Celebrating Black History Month 2023

London Breed
11 min readMar 1, 2023

Every year, as we enter Black History Month, we are given the opportunity to celebrate the legacy of African American heroes and reflect on the many contributions they have made to San Francisco and our entire country.

Mayor Breed, elected and City officials, and community members celebrate the 2023 Black History Month Closing Ceremony: “Homecoming”

San Francisco has been fortunate to experience the powerful influence of Black leaders and their lasting impacts. With this year’s Black History Month theme of Black Resistance, it is important that we honor those who tirelessly fought for the freedoms we have today and recommit ourselves to resisting injustices that keep us from moving forward.

This month, we are taking the time to pay homage to San Francisco trailblazers like one of America’s first black woman millionaires, Mary Ellen Pleasant, known as the ‘Mother of the California Civil Rights Movement,’ who worked on the Underground Railroad and used her own money to help fund the abolitionist efforts to end the mistreatment of African Americans.

Civil rights activist and leader, and first self-made millionaire, Mary Ellen Pleasant

This month, we recognize champions of our City like Leola King, known as the ‘Queen of the Fillmore,’ who was the first woman of color to own a nightclub in the Bay Area and sparked revolutionary change when she stood against the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s plan to tear down the Western Addition.

Business owner and civil rights activist, Leola King

As we honor the leaders who came before us and work to break down the barriers to equity, equality, and justice, we are also continuing to make significant investments that build long-term sustainability and lasting change for the Black community.

Black History Month is not just about what we can do in February, to strengthen and uplift the Black community, but everything we are doing and continue to do year-round that will take us steps closer to equity, and justice. In San Francisco, here are some of the things we are doing to help change the narrative:

Dream Keeper Initiative

In 2021, we announced the Dream Keeper Initiative (DKI) which is a $60 million-a-year program that serves to uplift San Francisco’s African-American community. We launched this initiative with extensive community and stakeholder engagement to allow the community to weigh in on what is vital to uplift and improve outcomes for everyone in the Black community.

Since its launch, DKI has allocated $98 million to more than 85 San Francisco-based organizations that provide direct services and programs to the City’s Black community. This initiative was launched to break cycles of poverty by investing in youth development, education, arts, city employment pipelines, workforce training, small business support, public health outreach, and housing support for the Black community here in San Francisco. Many of these investments are highlighted below.

Mayor Breed joined community members, nonprofit leaders, and City staff, for the Dream Keeper Initiative Anniversary Celebration “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence”

Education and Youth Funding

We are investing in programs that will ensure that our youth have the tools and opportunities that they need to be successful. Examples include:

  • $625,000 for the Department of Early Education to create a pipeline of Black Early Childhood Educators. In 2021, we launched the Black Early Childhood Educators (ECE) Career Pipeline Program, where participants enroll in a nine-month program to take classes, receive one-on-one mentoring and tutoring, obtain a teaching permit, and develop a network of African American early care educators. Participants also receive a monthly stipend of $1,000. This program is currently in its second cohort, with 40 educators signed up to participate.
  • $3.76 million for the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families (DCYF). This funding has provided residents with employment opportunities in the education field and has invested in social services, school programs, and economic mobility for residents living in neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunter Point, the Fillmore, and the Mission. 100% of DCYF-DKI grantees reported that this funding allowed them to provide new services and resources that cover education, health, leadership, career development, community building, and more.

Housing Investments

We need to reduce existing disparities in homeownership by widening the path for historically under-resourced communities and providing funding for programs that will support low-to-middle-income buyers. These efforts include:

Through the Dream Keeper Downpayment Assistance Loan Program, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), between 2022–2024, provides up to 70 participants with homebuyer education workshops and up to $500,000 in downtown payment assistance for the purchase of a primary residence in San Francisco. As of July 1, 2022, MOHCD’s DKI programs have reached over 785 households. The Down Payment Loan Assistance Program has 116 active applicants and 18 families are in the process of purchasing a home. The program has successfully helped 5 families purchase their own homes.

