be a house of six, but two moved out, so now we are a house of four,” she says. “We have a lot more space now. Our living room and bedroom are combined, and the kitchen and dining room are combined. It works okay.” Albert lives with his parents and his younger sister in a studio with 400 square feet. A teenager craving his own space, he finds privacy by going out. “Space enough, that’s what my mother says when I complain about sleeping with my brothers and sister,” says ten-year-old Marco. “Two rooms are better than none, she tells me.” In the Tenderloin, an all-purpose room is where you cook, eat, watch television, study, play, and sleep within the same four
walls. Young people at the Clubhouse say they dream about earning enough money so that they can move to an apartment where their parents have a bedroom of their own.
, the Tenderloin’s four hundred single-room-occupancy hotels (or SROs) provide a haven. No other thriving American city has such a low-rent, low-income community in the heart of its downtown. For about $500 a month, renters get an eight-by-ten-foot room with a shared bathroom and kitchen down the hall. Some of these hotels are not just cheap but free: government-paid housing for homeless adults. Decent or not, Albert explains, it’s a place to sleep and shower, an address where people can find you. Those without a home are hard to count, but the city estimates that some 6,000 homeless people pass through the Tenderloin every day. Many come from other parts of the city where loitering is against the law; the Tenderloin does not have this rule. “It’s hard to imagine making the sidewalk your home,” says John. “But in our neighborhood, people do.”
Danger and safety “’ ” people sometimes ask young people at the Clubhouse. The Tenderloin has the highest rate of violent crime of any district in San Francisco. But youth who live in the Tenderloin learn to size up danger, they explain. “The homeless man staring up from the sidewalk may look scary, but he means no harm,” says a middle-school-age girl sitting outside the art room. “The people lined up outside the soup kitchen, they may cause you to look away, but they aren’t dangerous.” “The people who dress weird, they’re into show,” her friend adds. “The ones that steal for drugs, now that’s danger. But it’s not us they’re after.” In 2008, adults in the Tenderloin started “Safe Passage,” a program to protect kids on their way to and from afterschool programs. On the walk up Jones Street from the Clubhouse, a sidewalk trail of yellow footprints and drawings of children holding hands stretches ten blocks. Every afternoon, the Club’s teen and adult staff members follow the footprints, escorting kids in groups from nearby schools to the Clubhouse. At the end of the day, staff members walk those children home who live along the path. “You see the mural of boys and girls and trees and stars and hearts and lots of color?” points out Maria. “We drew that with chalk with our art teacher. It shows a safe world.” Seventeen-year-old Eslah, who has lived in the Tenderloin since she was two, has her own views on safety. “Living in the Tenderloin, I don’t really notice that much crime,” she says, “even though you hear the sirens everywhere.” My cousin’s friends that come from Oakland, they be like, “Oh, how can you live in the Tenderloin?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s scary, but the people are nice.” That’s the thing. You walk
and mind your own business and they mind theirs. Actually, they respect you. Some give me Salaam, they say “hi,” you know, in Islamic. And I’m just like, “Oh, hi!” It feels good. Dayana, age nine, makes another point. All the children that go to the Club are a big family. We take care of each other—we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters and other people’s brothers and sisters. And the staff are our keepers, too. The Club is our safety zone.
Talking about food , pupusas or samosas, pho or falafel? What’s the difference between northern and southern Vietnamese food? Who likes mac and cheese, popcorn, bacon? Who enjoys school lunch? In the Tenderloin, food is a complicated subject. For the kids at the Club, there’s what you eat at home, what you find in the small restaurants all around the neighborhood, American food, federal breakfast and lunch, donated food, snacks, and more. They start by describing what they eat at home. “My mom is from the Philippines and she likes to cook adobo.” “My family is from Mexico and we eat carne asada.” “My mom and dad suffered under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and everything my mom makes involves rice.” “My parents are from Korea. My dad does the cooking and he likes to prepare kimchi.” Albert’s mother is a vegetarian and the food his father makes doesn’t appeal to him. So he prepares his own meals. “Last night I made codfish and rice.” When Eslah talks about her mother’s cooking—and her own contributions—the words tumble out. It is the last day of Ramadan, a monthlong fast. When we break our fast, we break it with dates and shafuta, which is like bread and buttermilk with a lot of different spices. We also have sambusas. I think that’s a famous one.
Then there’s the Arabic dish aseed. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like a mixture of flour and water and salt. And I love making this special Arabic custard called labaniyyah. We mix in other things to give it an extra taste. Yesterday, my mom put graham crackers in the middle, and then she asked me to add my ideas. I put sprinkles on the top. Everybody loved it! And I was like, “Yay! There you go! I put my hand in it!”
, serve up specialties like these and much more. The Tenderloin has become known for good and inexpensive ethnic food. The bahn mi at Saigon Sandwiches, at $3.25 each, draw long lines every day. Down the street, Burmese Kitchen serves fermented tealeaf salad with cabbage. Someone told Evelynn that the paneer in an Indian restaurant near here was “the best they had ever tasted,” she said. Christian, who is from Honduras, reports that “there’s Latin American food on every corner,” although he admits that in the nearby Mission District “it’s much, much better.” In fact, few of these Clubhouse youth eat at restaurants that win stars from critics. They say they would rather get treated to a meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken or a smoothie at Emo’s Café and Deli.
“ ’ ,” notes Marco, “is the lunch we get at school—you know, the government lunch. It has no taste and it’s hard to swallow.” Almost all the Clubhouse youth qualify for that free or reduced-price lunch. And some of their parents frequent one of the food pantries spread across the Tenderloin. “That’s how I learned about peanut butter,” one nine-year-old says. At the corner of Taylor and Ellis Streets, the line at Glide Memorial Church stretches around the block, a familiar streetscape for the Clubhouse youth. Glide houses one of the city’s oldest and bestknown soup kitchens, feeding several thousand people a day. Today’s lunch includes a tuna sandwich, stewed carrots, macaroni and cheese, a ripe apple, and a small cup of organic strawberry ice cream.
