USF Celebrates San Francisco Changemakers

Book launch showcases unique stories behind murals of African American leaders

Posted Thu, 12/12/2019 - 13:36

On Thursday, September 12, 2019, 350 USF students, faculty, leadership, and community partners gathered at nearby Ella Hill Hutch Community Center to celebrate the publication of Changemakers: African American Leaders in San Francisco Who Made a Difference.

The illustrated 200-page book, featuring 95 legendary African American civic leaders depicted on the famed “Inspiration” murals at the community center, is the result of a three-year, student-led research project by Engage San Francisco, USF’s campus-community partnership with residents of the adjacent Fillmore/Western Addition neighborhood.

The afternoon commemorated the 20th anniversary of the original murals, commissioned in 1999 by Leonard “Lefty” Gordon and Supervisor Wendy Nelder, and consisted of a short program of speakers including resident Mayor London Breed. The publication was a project completed by students of two university living-learning communities, Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars and Martin-Baro Scholars.

“Given the decreasing numbers of African Americans living in San Francisco, and the increasing gentrification of historically African American communities, preserving this rich history has become increasingly important,” said James Taylor, professor of politics at USF. “The goal of CHANGEMAKERS is to spark interest not just in preserving the memory of those on the mural, but also in generating new murals that honor people who are currently working to make San Francisco a place where equality and social justice will thrive.”

The people represented on the mural and in the book include educators, community activists, politicians, sports figures, pastors, doctors, entertainers, artists, parents and others — highlighting the key roles African Americans from all walks of life have played in the development and betterment of life in San Francisco.

“The causes that these women and men championed lifted them up not only for the African American community, but for the entire city,” said Belva Davis Moore, a long-time broadcast journalist and Fine Arts Museum Board of Trustee member. She notes that many of them like herself, “hailed from the South and arrived in the Bay Area ready to fearlessly fight for equality and social justice.”

The CHANGEMAKERS book includes the stories of Burl Toler, USF alumnus and the first African American NFL official; Doris Ward, early activist-educator and former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Danny Glover, actor and activist; Ella Hill Hutch, the “mother of San Francisco’s civil rights movement”; Eloise Westbrook, housing advocate; Terry Francois, first African American San Francisco Supervisor; Johnny Mathis, athlete and entertainer; and Thomas Fleming, legendary journalist and free press advocate — among many others.

Plans for coordinated curriculum development including an educator training session are in the making for early 2020.

See more photos of the event on Flickr.