One Big City’s Black Artists Fight Back Against Gentrification

The 3.9 Art Collective wants to bring attention to a growing problem.
Apr 6, 2015·
Jamilah King is a TakePart staff writer covering the intersection of race/ethnicity, poverty, gender, and sexuality.

San Francisco may still enjoy a reputation as one of the country’s most politically progressive and racially diverse cities, but not all its residents think that rap is well deserved. While black populations in cities across America have declined in recent years—thanks to the combined forces of rising rents and property taxes, dwindling incomes, and decades of economic disinvestment—San Francisco’s black community has taken particularly newsworthy hits. Since 1990, the city has lost nearly 36 percent of its black residents, and by 2020, African Americans are expected to make up just 3.9 percent of the population.

A group of San Francisco’s black artists—named the 3.9 Art Collective, after that dismal statistic—is working to bring attention to the problem. In a new exhibition at the University of San Francisco’s Thacher Gallery called Hirath: the 3.9 Collective Searches for Home, artists try to reconcile the city’s past (its historically black Fillmore District was once known as “the Harlem of the West”) with its current reality. (The show runs through April 21.)

“I’m seeing less and less of my culture reflected here in San Francisco,” one artist says in a video that was produced by local news affiliate KQED. “In a place that advertises or considers itself a very diverse community.”