Hard work and sacrifice - , , ten-hour days, minimum wage. In a neighborhood where unemployment spills onto the sidewalks, hard work is a subject kids at the Tenderloin Club know by heart. They have learned it from their parents, for whom labor and sacrifice is a reflex, like breathing. My parents are both immigrants from the Philippines. When my mom came here, she started working the moment she arrived. Same with my dad. They’ve always stressed hard work. My father works in the ferry building, from nine in the morning until six or seven at night. My mom is an on-call interpreter, so she never knows when she’ll have to go to her job. – Francelle, 14 My mom works eight hours a day in a paper factory that makes folders and notebooks. She has worked since she was a child. – Joline, 15 When my parents first came to the U.S., they started working and have worked so many jobs over the years—more than you can count—without ever giving up. They wake up, they work all day in their workplace, then they come home and do all the chores that a family requires. They never quit. – Wendy, 15 My mother cleans people’s houses, my dad works making marbles. – Marco, 10 My dad works as a cook and he’s good at it. But he’s always getting cut or burned. He cooks and accidentally hurts himself, usually on the hand. I tell him to be careful at his job. – Dayana, 9 My mom is unemployed, but she works really hard. She washes all the dishes, buys all the food, watches the kids. She does work sometimes, but her boss is mean. With what she earns, she helps pay the bills, the taxes. – Rutherford, 15
My parents being immigrants, my mom was always working hard just to get us out of the streets, out of the neighborhood. My dad used to work, too, until he got injured at his job. My mom works in a nail salon. When she first came here, she wanted to start a business, like some of her friends. She still has hopes and dreams. Hard work means everything to her, it’s constantly on her mind. – Albert, 18 Hard work has become a reflex for Tenderloin Club youth, too. It means showing my parents that I actually try and learn from what they are telling me. Seeing my parents work so hard motivates me to work hard, to have a better future for myself. – Francelle Since it means everything to my mom, it means everything to me. She is always pushing me to be better than her and my dad. The best way I can pay back her sacrifice and her dreams is to work as hard as she has, to become someone, to do something. – Albert Hard work is part of playing the game of life. It’s one of the cards you play. It’s something I’ve signed up for, that I see in my parents. – Calvin, 18 My aunt, who raised me since I was nine, has taught me a lot about hard work. She says it isn’t just long hours working for minimum wage. It’s about taking advantage of what comes along—and doing everything you can for your family. – Christian, 15 Determination, motivation, and a little bit of inspiration. Maybe you can’t see these beliefs in the youth of the Tenderloin because it’s hidden in their hearts. But take it from me. You’ll find more kids here with dreams in their heart, working their butt off to achieve their goals. – Jonjett, 16 For older kids at the Clubhouse, caring for younger siblings is their first job. “You are responsible for taking care of your brothers and sisters,” says Dayana who has two younger brothers. “It’s a big responsibility. Your parents expect that. My mom always tells me, ‘You have to be the leader.’”
There is an unspoken agreement that teens with paying jobs will contribute to the family budget. “I started working ever since I was a sophomore,” Naim explains. “When I got my first job, my dad said I needed to start paying for my own lunch and my clothes and stuff. I needed to take a load off my dad.” He describes his work life: This year, my senior year, I scored a job at the [San Francisco] Exploratorium, as well as becoming a teen staff member at the Club—all while balancing school and keeping a GPA above 3.0. I work at the Club nine hours a week, at the Exploratorium 24 hours a week. I work every day, weekends too, except for Mondays. When I got the Exploratorium job, I started paying everyone’s phone bill, electricity, things around the house like groceries. That’s my duty now. It’s a lot of stress, but I keep going.
An arm around in the Tenderloin that look out for the neighborhood’s young, says Jonell Molina, the Club’s director of high school services. “From cradle to young adulthood, it’s amazing how many programs there are and what they do. It’s a true network.” Walk a few blocks from the Clubhouse, enter a former boxing gym, and you will find the Compass Children's Center, which offers all-day care, along with meals and support, for children under five and their families. Nearby, the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center provides homework help, snacks, art, dance, music, swimming, a gym, and other afterschool activities for kids ages 5 to 11. Many elementary-age children who are part of the neighborhood’s growing Yemeni population attend the Arab Cultural and Community Center, which shares space with the Club. In 1978, worried about young Vietnamese refugees arriving alone in the Tenderloin, a group of older refugees began the Vietnamese Youth Development Center (VYDC). A two-minute walk from the Clubhouse, it helps youth between the ages of 11 and 24 stay on track in school and get their footing as young adults. The center’s Youth Media Lab and Peer Resource Leadership Group have won national awards. “The VYDC, it kinda made me into who I am,” says Jonjett, who has been a regular there since he was twelve.
, , a nutritious snack, homework help, fun activities, enrichment, being looked after—these are the “luxuries” that youth programs in the Tenderloin consider necessary to growing healthy kids in a neighborhood where parents work day and night, speak little English, live in cramped quarters, and make do with little. Ever since I was tiny, these programs have been another family to me. – Albert I rely on coming to the Boys & Girls Club and having a good experience. It’s like a second family. I can talk to the staff and they’ll help me, they have my back. My parents, they try
their best, but they have the language barrier, which means they can’t help me with all the things I need. Here, I can always count on others, they count on me, and I’ve learned how to count on myself. That’s big. – Naim A chance to lead, to spread one’s wings, to gain recognition—these all matter too, especially to teens like Naim, but also to younger kids following in their footsteps. Last year, when I was ten, I was the Club Power Hour Champion of 2014. When I first came here, I was really shy of speaking up, but now I’ve been seeing good examples of people not being shy. I don’t want to shush up anymore. I want to be an example of speaking up, too. – Dayana Even though I’m eighteen, I have learned so many things just in the past year: how to write grants, to organize a street fair, to teach kids about healthy lifestyles, to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for families with no food, to take photographs, to explore the world around me. – Albert And the recognition and lessons run deep. Through all the years, the Boys & Club has helped me be all I can, to achieve the most I can. Last year I was named the 2014 Youth of the Year. I gave a speech in front of 600 sponsors of the Boys & Girls Clubs and got a $2,000 scholarship. Now I’ve been asked to speak at the 2014 Gala event. Learning how to be a leader, helping out in the community, walking kids home, doing the stuff that exposes me to all the things I want to do and achieve—these are the opportunities that have helped me grow into the person I am. – Naim Jonell, who brings to his role as high school service director his own struggles with finding himself and doing well, beams when his teen staff head off to college with scholarships, the first in their family to go. Yet he wonders and worries if these young trailblazers, when they leave the Tenderloin, will receive the supports they will surely need to stay strong.
