Move over Santa Claus, Thizz Nation is in the house. At least that’s the case at this weekend’s Mission Neighborhood Toy Drive.
Unlike most traditional drives, this fundraiser steps away from banal donation boxes and moves to the streets for some inspiration. Sunday December 6th from 3 to 8 pm at the Precita Center, local artists including all the fame of San Quinn and The Jacka will sign autographs to raise funds and toys for the youth of the Mission’s Bernal Dwellings.
For some at Bernal this will be their first Christmas, and a glimmer of hope for the children in their community—the majority of whom survive on small welfare pensions, according to Ginale Harris, the Intervention Service Director at the housing project, and chief organizer of the second annual drive.
“These kids have nothing, and they never ask for nothing, and that’s all the more reason to give them a wonderful Christmas.”
“Take Rah-Rah here,” she said waiving over Ronisha Raynor, a young mother of four to share her story. “She gets $561 a month for only two of her kids. Tell this lady how that makes you feel.”
“Like I can’t get what they want,” replied Raynor.
In her case, beds and a couch are what she hopes she can afford this holiday season. Toys will be left up to this weekend’s fundraiser whose goal is to supply each child with one gift. Harris said the drive “won’t get them furniture, but it will give them something to celebrate.”
When Harris first came to Bernal in December of 2007 there wasn’t much to rejoice.
“A guy was shot right out back here,” she said, pointing out through her aluminum blinds to the interior of the housing project. “And that was only my second week.”
Violence is no stranger to Harris who grew up in the shadowy halls of the Army Street Project, the precursor to Bernal, or “the old project,” as she called it.
“You don’t even know how many bodies they found under the buildings when they tore that place down,” she said, her co-worker Luana McAlpine nodding along, “it was not a very pleasant place.”
Although some violence persists, things are looking a little brighter for Bernal Dwellings.
“Now, we’re Hood Rich,” said Harris explaining the importance of local artists, products of the projects, giving back to the community through music. And this Sunday, sponsored by local artists and activism groups is a testament to that.
“The King and Queen Pins are professionals who came out of the projects like us,” said Harris, and now they are helping with the drive, giving toys and organizing. Beyond the Pins, Black and Brown Entertainment, also known as Thizz Latin/Nation, will be supplying artists from their label to sign autographs for those in attendance. The Mission’s own Julio Sanchez “Gold Toes” is founder of Black and Brown and stands at the helm of this project. He is also Harris’s cousin.
Gold Toes knows the Mission all too well, explained Sam Weber, the label’s manager, “his father was shot right across the street from the Army Street. He grew up there.”
“Gold Toes is a sort of Mexican Master P.,” said Weber. “It’s true, he produces pretty much everyone from the bay,” echoed his business partner Sergyo Montoya.
Many of those artists are widely known, but maybe none as much as San Quinn, also called “The Mayor of the City,” a title inspired by his San Francisco roots and his song SF Anthem. The Anthem boasts rhymes that sample a remix of the 1967 classic “Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair,” with lyrics founded in streets living: ““Golden gate treasure/ Got it the warf, S.F. da letters/ Roll in like fog, the battle is up hill/You witness Shit you will get killed.”
Jimmy Roses is another San Francisco man, who’s lyrics point to the Mission’s struggles, and also it’s bright culture, rapping “riding through the Mission in a candy painted low-rider.”
Entry to meet and greet these artists at this weekend’s drive is simple, and easy: a toy. And Harris warns admission is strictly enforced, “if you don’t have a toy, don’t bother coming.”
Once the toys are collected they’ll be wrapped and labeled for age appropriateness, and distributed Santa Clause on December 22nd.
Gifts for seniors and adults will also be accepted, a population that make up 70 percent of Bernal’s 457 person population, according to an internal census last year. The remaining 30 percent includes 68 young adults aged 18-24, 56 youth ages 14-17, 112 children aged 13-17, 14 three to four year-olds, and 20 infants.
“This is a family affair,” said Harris, “That’s why we have it at the Precita. It’s so crazy, we’re trying to help these kids and no one cares. They get nothing, nada, zippity-zilch.”
Donations can be made by contacting Ginale Harris at 415-643-5600.