Heritage Camp frees Bayview children to flourish
in African American culture
Hope, love and happiness prevail over the many themes expressed
at Bret Harte's Summer Heritage Camp. Using an enriching blend
of celebratory dance, song, cultural history - and a kaleidoscope
of artistic expression - young students from Bayview and surrounding
neighborhoods are getting a high dose of positive reinforcements
while, at the same time, having the fun kids just love - and
have - to have.
By Pat Murphy
Copyright fogcityjournal.com 2006
August 6, 2006
The light of resilience shone this week in the faces of Bayview
children freed to flourish in their unique culture.
Taught fully their culture in summer camp, they become more embracing
of any and all cultures, Brotha Clint explained at Heritage Camp
Brotha Clint, San Francisco School District counselor and liaison,
emcees Brett Harte Elementary School festivities for the first
150 graduates of the eight week summer Camp Heritage.
Camp Heritage is one component of the City's Communities of Opportunity
(COO) project which first centered within the Alice Griffith housing
Pupils attend Heritage summer class from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
five days weekly.
Parents were so responsive to recruitment that COO now is expanding
earlier than planned to Bayview Hunters Point , Sunnydale, and
West Point housing projects, Mayor Gavin Newsom told the Sentinel.
"This is just a real bright light and it happened because
someone in the private sector stepped up and wanted to contribute
real dollars," Newsom noted of the private-public partnership.
Foundation provided initial program funding.
Other foundations quickly came onboard including the Walter and
Haas Foundation, the Stuart
and Walter Haas, Jr. Foundation, the Peter Haas Foundation,
Endowment Foundation, United
Way, the Cowell
Foundation, the San
Francisco Foundation, and the Annenberg
"And we are in communication with the Richard
and Rhoda Goldman Foundation and in conversations with Warren
Hellman," noted COO Director Dwayne Jones.
"It gave us an opportunity to do something extraordinary
with the Communities
of Opportunity Center in Alice Griffith, and to do things
that frankly had never been done in this community," Newsom
"It's just the beginning.
"We're going to roll this thing out in four nodes throughout
the southeast sector and then ultimately in the Western Addition.
"That is something that as much as anything that I've been
involved with I'm as proud or more pound of this than anything
"This is pretty exhilarating experience personally for me
and obviously it's made a real impact for these kids."
Mayor Newsom is swept up in the children's joy with, from left,
District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, Communities of Opportunity
(COO) Director Dwayne Jones, and COO Deputy Director Fred Blackwell.
Nine-year-old Daveyon Sampson walks the mayor through moments
she captured photographing her progress through Camp Heritage.
At left, Newsom School Adviser Hydra Mendoza enjoys the fifth
grader's personal panorama.
Jones explained how neighborhood parents were recruited.
"We went door-to-door and marketed the program to all the
households within the housing development and the surrounding
area," he recalled.
"The program is actually a version of the national Freedom
School program funded out of the Department of Education,"
"We call this program Heritage Camp largely because it has
a real strong heritage perspective from the lens of Bayview residents
"It is intensive reading and educational enrichment from
a broadly different perspective, from a community serving role,
from a conflict resolution role, from a peer education role.
"We had 350 parents actually apply and had to raise additional
resources to get the 150 kids in," recalled Jones.
"It's the first time in my knowledge that we actually had
to turn away parents who had gone through a competitive process
to get their kids into a program."
Heritage teachers and graduates gathered Wednesday to demonstrate
learning through dance, rap, song, and voiced what they learned.
"This summer we've been here sharing with children the history
of the African American people," keynoted school district
liaison and counselor Brotha Clint, "The culture of African
"Color doesn't mean anything. Race means nothing.
"You might as well be talking about what color are your
tennis shoes, what kind of sandwich you ate yesterday. It's that
irrelevant what color someone's skin is.
"But what is important is the culture you embrace, and a
culture is something that a lot of people share - the food they
eat, the dance, the language.
"So we as African American people have a culture as well.
"We're so rich in our culture. We're not up from slavery.
We're down from the pyramids.
"We're a magnificent people.
"I think that is what our mayor has recognized and why he
has got so much heat for supporting things that made the other
people think it is not such a trendy way to go," continued
Bayview was chosen as the initial COO site. It is a mammoth undertaking
in a neighborhood where unfolding development capital burgeons
to $1 billion.
"You have major projects like the redevelopment of Hunters
Point Shipyard, the Stadium Mall, Third Street light rail, the
continuation of development at Mission Bay, the UCSF campus, and
Home Depot coming on board.
"We estimate on the low end about $1 billion worth of economic
catalyst to occur within the next ten to 15 years in this low-income
"How do you really harness all of those opportunities for
contracting, job creation, to really leverage in-hand service
"So the big flip for the effort is really about not thinking
about our social justice and social services programs, but really
looking at it from a hardcore place-based strategy that focuses
on people and places.
"And so we have four nodes throughout the Southeast sector
that disproportionately have folks engaged in the juvenile justice
system, the foster care system, and the family and child welfare
"With that data we found what we really needed to do in
those particular areas to turn the tide in those particular neighborhoods.
"The effort really takes best practices from across the
country. We've looked at the Children's
Zone in New York, the Jacobs
Foundation in San Diego, the Center for Working Families in
Seattle, the Youth
for Jobs in Boston.
"We've looked at these efforts and really tweaked them for
San Francisco appropriateness to really bring about the level
of change that needs to actually happen in this community."
Armed with that data, Jones delivered it to Baview residents
- and it was the Bayview residents themselves who called the shots.
"It is governed by the residents themselves.
"They actually go through the process themselves of identifying
the community organizations they want to run the services there
"All of the flyering and the outreach was done exclusively
by the residents themselves.
"They took a tremendous among of ownership to the point
they have actually produced a DVD of their entire experience -
from the identification of the building they wanted all the way
to it being relocated by barge.
"They formed a Tenants Association which determined which
strategies are going to be utilized for each of those respective
"They inform government in terms of the services they want
for the quarter and we then go and identify organizations which
can deliver those services.
"We then bring the potential services providers in front
of them and they make the selection based on the presentations
of those prospective community-based organizations.
"These folks have been here for quite some time and lack
of successes were fresh in their minds. There was a greater government
accountability system that exists because there was more of a
peer-to-peer selection system.
"Within the first six months we saw crime drop by 25% in
the neighborhood and employment increase by about 25%. We saw
a significant decrease in truancy."
COO is one of the mayor's greatest prides, Newsom acknowledged.
"I wish that a lot of people at City Hall really understood
what we're doing with Communities of Opportunity and had the an
opportunity to experience something that is right and real, and
that's making a real difference in people's lives," Mayor
Newsom told the Sentinel.
"These are the kind of things that you just say 'wow' and
you sit back and you're proud."