Jonell’s story From an interview with Tenderloin Clubhouse teen staff, July 2014 - —Estrella Taculad and Jose Molina —who decided to call San Francisco home in 1975. Back then, they called America the Land of Milk and Honey because of the opportunities in America, marveling at the growth of the nation through two world wars and economic hard times to a place of privilege. As soon as my parents arrived, they began to move around a lot, they searched for work and went from one job to another. My mom, she graduated from high school and had some college, but she wasn’t going to get hired easily due to occupational downgrading because she couldn’t speak English, she was an immigrant, a person of color, and a woman. She cleaned in a lot of hotels before she got a job as a clerk at Pacific Bell. My dad worked as a medical assistant, he did pay stubs, any work he could get. At school, first and second grade, I’d just kick it—monkey bars, chicken fighting on the monkey bars, running around having people steal my kickball, asking my bigger brother to chase them, you know. I played GI Joe, Transformers, and collected all that stuff. I learned to ride a bike. I remember the day my older brother got jumped by a group of kids from in Sunnydale. My mom had sent him to go buy some pan de sal right around the corner. I remember the day my grandfather had a stroke ‘cuz he smoked a lot of cigarettes. My brother and I found him and he wasn’t moving, he was stiff. We called emergency and the ambulance came. We moved again and again. Sunnydale, Redwood City, Union City, Sacramento. . . . I could backtrack more, but I’ll just say somewhere in there when I was in kindergarten, there was a park across the street and then I’d always see my cousins, who were older, and my brother always hanging out and listening to music and dancing or talking about the graffiti they were doing. This is
when I was like six, five or six years old. And I was like, “What are y’all doin’? How come I can’t kick it with y’all?” Right? I’d just have eaten Top Ramen that my grandma cooked. They’re like, “Nah. You’re not cool enough.” Like, “What? I wanna see what y’all are doing!” In school, I faced discrimination every day. When I was in third grade, even though we were all diverse, they were like . . . and I’m dark, too. They would say, “Ching chong, Chinaman,” to me while I’m trying to line up and go play tetherball, right? And try to go back when the bell rings. I’m like, “Okay. I guess I’m not your friend.” I had to earn my stripes. Eventually I did. By the time I graduated from high school and went to San Francisco State, I’d started to meet people and do my own things, whether it’s graffiti, which is more of my forte, and then going to all these other hip hop-associated events. And I’d meet people that knew my older brothers and my cousins. They’d be like, “Oh, you’re so and so’s brother?” I’d be like, “Yeah. But I have a name, too. Know that.” As I got older, my father faded more out of the picture. By the time I graduated college my parents had divorced. It should’ve happened long before, but in a traditional Filipino family, if you divorce, especially if it’s like a Catholic background, it’s considered a taboo. So my mom stayed together with my dad, for the sake of the family, even though the love was lost a long time ago. That was her sacrifice. It’s my life to live, right? So I’ve gotta imagine I wake up as a champion. And life could be an acronym for leadership, identify, future, and empowerment. So how do I do that in each breath and step that I do take through my interactions with folks? That’s part of my philosophy, a philosophy that connects everything to building community. In Filipino culture, they call this Bayanihan, which means a spirit of communal unity to achieve a common goal. And, of course, there’s social justice. I majored in social justice in college, and whenever I see backwards or narrow thinking, I ask: “So how do we make it work and happen? How do we turn this into a positive experience?”
When I graduated from college in ’04, I was around 24, I took a good year or two off before I went back to grad school. I worked at the Starbucks at First and Market Streets all day, then in the afternoon I’d work at an after school program ‘cuz I knew I wanted to do some kind of teaching or some kind of education. The folks at Starbucks wanted me to become some a manager person. I was like, “Uh uh! I’m cool! That’s not me.” Going to grad school and still doing the after school programming, I knew I wanted to work with youth. For a while, I was a second and third grade afterschool teacher. And I was always volunteered on the side, too. Teaching at Balboa High School, then in middle school, at City College. I did that as a volunteer for a good eight to ten years while still working at Starbucks. Then I became a case manager at the Vietnamese Youth Development Center, nearby. I did that for five years, providing one-on-one support and leadership development. In November of 2012, I started to work here at the Tenderloin Clubhouse, as the high school services director. It puts me at the last stages of the mentorship pipeline I’ve cared so much about, that begins in elementary through middle school and onto high school, then college. Here, I try to help youth understand the importance of connecting their actions, their decision making, and the resources around them. What’s next? I’m currently in the educational community stage of my life. I still have an act two. Maybe I’ll become a cabaret dancer and opera singer. I don’t know. My guess is that I’ll continue to be dedicated to education, community, and social justice.
