San Francisco's Black Chamber of Commerce Threatens Tourism Boycott
Heather Knight | San Francisco Chronicle | January 2, 2014 1:33pm
Jan. 01--We've heard a lot lately about established San Francisco communities feeling bypassed and squeezed out by the city's economic boom. Latinos in the Mission. Small-business owners. Families. Teachers. Low-income workers.
Add the African American Chamber of Commerce to the list. But unlike the eviction protesters who've blocked a few Google buses from departing for Silicon Valley for a few minutes, the chamber is preparing a move designed to have a far greater impact. It is threatening to organize a boycott of the city's entire tourism and hospitality industry.
President Frederick Jordan said the chamber has alerted the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the Association of African-American Meeting Professionals to prepare to cancel San Francisco conventions and conferences if the local chamber gives the go-ahead. The chamber's next step would be to ask educational organizations and legal and medical groups to boycott San Francisco as well, he said.
Jordan said he hopes to avoid all that and realizes that encouraging African Americans to boycott San Francisco would damage his group members' own businesses. But he said it's high time City Hall -- and especially the visitors bureau, S.F. Travel -- give the city's black residents their due.
The chamber is calling for city hearings into alleged discriminatory practices against African Americans in the hospitality industry and the diversion of 5 percent of hotel taxes to training African Americans to work in the tourism industry. It also wants S.F. Travel to better direct visitors and their dollars to black neighborhoods and businesses.
He cited several examples that have angered his group's members, including the America's Cup sailing event not extending south to the piers in Hunters Point, black workers not being included in adequate numbers in the building of the new cruise ship terminal and new promotional materials from S.F. Travel not including any African American destinations, businesses or faces.
"This is something we have been striving, begging and pleading for for a long time," Jordan said. "It's like being stranded at sea. You're in the middle of the ocean with water, water everywhere, but no water to drink."
Jordan's group will meet with S.F. Travel leaders on Monday. Joe D'Alessandro, president of S.F. Travel, said he wants to "hear specifics about what their concerns are and how it relates to the tourism industry."
Some of the chamber's additional complaints, such as high unemployment among African Americans in San Francisco and their dwindling population in the city, extend far beyond one economic sector, he pointed out.
"We want to meet with them and talk and see if we can come up with broader community solutions," D'Alessandro said. "We're certainly willing to do our share."
- Heather Knight
Ah, the holiday season along Market Street: Snowflakes hanging from lampposts. Store windows filled with red and green. Banners reading, "Abortion hurts women."
For the second time in two years, the city's main thoroughfare has become a hotbed of anger and finger-pointing over abortion-related banners.
In January 2012, a local pro-choice group called the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women sponsored banners with slogans such as "U.S. Out of My Uterus." Then an antiabortion group called Life Legal Defense Foundation demanded the city take them down, saying they shouldn't have been issued permits because they weren't advertising a particular event. The Department of Public Works said they were legit and left them up, though vandals removed some.
Now, it appears the shoe is on the other foot. Or the banner on the other lamppost? A group called Walk for Life West Coast, which is organizing its 10th annual antiabortion march in San Francisco on Jan. 25, has placed 50 banners along Market Street reading "Abortion hurts women." They will be flying for about a month.
The Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women wrote a letter to Mayor Ed Lee this week saying the banners contain "a false and hateful statement" and demanded they be removed.
Ellen Shaffer, director of the Silver Ribbon Campaign, said she considers the banners hate speech against women and that such slogans contributed to an increase in the denial of reproductive health care for women and girls. She said Market Street now is lined with "Snowflakes -- snowflakes and lies. It's really a shock."
A call to Walk for Life West Coast was not returned.
Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works which issued the permits for the banners, said the department ensures proposed signs don't include profanity or nudity, but the content of the message is not otherwise considered.
Francis Tsang, a spokesman for Lee, said the mayor's office won't be getting involved in the banner brouhaha.
"Mayor Lee is a staunch, longtime defender of a woman's right to choose and disagrees strongly with the message of the banners, but the mayor's disapproval obviously doesn't and shouldn't trump the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," Tsang said.
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