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Boom: The Sound of Eviction 2002 (By Whispered Media, 96 mins.)
The vast domed hall of the old Armory in San Franciscos Mission District which sat empty and rotting for the last several decades comes to life with martini- swilling dotcommers and real estate developers, dressed in army fatigues, partying. Caterers in camo serve canapés and booze from olive drab net-covered tents. The theme of the event suits the occasiona celebratory re-launch of the Armorys cavernous insides as swank offices for the booming tech sector. Perhaps unwittingly, the party resonates with the deeper meaning of the battle of gentrification that is driving working class residents out of the neighborhood. Suddenly, a young Latina student who snuck past security, seizes the microphone and disrupts the self satisfied proceedings with an urgent announcement about the destruction of the barrio. This scene and many others from the frontlines are captured in a new documentary Boom: The Sound of Eviction. Whispered Medias first feature length film traces the typography of the Mission skirmish line and the formidable resistance residents and activists mustered against the seemingly unstoppable conquest of their neighborhood by moneyed elites. Following the unfolding events with tenacity and lots of on the scene footage the filmmakers tell a clear and rich story.
By the summer of 2000, the carnage was piling up: it seemed like everyone was getting evicted, from working class seniors and families to non-profits and arts groups. Mayor Willie Browns tacit endorsement of it allIf you dont earn over $45,000 a year, move to a different citywas most clearly demonstrated by his support for the law-breaking triumvirate of the Planning Department, Planning Commission and maverick developer Joe ODonog- hues Residential Builders Association. City planners were not enforcing legal limits on the construction of new offices and the more that were built, the more rich dotcommers moved in, wildly jacking up rents and fueling both residential and commercial evictions. City government facilitated the gentrification wave by overlooking laws that require new developments to contribute to low-income housing, roads, and schools, losing over 20 million in tax revenues as a result. Meanwhile real estate profiteers were making out like gangbusters.
As the documentary illustrates, Latino and white lefties, along with regular folks of no particular political persuasion, were organizing on a number of fronts. The Marenco family, faced with an eviction notice, pulled together friends and neighbors to picket their landlord at his corner store, disrupting business and ultimately triumphing. A united front of local non-profits and activists known as The Mission Anti-Displacement Coalitionor more evocatively the MACtook city government and developers to task for their depredations, most notably at a meeting where 500 residents confronted Gerald Greene, head of the Planning Department in a bitter three-hour verbal assault. Meanwhile, artists staged numerous street performances protesting the wholesale eviction of several important neighborhood arts organizations.
Other representations of the recent struggle in San Francisco, notably on NPR and in the New York Times, portrayed artists as the primary victims. Boom does not repeat this mistake. While the documentary acknowledges the plight of artists, it tempers the sometimes self-pitying and self-serving theatrics of white middleclass dancers and would-be curators by focusing on the larger, often overtly racist and truly massive evisceration of the mostly Latino working class of the Mission.
As Boom points out, of the $20 billion in venture capital nationally, a staggering $7.5 of it went directly to San Francisco. The 1990s economic expansion was not just a time, but a place; this influx of cash has a spatial component. As the 2000 census data confirms, the main beneficiaries were unquestionably those at the top. While incomes rose in city centers, they declined in the peripheries. This directly echoes the geography of gentrification. People earning more dough were moving into working class neighborhoods displacing lower wage earners who were forced to move farther out (sometimes much farther) for cheaper rents. As the middle class dwindled during the 1990s the economy became more polarized and real wages lagged behind 1989 levels right up until 1998; only a year and a half before the crash did the boom translate into modestly rising blue collar paychecks. This means working folks had less money to out-bid options-crazed yuppies on over- priced flats, especially in the Mission where 80 percent of the inhabitants are renters. By the end of the decade only 11 percent of San Franciscans could afford market rate rent.
Whispered Medias film also traces the downside of the bubble days in other parts of the Bay Area as it follows a single mother evicted from her house in Oakland and thrown onto the rental market of boom-time 1999. Unable to find an affordable abode, she ends up sleeping on a friends living room floor with her five children and eventually leaving the area altogether. Boom is excellent in that it documents a tale that could otherwise disappear, after all, the evicted, forced to move away, take their story with them. Boom should be requisite viewing for students, activists, and communities facing gentrification.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.