The Audacity of Hope with an Audacity to Love Last Thursday night we filled Hearing Room 416 at San Francisco City Hall with Hero Awardees replete with ardent fans, friends, and family. An adjacent room down the hall with closed circuit simulcast captured the overflow.
San Francisco Human Rights Commission sponsors this annual event in order to bring to light people whose selfless sacrifice to advance Human Rights might have been missed save the nomination from community members aware of these heroes’ contributions to equity.
The notable acts of this year’s recipients were framed within the 50the Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and how these acts changed the climate of discrimination within San Francisco. Prior to the ceremony, Eva Patterson, Civil Rights Attorney and Equal Justice Society founder, captivated the audience with a palatable and succinct version of the history of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Eva voiced her thoughts after going through the habit colored folk have of constantly and unconsciously, counting Black faces about them. In this case, she made the unconscious habit a conscious act, she remarked that when she visits San Francisco, she does not see Black people and how happy she was to see this room filled with other Blacks faces. Emmy Award winning journalist Barbara Rodgers was among the African Americans present at this event and I recalled over the years how Barbara’s face in media signaled to me that “journalists do come in color.”
Eva didn’t shy away from using the phrase white supremacy, (for some public figures this phrase, while historically accurate, is too politically charged) in detailing the country's struggle with racial segregation and its ultimate triumph in changing legal discrimination. “Prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, you could apply for a job and the company could tell you they didn’t want to hire you because you’re Black and you could do nothing about it!” I think Eva’s description of this harsh reality stunned most of the young people in the audience and there were quite a few young people in the room.
Finally, the evening concluded with public comments, each contribution positive and brimming with gratitude. As the evening was ending Human Rights Commissioners seated on the Dais as well as the audience tensed as one of the renown and outspoken critics of city government took to the mike to pronounce sentence on the evening’s proceedings. This spokesperson is like a constant “burr in the saddle” of the Commission that not even caviler padding can mitigate.
He started with his usual poetic salutation but in a departure from his usual assailing demeanor, blessed the event with a resounding “thank you,” and stated how pleased he was with the ceremony.
This usually eloquent and challenging critic’s ovation completed the circle of hope that reigned that night and gave all of us the Audacity to Hope expressed inside our Audacity to Love Black People.
"If I ignore them (biases) and believe that I’m acting without them, without looking at them andtesting that I’m not, then I could unconsciously or otherwise, be led to be doing the exact thing I don’t want to do…” Justice Soto Mayor
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Furthering Cultural Aptitude through the Study of Unconscious Bias.