The Presidio of San Francisco has a rich history and tradition. Those of us who were at the Presidio when the Army reigned supreme were very proud that the Department of Defense (DOD) encouraged minorities and others to celebrate their cultural heritage.
The Army saw that all cultural functions were totally subsidized and an opportunity given to all to be real partners on all levels. The National Park Service (NPS) an all white organization does not seem to understand cultural diversity. This is all the more true and paradoxical because they manage Public Parks that are open to the public (which includes all diverse groups) and yet even today want to manage a strong hold as far as giving job opportunities to whites as opposed to everyone who is qualified.
The Community Consultation Initiative (CCI) is a document that has been sitting on the shelves of the NPS for over 5 years now. Much talk about working with minority communities and diversity but NO action at all.
Here at Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) we do not have one single person of color on the Management Level who participates in making concrete decisions that affect the employees of GGNRA. Specially those who are employees of color. The same is with the Trust who have taken over practically all the day to day operations of the Presidio of San Francisco.
Since 1994, I have gone out of my way to celebrate Black History Month. Every year the African American Association (AAA) of which I am the Vice-President this year has received minimal support from the GGNRA authorities. The AAA is a non-profit body with 501 status, the only body of African Americans in the entire National Park Service. We fought hard to attain this status so that we could safeguard our rights as employees and partners in the progress of our nation. Our status also permits us to celebrate Black History Month with some concrete affirmation.
This year our Keynote Speaker, Earl Sanders who is Assistant Chief of Police, City and County of San Francisco graced our occasion which was held at Golden Gate Club at the Presidio of San Francisco, February 22, 1999. He did us all proud.
Chief Sanders in his awe aspiring speech asked that equal opportunities be given to all so that all can participate and share their talents in the development and progress on our Nation.
In previous years key note speakers who have graced our functions were Aileen Hernandes, Noah Griffin, Mayor Willie Brown, Ann Williams. Our functions have always been well attended and a lot of sacrifice and love has been put in organizing them.
This year we bused 50 children at our own expense from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. We also served food and lunch at our own expense.
About 250 people attended the Black History Month celebration. This was an excellent turn out considering that 90% of African Americans who once worked for the NPS now work for the Trust. Just a few of us who are left work with the NPS. With much difficult we organized this year's celebration to keep the fire burning in the spirit of the Buffalo Soldiers. We dedicated this year's celebration to the Buffalo Soldiers.
Anthony Powell was kind enough to address the students before the function and gave them a short history of the Buffalo Soldiers. He also brought some Buffalo Soldiers photographs that were viewed by all. Earlier, the students were given a tour of the Presidio of San Francisco and taken to the Veterans Administration Presidio Cemetery. In this cemetery lie 455 Buffalo Soldiers.
Against great odds every year the AAA continues to keep the fire burning. We remember the injustice done to Milly Bristow and Darlene Williams two African American women who the AAA held very dear to their hearts and who were victims of racism. Both of them were so stressed out that they resigned.
We have many friends who support us and would like to thank Joel Skidmore and Henry Dankin for their support. The students, principal, and Sister Brown who accompanied the students from Martin Luther King Middle School. All the members of AAA and the employees of the Trust and NPS for attending our function.
Click photos for
zoom and caption