January 18, 2007 - Issue 213

One City's Firebrand: A Look Back At The San Francisco Black Caucus
by Larry Pinkney
Guest Commentator

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The City of San Francisco, known for its social and political innovativeness, produced during the early 1970s, a radical grass roots Black American political organization that, at its height, boasted a membership of five hundred and focused on the areas of housing, employment, education, police brutality, voting rights, and labor issues that directly impacted San Francisco's Black population. This organization was the San Francisco Black Caucus. It was formed in September, 1970, in San Francisco, California.

The San Francisco Black Caucus utilized democratic centralism as its guiding political philosophy, and had numerous active standing committees, with one organizational central committee as its governing body. The San Francisco Black Caucus was probably best known for its strong opposition to the Viet Nam war and to many of then Mayor [Joseph] Alioto's employment/labor and housing policies as they impacted Black people in San Francisco. It was also known for its stance in support of the Black Panther Party and its subsequent open endorsement of Bobby Seale for Mayor of Oakland, California.

In 1971, the San Francisco Black Caucus marched on the Atlantic Richfield Company [ARCO] offices in San Francisco, for its racist treatment of Black customers in the Bay Area and its exploitative policies in apartheid South Africa. The San Francisco Black Caucus was a strong supporter of the right to unionize, labor unions, and of the United Farm Workers Union [UFW] and immigrant worker's rights. It's leadership and membership repeatedly supported the right of working people of all colors to organize at San Francisco General Hospital, KRON TV, Foremost Dairy, and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Another major objective of the San Francisco Black Caucus in 1971-1972, was to struggle for Black people to be hired by the mostly white owned businesses in San Francisco's North Beach area, who objected to Black people being employed. This was a very tense battle, in which the SF Black Caucus found it necessary to repeatedly utilize public protests to highlight employment discrimination.

The San Francisco Black Caucus was unique and known for being organized, radical, and very outspoken, unlike some other organizations that utilized the name Black Caucus. Regarding this, THE BLACK PANTHER (newspaper) Intercommunal News Service wrote of the San Francisco Black Caucus, "Many organizations have formed with name Black Caucus, but it is unfortunate that few are implementing concrete plans of action in the Black community. The San Francisco Black Caucus is moving very progressively; and this is why repression is becoming more intense." (See Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, Saturday, October 21, 1972).

Representatives of the San Francisco Black Caucus were also in attendance and actively involved at the first National Black Political Convention of March 10, 11, and 12, 1972, in Gary, Indiana. Until its demise, prior to 1980, the San Francisco Black Caucus was successful in raising political consciousness and activities around crucial issues of that period, many of which are still extremely relevant in the 21st century.

Further information on the San Francisco Black Caucus can be found in the THE BLACK PANTHER (newspaper) Intercommunal News Service of October 21, 1972, on pages 6, and 12; in the article entitled, 'A CAUCUS FOR THE COMMUNITY: The San Francisco Black Caucus Serves The People.' For a certainty, the San Francisco Black Caucus remains an important part of the ongoing history of struggle and change in San Francisco.



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