Natoma Block Party Kick Off, A Success
The Natoma Block Party had a successful kick off last August 31, 2019.
A series of block parties scheduled on the last Saturday of the month until October on Natoma Street, between 6th and 7th, the Natoma Block Party is a community development and engagement effort by SOMCAN and its Youth Organizing Home and Neighborhood Action (YOHANA) program to galvanize and create camaraderie among the residents and community members of Natoma Street and the surrounding neighborhood in SOMA Pilipinas, Filipino Cultural Heritage District.
From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., residents, community members, and guests enjoyed car-free fun on the street with free food, family activities, live music and open mic performances. The event was led by SOMCAN Youth Coordinator, PJ Eugenio and SOMCAN Tenant Counselor, Ramon Bonifacio, along with SOMCAN Community Engagement Organizer, Lian Ladia, SOMCAN Youth Organizer, Alexa Drapiza, and the rest of the SOMCAN staff, volunteers, residents, and community members who all made the kick off event a success.
The Natoma Block Party is also an effort to create visibility and awareness for the residents of the street and neighboring alleys who are under constant threat from encroaching gentrification and development. It is to show that people do live and have lived a long time in these streets and that these streets are not for the taking of developers and gentrifiers. “Nagkakaroon ang Filipino community ng pagkakaisa at nagkakaroon ng boses. Nalalaman narin nila ngayon yung rights nila / The Filipino community is having unity and having a voice. They also now know about their rights,” says Natoma Street resident, Monica Nacional, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost 20 years.
The threat of eviction is a constant problem that many of the residents of Natoma Street and neighboring alleys in the South of Market (SoMa) face. Filipinos have more than a hundred year history in the SoMa where many have settled upon arriving in San Francisco. The displacement and dissolution of Manilatown along with the fall of the International Hotel on Kearny Street brought about by the encroachment of the city’s Financial District in the 1970s and the displacement of residents, many of whom were Filipinos, of what is now the Yerba Buena Gardens have contributed to more Filipinos relocating and finding a home in the streets and alleyways of the SoMa.
Now part of SOMA Pilipinas, Filipino Cultural Heritage District, the residents of Natoma Street and the surrounding neighborhood, a large percentage of which are Filipino, feel a deeper affinity to their neighborhood and their community. “Nakikita nila yung pagkakaisa ng Filipino community dito sa San Francisco. Mas maganda lumawak pa, para mas makikita tayo sa Amerika na dito sa San Francisco ang mga Pilipino nagkakaisa / They could see the unity of the Filipino community here in San Francisco. It would be better if it expands, so that would be known more in America that Filipinos come together here in San Francisco,” says long time Minna Street resident, Pedro Locsin.
Free and open to all ages, Natoma Block Party is a celebration of unity and resilience of residents of the neighborhood against gentrification and development. “There’s new spaces in the street that don’t really match with the aesthetic or style of the other buildings. You see newer housing popping up and newer people to the neighborhood,” says Krista Basa de Los Reyes, a Natoma Street resident of 10 years. “I think it’s important to meet my neighbors too. A lot of people keep to themselves sometimes, so it’s making it more like a presence to meet and interact with the neighborhood.
The next Natoma Block Party will be on September 28 and October 26, 2019.
For more information contact PJ Eugenio or Ramon Bonifacio at (415) 225-7693 or email at email@example.com