Sports and play “ , . Who’s your boyfriend? Let’s find out! A, B, C . . .” It’s not easy to find a place to jump rope with friends if you’re a kid in the Tenderloin. When Boeddeker Park, one of only three parks in the Tenderloin and the only one open to everyone, closed in 2012 for renovations, it was ranked the worst park in San Francisco. Sixteen-year-old Jonjett, a teen staffer who loves sports, offers a rough inventory of what else is available. A mini-park at the corner of Turk and Hyde has a small playground with a large tire swing and a slide. At 570 Ellis a small recreational area offers climbing structures and cement courts. Sergeant John Macaulay Park includes a playground, swings, and climbing structures, but it isn’t always open. For a neighborhood with 4,000 kids, “there’s hardly anything,” Jonjett says. The courtyard at Mercy Housing, where the Tenderloin Clubhouse rents space, is an exception. There you will find a jungle gym, a spinning structure, a rubberized floor area for rough and tumble, small tables where kids can play chess, and room for jump-rope and tag. “It’s our favorite place,” three middle-school girls say in unison, as they exit the Club’s crowded activity room and head out to the courtyard. One girl runs to the jungle gym. Another joins a game of tag the rock. The third girl hops into a line of three other kids jumping rope. “Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around,” they chant. “Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground. Teddy bear, teddy bear, tie your shoe. Teddy bear, teddy bear, go to school.”
at the Tenderloin Children's Playground, five blocks away. It’s here that older youth in the neighborhood can shoot hoops, play soccer or baseball or kickball, or join a game of flag football.
Still, most kids in the Tenderloin are bystanders in the America that asks, “What sports do you play?” They haven’t grown up playing catch with a parent, and crowded gym classes are hard places in which to catch up. At an outdoor summer barbecue for neighborhood youth, the Club’s middle school director, Sambath Soun (“Sammy”) fills in, teaching kids of all ages how to hit a baseball. “When I first came here, I wasn’t any good at sports,” says Joline at 15. “But Sammy taught me how to play baseball and then I got really into it in seventh grade and joined the team. In eighth grade, I won an award that makes me want to do even more. Sammy also taught me how to play football, and now I’m really good at it, too.” To walk or to run, however, the kids at the Club require no coaching. “When I’m free in the morning, I like to run in the neighborhood,” Wendy says. And Jonjett tells of his jogs at night. “I walk around and explore, walk up hills,” he says. “It’s calming. I like the city lights at night.”
Public art and across the street you will see a huge mural with ghostlike structures floating up and away—buildings that existed before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed them. Covering the front and side walls of an old sewing factory, “Windows into the Tenderloin” shows the past, the present, and an imaginary future for this corner of the district. Below the floating buildings, it pictures the neighborhood as it is now, with people you’d actually find on the street and a lone saxophone player blowing his horn at night. On Jones Street, it summons what the corner would look like if there were a park and shops. In real life, a hardscrabble parking lot marks the intersection and some of the district’s toughest citizens claim the sidewalk. But the phantasmic mural, by Mona Caron, makes the heart rise. “It doesn’t just give the corner color,” says Francelle. “It’s inspiring.” More than a hundred murals adorn the Tenderloin, some just as breathtaking as this one. For $35, you can join an art expert on a walking tour “to see stunning murals and graffiti from this burgeoning community of local and international artists,” an online promotion reads.
, . “It gets our imagination out,” says Dayana. Kay Weber, who has directed art programs at the Clubhouse for more than fifteen years, has an additional goal in mind. “Having the kids do public art projects makes them visible,” says Weber. “It’s a way they can have an impact, even if they’re only eight. When the kids are out on the sidewalk drawing sharks or stars or trees, it’s a joy to see how many people, especially the homeless, acknowledge them and say, ‘This is really great, what are you doing?’”
If you walk through the Tenderloin, he points out, you actually don’t see that many youth; they are tucked away in the agencies and homes and schools. “By making art in the open, in public,” says Weber, “they become part of the community and the community becomes part of them.” Graffiti tags also claim the walls. Seventeen-year-old Alfredo, another teen leader at the Club and a young street artist, pushes back against those who think graffiti graffiti, while admittedly a crime, is not art. “Graffiti is art in so many ways,” explains Alfredo. “It is another way of expressing a person’s emotions. It may be vandalism to tag, but to draw how you feel or to use your talent, you know, that’s art. Serious graffiti artists, they pour their thoughts onto a wall. When they step back, they see their fears and their hopes, their weaknesses and strengths. It gives them a better understanding of themselves and their world.
Wired and wire-less “ ” asks a young Clubhouse volunteer. “When it comes to technology and the Tenderloin, that’s how it goes.” First, you have a city that is one of the most wired in the world, a dynamic hub for tech entrepreneurs, she explains. Second, you have a neighborhood filled with immigrants and homeless, where wireless is the norm. And third, on the fringe of the Tenderloin, hot tech companies lured to the neighborhood by new tax breaks are building their shining headquarters: Twitter, Zendesk, Spotify, Yammer, Zoosk. There’s a fourth reality here for tech-savvy, tech-hungry kids: immigrant parents for whom technology seems a mysterious luxury. “My parents simply have no use for it,” says Kelly, whose parents are from a small village in China. But in the lives of the kids at the Club, cell phones, the Internet, Instagram, Facebook, email, video games, Google all seem essential, even though they take a big chunk from a family budget where pennies matter. “Now everyone is into Instagram, and you walk around the clubhouse and you’ll see the younger kids playing games like Mindcraft,” says Francelle. “And when it comes to communication, texting is big.” John is a fan of Skype. “One of the best things about technology is that with Skype you can talk for free to people far away. Even my mom uses Skype. She calls her family in Vietnam.”
, though, whether technology is making life better or worse. Both, they conclude. The devices can be distracting, when you should be doing something else, and an advantage when you use them for information and communication that has a purpose. – Albert
I’d also say that because technology can be so much fun, kinda addictive, maybe it is also overrunning childhood. Instead of being outside playing with other kids, kids are inside playing video games. – Francelle It’s pretty strange. The same technology that lets you speak to people far away, to stay connected, is taking away face-to-face conversation with people nearby. – John Walk outside the Clubhouse, past the homeless and the hungry lining the nearby sidewalks and the thicket of SROs, and you enter a world where cell phones, smart or not, are truly a luxury. Yet they are also a necessity here. Finding a job can be impossible without a cell phone number or community voicemail where prospective employers can reach you. Two new programs aim to help wire the Tenderloin’s wire-less. Over a hundred homeless and lowincome clients pass through the Tenderloin Technology Lab each day to access computers and build their employment skills. “There are people who come in here and have only heard rumors of the Internet,” says the lab’s manager. A simple website called Link-SF connects the homeless with resources like shelter, food, and medical assistance.
