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Being Black in San Francisco Means Finding Peace Amid Isolation

by  CN Team on October 18, 2017
Being Black in San Francisco Means Finding Peace Amid Isolation

Being black in San Francisco is akin to being visibly invisible. It’s an existence suspended in a polychromatic limbo, a rare mocha dot amid a sea of hues.

This perspective is intrinsically unique to a generation of black Millennials born too late to have visited the Fillmore when it was the Harlem of the West, home to frequent jazz visitors like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. Ghosts of the neighborhood’s minority-owned clubs like Bop City, restaurants, and pool halls in the 1940s and 1950s exist now as upscale shops and hipster-chic eateries.

It’s a steep decline over time from the 1970s when 1 in every 7 San Francisco residents was black, to 2016 where the number was 1 in 20.

Suffice to say, it’s a lonely life being black in San Francisco.

I recently needed insight on how to live happily, in the cultural sense, as a 30-year-old black man in the city. Luckily, I met Shani Jones, a black woman in the local food industry who has called the city home for all but a fraction of her life. When I asked her how she finds refuge from a visibly invisible existence, her answer was simple: in food.

Jones is the proprietor of Peaches Patties, one of the city’s few Caribbean food outfits, and she named her business after her mother, a Kingston, Jamaica, native who went by Peaches. The family matriarch moved to the U.S. and married Jones’ New Orleans-born father.

In the Jones household, the cultural collaboration resulted in eclectic dinners: grilled meats with Jamaican flavors served on the same table as Creole stews and gumbos. This spurred Shani’s love of bold spices and culturally rooted recipes. That same passion gave birth to Peaches Patties.

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