April 2019: A Look Inside the Making of the Heroes In Our Windows Mural by Rebecca Palma-Alvarez Fitzpatrick

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“Driving down Mission Street I had always noticed the Bayanihan Community Center, with the beige window shades pulled down and a handful of people outside the sliding doors, I wondered who went there and what kind of services were offered. When I read the SOMA Pilipinas email asking for volunteers to design the community center facade I saw it as an opportunity to check it out. With enthusiasm I signed up my family: my husband AJ, and almost two-year old daughter Kiera. Volunteer for what exactly–I had no idea. My name is Rebecca Palma-Alvarez Fitzpatrick and here’s our story. 

When AJ asked about what we would be doing I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t care what we did as long as we did it together and started to contribute to our new community. After seven years of working in the Bay Area it was time to start calling it home and planting roots. After all, Kiera was born here. To me, volunteering at the Bayanihan was much more than spending a few hours a weekend at a community center, it was a opportunity to share my culture with my husband, reconnect with my people and start to build a family habit of service.

During the first workshop we learned of the theme, Heroes In Our Windows, and the rich Filipino history of the SOMA district. While Kiera napped in her stroller Kuya MC shared a slideshow of Filipino murals in the area and how over time, our people were displaced and heritage erased. It felt like a personal history lesson opening our hearts and minds to life in SOMA before the tech boom. The mural we were about to design and paint would add to the story of SOMA, it would represent the people who influenced our community, history and legacy. That day Kuya MC said it best, it was activism through art. It was an emotional experience for me, learning about Filipinos in SOMA. For AJ, he walked away with a greater respect and a deeper understanding of the Filipino struggle in San Francisco. The mural we were working on was part of a bigger story and was in response to changes happening around us. As for Kiera, it was a little strange for her to wake up in a foreign place, but she settled in quickly with all the new faces and was excited to help. 

Since that first Saturday in February the three of us have been to the Bayanihan four other weekends to do what we can, sometimes we stencil, cut, mask or paint, other times we’re on babysitting duty. I enjoy watching Kiera soak in the people, language, music and smell of Filipino food from the parties hosted at the center. She watches the YOHANA youth with intent and is getting comfortable running around the center. AJ is glad he’s able to contribute his skills to a greater cause.

We’re grateful to be apart of this project and are experiencing first-hand the importance of these activities in the community. The mural on the facade of the Bayanihan Community Center will be a message to everyone passing by Filipinos are part of SOMA, and we honor and recognize our heroes.”

If you are interested in joining the mural production happening at the Bayanihan Community Center every Saturday from 1pm to 5pm through the end of May 2019, please email lladia@somcan.org or text 415-756-9759.

Apr 2019TJ Basa