Photo Voice In the summer of 2013, teenagers from the Tenderloin Clubhouse, the Vietnamese Youth Development Center (VYDC), and the Central YMCA teamed up for a community photovoice project. Working with a professional photographer, they created a visual narrative of the neighborhood, ending in a public exhibition at the SF Camerawork Gallery, Spotify, and elsewhere. In the exhibit, “Ain’t Nothin’ Tender,” the young photographers capture the despair and the hope that surround them daily. Yessenia Pozo was one of eight youth from the Clubhouse who made the project their own. “I knew how to use a camera. What I had to develop was my eye and how to turn what I saw into a story. Suddenly, I began to notice things I’d never noticed before. This is what happened with my photograph of the shoes left
behind on the sidewalk. It’s my favorite.
by Yessenia Pozo, 17
“I’ve learned that the experiences you grow up with influ-
It was 7:30 pm I was walking home when I noticed flats and sandals Left for a reason The owner never came to get their flats New and sparkly The street was empty Nobody seemed to be intrigued by the shoes but me I knew that the Flops had a journey of its own If shoes could talk it would say, “Wow I need to rest”
ence the pictures you take. And that you bring your own viewpoint—what’s sad to one person might be calming to another. I’ve learned that photography can cut things down to size. You take something like a whole neighborhood, and the more pictures you take of the details, the more intimate it becomes. I’ve learned it’s the small stories that make a neighborhood what it is.”
Hope by Lucely Chel, 17
Crosswalk by Chris Muzar, 18 Even though the road may seem rugged in the beginning, follow through and make a difference to stand out.
Under Construction by Edwin Chullin, 18
Homeless Man by Lizvett Guizar, 15 As I’m walking down Civic Center, I see homeless people sitting on the grass. They’re all tired and sleepy Except One. As I came closer I saw he was eating and smiling. Even though it wasn’t enough food he seemed to be grateful. Suddenly, he started talking to me and it was then that I noticed that his eyes were full of sadness yet his smile was trying to persuade me to think the exact opposite. Walking back home he made me realize that true strength isn’t always about how fit you are, but how much you can endure and still be able to get back up.
The syringe project As part of the Tenderloin PhotoVoice Project, youth were invited to document a critical health issue in the neighborhood. Francelle Mariano followed the trail of cigarette butts and empty alcohol bottles on the sidewalks and streets, and then took a second look at the discarded syringes that had become part of her everyday landscape. Here, she speaks at San Francisco's Central YMCA about what she found and learned (she belongs to both the Tenderloin Clubhouse and the Central Y). . My name is Francelle Mariano, I’m 14 years old, and I go to Lowell High School. I was born and raised in the eleven blocks that make up the Tenderloin neighborhood. I’ve seen a lot in these eleven blocks, from immigrant families working long hours and striving to make a better place for their families to many homeless people wired out on drugs and/or alcohol. These are some of the unique experiences that I see as a youth growing up in a beautiful struggle, one that often can be unsafe and dangerous walking these streets. And for me, when I see something shiny on the street, it’s not a coin or change on the ground or in the curb, but rather the sharp and scary needles in the streets. It’s a big health hazard, because people can easily step on them and get an unknown infection that could lead to serious health issues. You don’t know who used that needle or if they were clean. Being in the Tenderloin, drug use by needles is not uncommon and people openly use needles in front of kids, teenagers, and families. Afterwards, they don’t dispose of them in a safe place, they just throw the on the ground. And that’s scary too. People can just pick up the needles from the ground and re-use them. The cycle of drug use and dangerous habits continues instead of being stopped or at least changed. It’s so important that people dispose of their needles correctly.
For me, having the opportunity to be a participant in the Tenderloin PhotoVoices program helped me be more mindful and aware of all the needles that are so common in my neighborhood. My experience with this project also taught me new things about the Tenderloin that I never knew or paid attention to before. I learned a lot about Syringe Access Programs, Needle Exchange Kits, and Needle Drop Boxes. Needle Exchange Kits, I learned, contain eight items that include three different needles that get thinner and thinner, cotton balls, sterile water, an alcohol pad, condoms, and a mini pot for cooking drugs. The Syringe Access Program is where people can bring in old needles and trade them for new ones. Needle Drop Boxes are boxes where people dispose of their used needles. I actually started this project by taking pictures of anything unhealthy in the Tenderloin. One day, I went down a staircase near the City Hall and I found a few needles. I took pictures of them, suddenly became interested, and then decided to make needles my focus. Along with taking pictures of needles, I did research on the Syringe Access Program, Needle Exchange Kits, and Needle Drop Boxes. I want to see a change in the Tenderloin so that people care where they put their used needles. As a community where youth and families live and struggle, hope and dream, we need to make our streets as safe as possible. If we can reduce and eliminate the reckless use and disposal of needles, I know that the neighborhood would feel safer. I want to see more drop boxes so that our neighborhood is safe for everyone that walks our eleven blocks. Thank you.
Black and White by Albert Chiem, 18 This is a black and white picture of the Bay Bridge at night. To many, black and white may seem to ruin a picture as we live in a generation of color but, to me, it symbolizes a dead generation of once not having color. Sometimes a photo may be presented in a softer tone by taking it in black and white. When using color, your noise level may be noticeable which may take away from what the artist wants you to focus on.