HOPE SF is the nation’s first large-scale community development effort aimed at disrupting intergenerational poverty, reducing social isolation, and creating vibrant mixed-income communities without mass displacement across four of the largest and most historically isolated former public housing communities in the city, including Hunters View, Alice Griffith, Potrero Terrace & Annex, and Sunnydale.

The Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference Program gives affordable housing lottery priority to residents living in the same supervisorial district and people living within a half-mile radius, in which most new affordable units are created for up to 40% of available units. I fought for this program so that when we built housing in communities like the Western Addition and Bayview/Hunters Point, residents from those communities will actually have access to housing.

Mayor Breed celebrates the Downpayment Assistant Loan Program’s new homeowners

In San Francisco, we are also sponsoring Senator Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 593. This important legislation would provide San Francisco with a critical tool to fund new, affordable housing in our community, and to begin reversing the harms of mass displacement of lower-income black and brown families that occurred during the era of urban renewal. Specifically, SB 593 removes barriers to replacing more than 5,800 units of low- and moderate-income housing that were demolished in the 1950s-70s period of redevelopment. SB 593 addresses this past harm by providing a narrow and tailored funding source through the Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Fund.

It is long overdue for San Francisco to make amends for the destruction of these neighborhoods and for contributing to our housing crisis. As we work to implement the promise of Housing for All in our city, this legislation is a creative solution that allows San Francisco to right past wrongs and provide much-needed housing for our vulnerable families.

Public Safety Initiatives

There are deep inequities that have long existed for our African American community in this country, but we are relentless in doing the hard work to make real changes for racial and economic justice. As we work to bridge the disconnect between law enforcement and African Americans in this country, we remain hopeful for progress.

In June 2020, I announced my vision to fundamentally change the nature of policing in San Francisco with a roadmap focused on four broad priorities to achieve this vision by ending the use of police in response to non-violent activity, addressing police bias, and strengthening accountability, demilitarizing the police, and promoting economic justice

These priorities go hand-in-hand with our existing initiatives to make San Francisco a safer place. We need to continue to ensure we address our police staffing shortage, including by creating a more diverse police force. We must continue to make sure that our police officers are working with all of our communities to listen to their concerns so they can better serve and protect.

We have progressed toward these goals by initiating programs with our local and state agency partners, nonprofit collaborators, and community stakeholders:

  • San Francisco Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI): a collaborative project launched in 2020 aimed to reduce shootings and homicide, break the cycle of recidivism, and build trust between law enforcement and communities most impacted by gun violence. In 2021, we were awarded $6 million from the Board of State and Community Corrections, to fund continued operations that support the City’s efforts to target and prevent gun violence over the next 3 years.
  • The Wraparound Project continues to engage with community members at the highest risk of being involved with gun violence as victims and/or perpetrators, to address the root causes of interpersonal violence and prevent as much injury and harm as possible to both individuals and the community at large.

We have seen firsthand that having alternatives for situations that do not require police response can lead to change that addresses structural inequities. That is why we created our Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT), to have health professionals respond to non-violent calls concerning someone in a behavioral health crisis. We are continuing to add new responders and reduce the reliance on the police being the default answer for non-violent service calls that do not require an armed officer response. As of December 2022, the SCRT has responded to over 14,000 crisis calls and now has 7 fully operational teams working 24/7 to reduce encounters with law enforcement.

Public Health

In 2020, I announced the launch of the Abundant Birth Project, a pioneering public-private partnership that gives expecting moms a basic income for the duration of their pregnancy all the way to the first 6 months of their baby’s life in an effort to improve Black and Pacific Islander maternal health outcomes in this city. That is why I committed $1.5 million to continue this program over the next two years. This project has become a model program that has expanded throughout the region and state and serves as an example of how to tackle racial birth disparities across the country.

Workforce Development

Through funding from DKI, our Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) service providers, have directly reached over 150 different businesses and 400 individuals that range from high school and college-aged students who receive mentoring, to women entering the hospitality industry and low-income entrepreneurs who need additional financial resources to help improve their small business.

