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AAACC’s London Breed: Fillmore Native Seeks Positive Community Change

Fri, 09 May 2008 11:33:00
5 / 5 (5 Votes)
Article by:
With Barak in Chicago

Born and raised in the Western Addition, it is fitting that London Breed would become the executive director of the African-American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC), located in the heart of her community.  Lifelong status as a Western Addition resident makes her familiar with the issues and challenges the community faces from a very personal perspective.  Breed grew up with her grandmother and three siblings.  At some point they were offered the opportunity to leave the Fillmore and return to their mother; Breed declined, choosing to stay with her grandmother in the Western Addition.  Being raised by a grandmother was not an uncommon thing where she lived.  She spoke of all of the pitfalls some family members and neighbors endured, pitfalls which are to some degree reflective of what life was like in the 1980’s for too many African-American families in the US such as the proliferation of the drug culture, and all that comes with that lifestyle.  While she says her childhood wasn’t perfect, she remembers being loved and supported by her extended family; her grandmother was always there for her, which she says made all the difference for her in terms of creating a sense of stability for her.   Breed’s grandmother instilled in her basic core values which she was able to take with her to other places in life.  She believes that there is a reason that her life has been what it is and through that, what it has come to be.

 

She attended Raphael Weill Elementary (now Rosa Parks), then went to Benjamin Franklin Middle School (Gateway), and finished high school at Galileo.  She was encouraged to go to college after participating in a Black college tour.  She decided to concentrate harder at school, improved her GPA, and started soliciting scholarships.  She received one for chemistry studies.  Her work in her high school classes revealed that she had a strong aptitude for science courses.  After graduating from high school she enrolled at UC Davis.  She’d finished three years of chemistry courses when she changed her major.  Though she could do the work and in fact did well in her courses, she was bored.  She was working at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory as a scientist when she decided she just didn’t like it.  She instead graduated with a BA in political science from Davis. 

 

Upon graduation, she returned to the Bay Area and worked as a development specialist for the Treasure Island Development Authority under the direction of Mayor Willie Brown, Jr. before taking leadership of AAACC.  At that point, the building was in disrepair and not being utilized to its greatest potential.  Breed was sent to try to turn things around.  Since then she has made remarkable improvements to the facility.  Renovations include an elevator and recording studio; classes are held regularly to teach interested youth in the neighborhood about the recording industry.  Improvements have been made to the theater and dance studios.  The center hosts youth programs and houses the impressive first floor Sargent Johnson Art Gallery.  AAACC also leases space to other community organizations; outside community organizations can access meeting space at AAACC when needed.  What was once an under utilized and perhaps misused establishment can now be considered a jewel in the community. 

 

Breed acknowledges having had a lot of great experiences and to receiving exposure to many wonderful people and things.  Because of this, she says people sometimes mistake her for someone outside of the community; she is quick to point out that she is a native of the Western Addition.  Her pride in and affinity for her community is evident when she speaks of it.  She talked about Mary Helen Rogers and her influence on her.  Although they didn’t have a relationship until later in London’s life Rogers was someone she remembers as becoming involved in what was going on around her, and defending her community -- specifically with regard to housing and redevelopment issues.  Breed describes Rogers as being very vocal about issues that affected them when necessary.  She was often a topic of conversation with London’s grandmother and was a larger than life figure in London’s mind as child.  She says Rogers’ dedication to community service and her support of London’s own community service efforts have had a positive impact on her.

 

On April 13 Breed won a seat as a California delegate for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign representing Congressional District 8; she will attend the Democratic Convention in Denver in August.  Breed was also recently reappointed as a commissioner with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.  She recalls that when she was a child the agency had cleared out a lot of the buildings in her neighborhood and what was left were many of vacant lots; not much was going on.  At present, she says the neighborhood is bustling and there are lots of people out and about, and busy.  She sees this transition as a positive, but that the negative counterpart to this change is that many African-Americans have moved away.  She would like to see more of the middle-class African-American community move back into the Fillmore.  She believes that AAACC can serve as a vehicle for that kind of change in her community.

 

AAACC is located at 752 Fulton Street.  Contact www.aaacc.org for more information.

 
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