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Banners with images of Filipinos fly over SF streets for Fil-Am History Month

/ 02:49 AM October 03, 2018

Street lights in a San Francisco neighborhood are decorated with banners featuring images of Filipinos, for Filipino-American History Month. CONTRIBUTED

SAN FRANCISCO — Banners featuring images of Filipino residents, workers, and community organizations of the Filipino Cultural Heritage District now fly over the streets of the South of Market (SoMa), in celebration of Filipino American History Month.

The 250 banners are part of a campaign to gain visibility for SOMA Pilipinas. It highlights families, youth, seniors, artists, and workers that live, work, and provide services within the cultural district. The photographs were taken by Joe Ramos.

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A unanimous resolution by the San Francisco board of supervisors last May created the cultural district. 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.

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Sabrina Pacheco of Gold Metropolitan Media, the city light-pole banner company that applied the banners said, the visibility 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.”

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 a community response to being historically pushed out of their homes, non-profit spaces, and small businesses.

“When I looked up and saw {the banners} on the way to work, I felt proud yet melancholy 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 design team that created the artwork for the campaign saw it as an opportunity to send a humanizing message.

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“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.

Juvy Barbonio, a social worker at South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), believes images of Filipino women in the banners “represent 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.

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TAGS: Fil-Am visibility campaign, Filipino American History Month, Filipino banners, Filipino Cultural Heritage District, SoMa Pilipinas, Supervisor Hilary Ronen
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