Judy Zalazar Drummond remembers the night well. It was August 1969, and she did something conservative for the San Francisco of that summer. She hosted a dinner party for her friends.
“I made albóndigas, I made lemon cake with chocolate frosting – we sat down and ate. And then we cried,” she said.
The dinner party was far from average – or conservative. Her friends were active in the Black Panthers, in the Women’s Movement and in the growing Chicano Movement. They cried because they were unable to cope with the sexism they found. Something had to change, and in the following days, Zalazar and her friends decided to join Los Siete de la Raza, the Mission’s answer to an incident in on May 1 of that year in which seven young Latino men were accused of killing an undercover policeman.
Now, 40 years later many of her friends have passed away, but a group of them met Wednesday night at 518 Valencia Street, the Erica Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, to retell their story.
When Drummond joined Los Siete in August, the committee had been up and running for three months. What initially started out as a solidarity campaign very quickly became much more than that: a community movement that wanted to serve the people. They founded a free community clinic, started a breakfast program for kids and began to publish a community newspaper for the Mission called Basta ya!
“There were no images of Latin American people, so we had to make them.”
Drummond said she was a good typist, a quality that Los Siete could use at their weekly community newspaper. It was at “Basta ya!” where she met Donna Amador and Yolanda Lopez, the women who remain close friends and joined her on Wednesday night.
Lopez would later become a renowned artist with pieces at the MoMA in New York and teaching jobs at institutions such as UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. Now, she and her former husband, artist René Yañez, are facing eviction from the duplex where they have lived for more than three decades.
Her art, she said, was aimed at empowering working class women, especially Chicanas. “I [myself] came from a working class family. I really wanted to become an artist,” Lopez said. With support from her uncle, she had joined San Francisco State University, but found being a woman meant she was ignored as an artist. When she joined Los Siete she finally understood what she was about, she said, “I got a sense of community.”
“There were no images of Latin American people, so we had to make them,” Lopez said. And so she did. She reinterpreted the Virgin de Guadalupe in a series of paintings, depicting her as a working mother, sewing her own garments. She also painted images of herself as a runner, a trailblazer of Chicana art.
A full-time school teacher by day, Drummond took two to three nights out of her schedule to work at the free community clinic, then located at 22nd and Folsom Streets. Today, any medical expert would have diagnosed them with a burnout. “We worked our asses off,” Drummond said. But it was worth it.
Amador said she is still proud of the groups’ achievements: Los Siete was able to start something that people still benefit from.”
“We back each other up”
Of course, things weren’t always easy: on one hand, dealing with some of the men at Los Siete was terrible sometimes, they said. On the other, their working class feminism seemed to be light-years away from the (mostly white) middle class feminism: “If you were a Chicana or a Latina, they would tell you that you wouldn’t want to be part of the white women’s movement,” said Lopez. This, however, has gotten much better, she added.
For many women, working or middle class, things have improved dramatically since the 1960s. And even after all their struggles and all the years past, the three women’s friendship has remained. “I can totally depend on Donna and Judy”, Lopez said. “We still back each other up.”
Due to their eviction, Yolanda Lopez and René Yañez are having a garage sale this weekend at Galería de la Raza (24th and Bryant). They will use the money to cover moving costs.
Times of the sale: May 3: 9 a.m . to 5 p.m. and May 4: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.