Albert’s story As told to WKCD in May 2014. In the fall of 2014, Albert began his freshman year at Sacramento State University. . I’m an immigrant too. My parents decided to give birth to me in Vietnam because they wanted me to have a start to tell my friends, not just that I was born in the U.S. They wanted to give me something unique about myself. My dad first came to the United States in 1987. In 1996, my mom and I joined him here. My sister was born the year after me and we’ve lived in the Tenderloin ever since. My parents never had the time to look after me because they were always working and they couldn’t afford a babysitter. For as long as I can remember, I attended various youth development centers in the neighborhood, for day care and more. Each one helped me grow, each one taught me so much. They made me want to give back to the community, the community that had supported me with everything it had. It also changed my view of the Tenderloin, and my family’s. When I was younger, my parents worried about my being influenced by the negative aspects of the Tenderloin, the homeless people, the drugs, the alcohol and whatnot. As immigrants who didn’t speak English, they only saw the negative. But these programs showed the positive: the many low-income families, like mine, fighting poverty; the community advocates, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, caring about these families and their stories and sharing their struggles with the world outside, fighting for them and with them. It gave me a totally different view of the Tenderloin. And it made my parents worry less.
It wasn’t just the adults that inspired me. When I saw my friends in these programs volunteering, doing their part to give back to their community, just seeing the impact one person can make, especially at a young age, I was amazed. I was wowed at what they were doing and I said, “Hey, if they can do it, I can do it too.” So just by following their steps and taking on my own projects, I’ve been able to be part of the positive side. In my life, family comes first. I want to support my mom financially, since she wants to start her own business. My dad used to work at dry cleaners, but unfortunately he was injured. My mother works in a nail salon. Although we live in poverty, my parents have been tackling life, just trying to support me and my sister. At times I might take something for granted, but at the end of the day I do whatever I can to give back to them. Coming from an Asian community, I know many friends who go through the same thing, who feel the same way. Whether their parents earn less than the minimum wage because they can’t find regular work or earn more, they know hardship. Like me, they value hard work, determination, time management, family, friends, giving back, sacrifice. I don’t think I have one friend who doesn’t share the same values I have. My mom, she’s a Buddhist and this plays a big factor in her life. At times she tries to influence me towards Buddhism and, at times, I feel like she is pushing it too much. Still, religion does play a big role in my life. I may not believe in faith, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. When it came time to choose which high school I would attend, my mom wanted me to go to whatever high school would make me happy, but my dad wanted me to go to a top school, to push me since he wasn’t able to get the education I am getting now. Part of me regrets listening to my dad, it’s been such hard work, but I also thank him for that because the experience I’ve had at Lowell has been amazing. I’ll be attending Sacramento State University in the fall. Other than a few cousins, I’ll be the first in my family to go to college.
One of the best things that happened this year is that with money my mother was able to save from her work, we bought our first family car. I used to ride the bus everywhere, and I like to stay out late in the evening. But now I can take the car, which is better for time and better for safety at night. My mom hopes the car will eventually lead our family out of the Tenderloin, to a better neighborhood. For me right now, the car helps me pursue something that makes me feel free and creative: to take photographs of San Francisco’s bridges and fountains and buildings lit up at night. Every day presents opportunities, I believe. The fact that every day presents possibilities is an opportunity in itself. Every day is a risk, too—like when I’m walking down the streets of the Tenderloin, I risk being involved in a fight or being mugged. When I’m at school, I risk being bullied or having my teachers laugh at me for my low grades or being a person of color. When I drive, I risk my life, I might be in an accident. But I also believe that risks are learning opportunities that you can grow from. For me, the best opportunity of all is to give back to the community that brought me here today. I’m a person who isn’t really materialistic. The money I earn I use on my friends and my family so that they can live a better life. We grow together, that’s what I’ve learned.
Eslah’s story As told to WKCD in July 2014 , . We came here, for me, at the age of two. My dad brought us here for a better job, and so that his children would get a good education, so that we could be Americans, even though we keep the Arabic heritage. My dad works as a limo driver. My mom prefers to stay at home and look after my brothers and sisters, keep the house and all that. We’re seven. The smallest is about a year and two months now, and I’m the oldest. I’m 17. As the firstborn, I’ve always expected to help my mom with my siblings and the house. But just because I’m the oldest, my mom doesn’t make me do all the chores, she’s like, “That’s just messed up.” She divides it up: “Okay, you do this, you do that.” Still, I do the most, watching over my siblings, the house, going with my parents when they go shopping. But I also get the most fun, because my parents wanna see my opinion, they respect me. I get to taste life as an adult even though I’m still a teenager. Living in the Tenderloin, there’s negatives and there’s positives. Everybody’s afraid of the Tenderloin because they say the Tenderloin is all drug people, crimes, and everything. But what I see is a community that can be built, because in the Tenderloin you’ll find all of these new immigrants or second immigrants trying for a better life. Yet, sadly, most people don’t see this. They see the Tenderloin as a low place. They don’t notice how hard our parents work, how there are smart students trying to strive here—as smart as in the richer districts. I actually feel it’s been a good thing for me, living in the Tenderloin. I see all the negatives and that makes me encouraged to change myself, to take my education serious, to take advantage of the resources here for people who want to move up. Everybody here, knowing that we’re all low-income, we see each other like a big family. Even though we don’t speak the same language, we see each other and we smile ’cause we fall into the same category— the ones trying to get a better life. We have a connection, we understand each other.