When I was young and received an internship opportunity, it allowed me to broaden my skill set and give me the experience to enter the professional workspace. When I launched the Opportunities for All (OFA) program, I knew that I did not want money to be a barrier to our young people’s success and I wanted to equip the next generation with tools and guidance that can lead them to a successful career. OFA receives $4.8 million in annual funding and we are seeing firsthand what happens when we can set individuals in impacted communities for success with equitable measures. Last summer, OFA had more than 3,400 applicants and was able to place more than 3,000 youth in internships. Every year, OFA supports thousands of youth with paying internships that give them the skills they need to be successful. In 2022, over 570 youth interns who applied to the OFA program identified as Black or African American.

In the Summer of 2020, Jordan was placed into the Young Defenders Cohort, a partnership with the Public Defender’s Office. Through the program, Jordan has developed a desire to study law and now in his senior year of high school, he has been accepted into a summer program at Stanford Law for undergraduate students and received early acceptance into the University of Oregon. Jordan has expressed how Opportunities for All helped him gain clarity about his future and gave him the focus he needed to start on his path to economic success.

“It was because of mom’s journey and my participation in the Opportunities for All Program, with the SF Public Defender’s Office that I realized I could grow from having no confidence in myself and being a total introvert to gaining amazing confidence in my gifts and talents, to applying to some of the top colleges and universities in the nation…thank you to OFA for showing me what it means to be a lawyer and a professional. Everyone in OFA continues to inspire me every day when I come to work. I am extremely grateful for this experience.”

Too many of our young people are being left behind because they do not have the skills, education, and exposure at an early age to career opportunities that can transform their lives. Since 2018, Opportunities for All has provided a path for our diverse young people to connect to a more successful future and make our communities stronger.

Small Business Support

OEWD receives $18 million annually in Dream Keeper Initiative funds to support workforce and economic development programs. Funding has allowed service providers to train over 280 entrepreneurs, launch 201 businesses, and open 34 new storefronts to date, including 17 businesses within In the Black Marketplace. More than half of the individuals trained in workforce programming have obtained employment earning, on average, $27.36 per hour.

En2Action received $373,000 for its Sell Black program, a 14-week digital marketing training program that has supported Black-owned businesses in operating competitively online. The program provides an opportunity for Black-owned businesses, adversely affected by the pandemic, to revitalize, rebrand, and redeliver their companies to the public through e-commerce and digital marketing.

In 2022, we launched In The Black, a retail marketplace located at the 1567 Fillmore, as part of San Francisco Housing Development Corporation’s (SFHDC) Fillmore Small Business Empowerment Hub initiative, which is funded by the Dream Keeper Initiative to support economic health and well-being in historically disenfranchised communities. As part of the In the Black Marketplace program, each vendor receives eight weeks of business development training and will also be receiving a $10,000 small business expansion grant. 17 vendors are currently in the first cohort, 12 of which have founders with roots in the Fillmore.

Mayor Breed, community leaders, and business owners celebrate the opening of In the Black Marketplace

In February 2022, I announced the African American Small Business Revolving Loan Fund to help address impacts from the pandemic that disproportionally affected Black-owned and Black-serving San Francisco businesses. As our city moves forward in restrengthening its economic core, it is critical that we also focus on equity-based solutions that allow our small businesses in historically impacted communities to come back stronger than ever.

Although Black History Month came to a close yesterday, we know that the fight for civil rights and equity is not over, but the challenges and adversities we face give us the opportunity to create the change we need to uplift and advance our community.

In San Francisco, we will continue to make important investments that build long-term sustainability and lasting change for the Black community. As we celebrate those who came before us, let us recommit ourselves to upholding their values of justice and equal rights for all people. Not just in February, but year-round.

Mayor Breed joined the African American Historical & Cultural Society, elected and City officials, and community members for the 2023 Black History Month Kick-off Celebration