For several unforgettably exquisite hours last night, celebrating the San Francisco Giants victory on 24th Street felt musical, like a mix between a peasant land takeover, the L.A. riots and an Afro-Latin festive devil celebration in which traditional notions of “good” and “evil,”master” and “slave” are temporarily twisted, turned over and completely toppled in the Dionysian delirium of it all.
The streets were literally ours. Overwhelmed by the thousands of people taking their Giant joy to the civic center, the stadium and, especially, to the traditional center of working-class baseball zealotry,the Mission, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) was temporarily reduced to standing by and watching masses of happy, high and originally (and some unoriginally) hip people block streets Latin America-like with their cars, with their motorcycles, and, especially, with their dythirambic, dancing bodies. Other streets, like the corner of 19th and Valencia were also taken over.
Contrary to the predictable and barely veiled racist, look-at-these-violent-colored-people denunciations by mostly white bloggers and journalists tasked with showing us the difference between “good” Giant fans and “bad,” the streets looked quite different from the drunken orgy of violence they painted. This is an attempt to unleaven these civilized folk of the white woman and man’s burden of explaining the behavior of the brown barbarians, barbarians whose food and Balmy alley murals they love, but whose presence they want erased faster than you can say “I can afford a $3000/month bedroom–all by my lonesome.”
Sure, the Resident and his peers wearing recently-purchased Giants hats and shirts as they nervously rushed past the throngs of brown people did sincerely share with us the excitement of the baseball win. But their Giants are not our Giants. The tipsy twenty something who’d “never heard” of Willie McCovey or Juan Marichal had no idea how he sounded to someone whose father worked overtime so he could take his boy on the bus to see these Giants idols in the $7 seats near the outfield of Candlestick park in Hunter’s Point, the same HP where hipsters are hopping on happy, new trollies to join realtors working at hyper-DSL speed to eviscerate the last vestiges of Black San Francisco.
On 24th Street, on the 2 blocks between South Van Ness and Folsom, long time low rider friend and talented street festival organizer, Roberto Hernandez, turned his baseball fever into action. By inviting a bunch of his lowriding homies to join him and his cherry (look it up, hipster) white impala to completely block off the street, Roberto didn’t just scare the living latté out of white passers-by who’d rush off after not feeling very connected to us. He also did 2 other unreported, but very important things.
(with Roberto in his 63 Impala last night on 24th)
First, he provided us, especially the younger among us, that rare glimpse of our collective power before SFPD and other authorities that perpetrate and sanction or do nothing about official crimes like the murder,in nearby Bernal Heights, of Alex Nieto, an unarmed 28 year-old security guard and Giants fan, a crime considered emblematic of the police-as-gentrifier-protection-force that many, many Latinos still living in the Mission know all–too-well.
The heroic SFPD officer of which corporate media and their hipster underlings write in their articles and blogs is not our SFPD officer. Some of us grew up and know another SFPD, an SFPD like that led by former Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who many of us must thank for baptizing us with the batons of institutional violence and racism– and the “journalism” that papers over it with images of so many jailed and beaten “bad guys” our family members in SFPD talk about. Last night, I ran into my cousin’s thirty-something son, who I’d known as a laid back, gentle spirit before he was re-programmed in the police academy. When he saw me, he smiled, fist bumped me and then marched towards a young celebrant, yelling, “Move any closer and you’re gonna get smashed.” The city with division–winning, World Class baseball is also home to World Class divisions of race and class, even within our families.
The other thing Roberto led us in was in momentarily taking us back to that Golden Age Mission where Latinos lived and created the community that gave the world the sublime sounds of Santana, the sweet sight of murals coloring the neighborhood’s walls and the lyrical fury of a Central America solidarity movement in which a “refugee community,” including its guerrilla poets and other revolutionaries, successfully altered and defeated the domestic immigration and foreign (spelled “w-a-r”) policies of the most powerful country on earth.
(Roberto Vargas & Alejandro Murguia)
Watching young people climb on stop lights, taunt powerless police and throw bottles at the Google buses carrying the end of Latino-Mission history, one could not help but see the spirit of Mission past claiming its space on 24th street. Watching the annoyed and scared look of the young Resident of the $2 million dollar condo (which used to be garage shop where “El Samurai” painted lowriders) as he waited for hours before the blue–uniformed cavalry arrived to evacuate the brown barbarians from his domain, one could not help but be swept away in a magical moment of poetic justice.
So, yes we are all World Campions today. Yes, we will celebrate on the same physical streets and at the same parade on Friday. But We are the Champions of a different spirit, We are Champions for a different reason. And for one unforgettably exquisite moment last night, we were the Champions of another city, the City you cannot buy your way into, the Free City of the Giants…