In what they called a “direct response to gentrification,” at least 100 people gathered in Dolores Park to celebrate 415 Day, or Frisco Day.
The celebration was called by a group of loosely affiliated residents under the name Solidarity Forever. It was created specifically for San Francisco natives and long-term residents, who arrived to watch Aztec dancers open the event with a ceremonial dance at exactly 4:15 p.m.
The celebration was also meant to reclaim Dolores Park for people who have roots in the city or have been pushed out by rising costs of living, evictions, and gentrification.
“I’m here in solidarity with my fellow SF natives,” said Emmanuele Hodgson. “I went to support the movement. And I love that today I’m surrounded by a lot of beautiful people of color.”
Dolores Park was the chosen venue in part because its newly updated veneer is unappreciated by many long-term residents of the neighborhood.
“Mission Dolores is a symbolic place because we feel like it was taken from us,” said neighborhood organizer and activist Oscar Salinas. “Over the years it was beautified, but not for us.”
“Dolores Park is the epicenter of gentrification…this is on Indian burial ground,” said Ahkeel Mestayer, a native who plays in the local band Soltron and helped organize the event.
So who are the gentrifiers that have taken over the park?
“They don’t look at you when you walk by,” Mestayer said. “They come in here and act like you don’t exist.”
Change, said one local, is inevitable – but can be subversive.
“It’s kind of like when you gain or lose weight and you don’t see it because you see yourself in the mirror every day,” said Larry Dorsey. “But when you have that moment to reflect, you can see that you’re different.”
Dorsey said while he’s not against change per se, he wanted to support those that have been displaced or are fighting to stay in the city.
Many who attended were not necessarily natives, and their tenures in the city varied widely.
“Being a native means everything,” said Kay Smith. “I’m here to represent my city because it’s being destroyed. I’ve been here since I was six years old.”
From Monterrey, 26-year-old Musician Hi/Lo arrived in San Francisco at age 18, and reveled in its diversity, both ethnic and economic.
“There was a strong middle class. A lot of artists were able to develop themselves, there was a lot of mentorship for me from the get go. This city was full of a lot of talented hustlers,” he said. “I was so blessed to be exposed to that. Now, it seems to be shadowed by all the wealth.”
“This is a celebration of a San Francisco that has been under assault by gentrification and cultural imposition for quite some time now,” said Jeremy Miller, who grew up in the Bay Area and has lived in San Francisco for 16 years.
Rhaven Innis, a San Francisco State University student, has only been in San Francisco for one year, but was at the park to support the gentle pushback against displacement.
“I want to show my support. A lot of people don’t know, or choose not to recognize, what’s happening,” she said. “Having visibility…lets people know who don’t want to pay attention that we’re here and we’re still fighting.”
Her friend Shelby Baizar, another San Francisco State student with two years in the city under her belt, saw the city’s dwindling minority numbers reflected in the school’s curriculum.
“I just feel like what’s happening to this city is also happening to SFSU,” Baizar said, referring to funding woes of the college’s Ethnic Studies program.
One 415 Day reveler did voice some chagrin at the presence of so many non-natives.
“Someone who’s only been here for a year coming to it is like a straight person going to a gay bar: You know, I’m not going to throw you out, but it’s not exactly for you,” said Joe Fitz Rodriguez, a reporter and columnist for the San Francisco Examiner – off duty for the day.
“It’s to tell each other that we’re here, that we’re not all gone. Every other day can be for you,” Rodriguez added.
A sentiment not shared by Salinas, who could be seen throughout the afternoon passing through the crowd greeting people and collecting trash.
“I’ve been walking around welcoming people, not saying, no, you can’t come here,” Salinas said. He said the event was also to show other parkgoers that long-term residents are not dangerous or threatening. “This is who we are, we’re not scaring people. You don’t have to call the police when you see me,” he added.
Six or seven officers had indeed lined up atop a ridge in the park and observed the celebration from a distance, a practice one staff member at Mission Station later said was routine for large gatherings.
But the gathering was less of a protest and more of an easygoing afternoon in Dolores Park – a chance to be visible, but also to have a good time in a period of change and tension.
“Every time we see each other we meet in grief. It comes to a point when we have to find little outlets like this to experience joy,” said Darryll Rodgers, who is part of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, a group organizing around the police shooting of a Bayview man last December. “If not, people start doing things solely out of grief, and that’s problematic.”
“I’ve had a heavy heart these past two weeks. But today is not about speeches. It’s about music and talking to each other and connecting,” said Mission activist Benjamin Bac Sierra.
“It’s a celebration of love. Love for our city, our community and love for Mother Earth,” said Hurricane Gomez, a poet and 40-year-resident. “Things are changing a lot, but by getting to know each other we have a collective memory of how things were.”