And nobody judges you for who you are in the Tenderloin. In richer districts, they look at people like us, who are different, as if we’re weird. “What did we do?” we ask back. In the Tenderloin, you don’t see people judging like that, you know, jumping to conclusions. You’ll see Mexicans. You’ll see Arabs. You’ll see Asians. You’ll see white people. You’ll see anyone, and you get used to each other, you look for cool things in each other, you become friends, you have fun. And that’s a quality that’s hard to find in San Francisco unless you look at the Tenderloin. I think the Tenderloin is one of the places that makes San Francisco a great city. That’s something you won’t hear many people say. My biggest dream and goal is to be a pediatrician, but not any pediatrician. I want to create a big clinic and be a high general doctor for kids. Based on experience, I don’t like the way hospital clinics are shaped. They look scary for kids. I’m like, “Why can’t I make a clinic that’s like very nice-looking, very kid-friendly, that will make kids wanna come?” Even the beds! I’m thinking in my mind, I’m gonna make the bed in a different shape, not just a regular square, rectangle-box. My dad, every time I tell him this dream, he’s like, “You might as well be an architect, you know? And a doctor!” Here’s more of my dream. Every floor would have a nice play area. Events would be going on, and I would have a great connection, hopefully, with all my patients, and they would feel everything that’s going to happen, from shots to medicines to anything, has a reason. I believe everyone, even if they’re under 18, should have a voice in what happens to them and no one should be given something without understanding it. I’d say to them, “I know this is gonna hurt, but what’s better? This? Or that?” Let them know why it’s important. And when I get a good job and a good life, I would give a donation for all those kids that are needy, that don’t have money. Instead of going to a general hospital or a low place, I would make sure they got the same treatment as any other kid. I’d take some of my own money and pay for them. That’s how I am. Ever since I was little, my parents have encouraged me to do things. I guess they see me as a different, interesting kid that’s into a lot of things. I’ve gotten grants, I’ve done a lot of community services, and my parents are always with me. And if I don’t do something, they’ll be like, “Why didn’t you do it?
I thought you wanted to do this!” They encourage me when I don’t feel like it, they make me wanna go and do it. “It’s good for a college. You know, you’ll get a good college. You’ll probably get a lot of scholarships. Just do your best! Come on!” I am happy and proud of my parents for not being like other parents. They’re the type that would do anything to raise a good child that knows what they wanna do in the future, that has its own ideas. Every time I tell my dad about my dream, he’s like, “I’ll pay you half the clinic, and I’ll buy it for you. I’ll make it for you.” And I’m, “Okay, but Dad, you don’t have to.” It’s like all these fun hopes that we all make together. The way I see things, nobody knows how long they’ll live and life isn’t for the wasting. So you have to show yourself early on, you have to be yourself while being good to others. In my religion, it’s equality between everybody. That also makes me be how I am. Like wanting equality through kids, that’s what Islam teaches me—equality through people. Life is short, you know. It’s not enough to just start dreaming, you need to start doing. So I’ve done a lot of fun things with kids, teaching them games, making cards, special treats, and I hope that even if I die young, these kids will be like, “Oh, she did that thing. I’m not gonna forget her for that.” And imagine if, as they grow up, they help other kids—spreading it, you know, living every minute to make a positive change. Imagine that!
Hopes, dreams, and advice is to help my mom start her business soon. It’s been a dream of hers ever since she came here. – Albert I hope to get through college with good grades, a 3.0 GPA and above. – Naim My hope is that my younger brother does really well in school. – Francelle My biggest hope is that my whole family becomes successful. – Jonjett I hope I can help my mom move into a retirement house—she’s always been busy helping me out. – Rutherford My hope is that one day I will get a job I like doing, that I enjoy going to every day. – Kelly
is to be a scientist. It’s what I’m good at. – Joseph, 11 When I grow up I want to be a music teacher. – Eileen, 6 When I grow up, I want to be a chef, or maybe a veterinarian. – Ashley, 8 I want to be an inventor. – Kevin, 11 When I become an adult, I may be a lawyer, a nurse, or a doctor. But I really want to be a teacher and take care of kids. And I want to live here in the Tenderloin. – Dayana, 9 When I grow up, I hope to have a good job and keep it. I hope I don’t have to work and sacrifice as hard as my parents do. – Marco, 10
: I would have a cat; I would live in the jungle; I would be rich; I would be satisfied with myself. – Evelynn, 12 . Right now I am reading about things I never knew. Everyday, 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in the United States. LEGO has made more than 600 billion toy bricks since 1958. The oldest koi fish lived to be 220 years old. I bet you never knew these facts. – Kevin, 11 coming up after me is to always reach out for help when you need it. – Mark My advice would be to stay humble. – Naim I would tell them to take advantage of opportunities. – John To never give up when there are obstacles in front of you. – Albert Don’t procrastinate and do what you’re supposed to. – Kelly Join a club. – Rutherford Be yourself. – Christian
Acknowledgements Tenderloin Clubhouse youth of all ages contributed photographs to this book. Many of the photos were taken specifically for this project; others were selected from a large bank of images, a product of the Club’s active and ongoing photography program. The stories and commentary from Clubhouse youth were gathered by WKCD during a week of interviews, group discussions, and informal conversations in the summer of 2014. We have listed their ages at the time of our work together. As in Boys & Girls Clubs of America nationwide, teens at the Tenderloin Clubhouse can participate in a variety of leadership opportunities, including the Keystone Club and paid teen staff positions. They serve as guides for younger children following in their footsteps. Some of the teens listed here are also active in service projects in their schools and with youth organizations elsewhere in the Tenderloin. Teen contributors
John Khuynh, 15
Alaa Yahya, 17
Joline Chang, 15
Elementary and middle school contributors
Albert Chiem, 18
Jonjett Ochoa, 16
Alexander Quintero, 12
Alfredo Comayagua, 17
Kelley Li, 17
Dayana Gomez, 9
Amanda Chiem, 17
Lizvett Guizar, 15
Evelynn Perdue, 12
Calvin Li, 17
Lucely Chel, 17
Jessica Gonzales, 10
Charles White, 15
Mark Chou, 15
Maria Colli, 13
Chris Muzar, 19
Naim Algaheim, 18
Somiah Yahya, 13
Christian Mejia, 15
Rutherford Kha, 15
Edwin Chullin, 18
Wendy Kha, 15
Eslah Alowdi, 17
Yessenia Pozo, 18
Francelle Mariano, 14 Jacqueline Alfraro, 15
Tenderloin Clubhouse staff
Esan Looper, Clubhouse Director Jonell Molina, High School Services Director
Kay Weber, Arts Director
Giovani Rodriguez, 11
Lysabell Fabian, Education
Glydel Chua, 14
Director Sammy Soun, Middle School Director
Isaac Lee, 12 Jayden Zizinho, 7 Jeremiah Aleman, 12
Lili Duarte, Art Intern
Jessica Gonzales, 10
Ashley Munro, Photographer
Jessica Martinez, 9
Barbara Cervone, Editor, text and photography Kathleen Cushman, copy editing Sandra Delany, book design Kay Weber, photo curation
Jiaming Lin, 14 Joey Tran, 13 Joshua Mendez, 10 Josue Guevera, 10 Karina Bonilla, 13 Kawther Hafith, 13 Kumiko Komori, 10 Maria Rodriguez, 12
Additional youth involved in the Clubhouse PhotoVoice program
Marie Nido, 12
Alejandra Zavala, 8
Nadia Yousif, 8
Andrew Gomez, 8
Nathaya Oobkaew, 11
Ashby Lopez, 9
Noemy Rodriguez, 8
Chaoming Zhang, 15
Paulina Capulin, 10
Darwin Chan, 11
Perlie Do, 16
David Zavala, 12
Rabab Alowdi, 14
Dayana Xiu, 10
Samantha Wu, 10
Dyanara Rodriguez, 11
Ta’Miyah Scott, 11
Esteban Capulin 14
Tarak Alabsi, 13
Michaela Nangca, 11
Fernando Inerian, 11 Gabrielle Listana, 6
Notes page viii: Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes community-minded partners to create a village. In the Tenderloin, this includes the thoughtful leadership and collaboration of staff from Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco; Lindsay Wilson, Mercy Housing; Mindy Robinson, Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC); Elaine Zamora, North of Market Tenderloin Community Development; and Sally Al-Daher, Arab Community Cultural Center (ACCC). page 13: Pat Zamora, the Tenderloin Clubhouse director who founded the “Safe Passage” program in 2008, building on the efforts of teen director Phanna Phay and program manager Vanessa Volkman, explains: “[We wanted] to ensure that younger children were escorted between the main Club and the Learning Center. Our hallway was the sidewalk that linked the two blocks, called Pill Hill. The Club united efforts with Elaine Zamora and Dina Hillard and the North of Market Tenderloin Community Benefit District to fund and support the first efforts around drawing attention to the safety of the children who lived in the community. Later, Bobby Lopez, SRO Lead Organizer, would involve the mothers of La Voz Latina in safety efforts in the Tenderloin and Safe Passage Program. In 2010, under the leadership of Dina Hillard and Kate Robinson, the idea of Corner Captains, and a sidewalk mural was added as another dimension of Safe Passage. Captain Joe Garrity was the Tenderloin Police Captain at the time who provided donated paint, trainings and police support.” page 18: The “Short Order Cook Wanted” sign is from http://nmisscommentor.com/food/what-is-thisthing-the-mayflower-calls-colbert-sauce/. “Cleaning in Progress” is from http://www.dreamstime.com/. page 38: Maria Colli, 13, snapped this photo of the rooftop lounge at Twitter’s new Tenderloin headquarters during a Clubhouse visit to the tech giant. The Twitter logo in the photo is courtesy of Photoshop.
page 41: The Ain’t Nothin’ Tender Youth PhotoVoice Project was initiated by Elvin Padilla, Tenderloin Economic Development Project; Pat Zamora, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco Area Director; Judy Young, Vietnamese Youth Development Center; and JD Francis, Shi Yu Lang Central YMCA. Deep collaboration between the programming and administrative leadership from staff at all three organizations made the program possible. Additional partners included SF Cameraworks and Purba Chatterjee at the University of California-San Francisco Center for Vulnerable Populations. Participating youth received photography training and a free camera and then documented scenes relevant to them and their community, combining their images with their own text. They received a stipend for their participation. The opening exhibit for Ain’t Nothin’ Tender was held at SF Cameraworks, followed by exhibits at Spotify, UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America 2014 National Annual Corporate Sponsors Session. page 56: The photos of Clubhouse kids with costumes and props were taken as part the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s “ImageMakers National Photography Program.” The program, which includes an annual national photography contest, encourages BGCA youth to express themselves in creative and innovative ways. Photographer and volunteer Ashley Munro ran the special portrait session together with the Club members.
Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco and the Tenderloin Clubhouse Part of the community since 1891, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF) currently serves more than 17,000 youth (ages 6–8) per year at eleven program sites—including eight Clubhouses located in the neighborhoods with the fewest resources, two school-based sites and Camp Mendocino, a 2,000-acre residential summer camp. Open “when kids need us most” (after school, on most school holidays and during the summer), BGCSF offers safe places where young people can learn, grow, and succeed. The Tenderloin Clubhouse opened in 1996. It has had an enduring and successful partnership with Mercy Housing, where it is located, and participates very actively throughout the Tenderloin community. It is the second smallest of BGCSF’s sites. BGCSF | 55 Hawthorne Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94105 | 415.445.5437 Tenderloin Clubhouse | 115 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 | 415.351.3125
What Kids Can Do, Inc. (WKCD) WKCD is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that champions youth as knowledge creators and social contributors. Using the Internet, print, and broadcast media, WKCD presses before the broadest audience possible a dual message: the power of what young people can accomplish when given the opportunities and supports they need and what they can contribute when we take their voices and ideas seriously. Next Generation Press is the book publishing arm of WKCD. With a particular focus on youth without economic privilege, Next Generation Press raises awareness of youth as a powerful force for social documentation and justice. It publishes and distributes titles with youth as co-authors, worldwide. Proceeds from book sales go back into new projects and, in East Africa, to school scholarships. WKCD and Next Generation Press | PO Box 603252, Providence, RI 02906 | 402.247.7665 www.wkcd.org | firstname.lastname@example.org