Redbeardedguy - Posted on 14 May 2011

Thornton Kimes

"I just want to make sure that we are taking into account other policy priorities"
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener

A 5/11/11 San Francisco Bay Guardian editorial asks the San Francisco Board of Supervisors not to wreck the city's historic preservation process.  San Francisco has lost a lot of its historic buildings in the name of 'progress'.  Seattle destroyed a classic old movie theater in the downtown core so a giant Nike Town (since closed...) could replace it, and there are countless similar stories about GentriFUCKating destructions everywhere in Amerikkka.

When POORMagazine began working on the first GentriFUCKation Tour, we wanted to ferret out the stories of the places the tour would visit--the anti-herstorical mostly single-word-named supposedly ultra-cool-chic invader restaurants no conscious economic justice-minded person would be caught dead or alive in.

Worker-skolah Tony Robles knew the herstory behind one location, knew who lived and worked there before it became something...other.  We sort-of knew one or two other stories, but the Redstone Building's history is the only place on the first GentriFUCKation Tour that is truly deep because so many people have fought, and are still fighting to preserve it.

Finding the stories about other places on the tour was an exercise in great frustration.  Elder skolah "Bad News" Bruce Allison and I trekked to City Hall and the downtown branch of the San Francisco Library.  The library staff couldn't help because the deep herstorical info we were looking for was forbidden to us by Federal law.

City Hall's paper records weren't much better, and the electronic versions had only one potentially useful avenue to pursue--but there were so many possible documents to look at I quickly realized it might take days we didn't have just to figure out if one address on the Tour list had been through some particular adventure in urban planning, defenestration, who-knows-what...or not...

Herstory, history, San Francisco's got story, we all have stories and we damned well should be better at recording it, preserving it, giving more than (Scott Wiener) lip-service to it.  The book and tv mini-series ROOTS generated an explosion of interest in Black American family histories (and Dr. Henry Louis Gates has done some truly fascinating work with PBS series' AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES and FACES OF AMERICA, tracing some families back into slave trade times). 

The Mormon Church has also become a major player in the movement to know one's family tree.  The internet has many ways to find that kind of info, mostly for a fee.

My relationship to my family's history has been an arms-length kinda thing.  I knew one set of grandparents and met another chunk of family when my father re-married in the 1970's--but, aside from his having a Kimes family tree book going back to some medieval "Baron Von Kime" I didn't (and still don't) know diddly and there weren't any details on the actual lives of the people on the branches of that tree.

You try googling Baron Von Kime.  I did.  Um...

I didn't really understand the importance of herstory, personal or institutional, when I was young.  That, along with anything else parents think is important for their children to hold dear, has to be worked into the family's psychic dna, someone has to care that younger generations know what is the what of the family.  I vaguely knew my maternal grandfather knew some big batch of people he regularly visited.  Before I could get really interested in that, he was dead, so I never did find out if those people were relatives--or just old buddies.

I learned in my 40's that my mother had the kind of upbringing you'd expect of a first-half-of-the-20th-Century white woman, with the added funk of being a sickly child and an adult with back and other physical limitations.  She told me once her family spent time around Princeton University and saw Albert Einstein out walking one day.

Interesting stuff I'd have loved to have heard, more than once, at a tenderer age, with more details--or just more.  More sense of a family with historical roots in this country, instead of just living in it.  How many other people out there have a similar story to tell of not knowing much about who their people are/were?

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Mayor should unite to create a herstory/history preservation effort that makes it easier to know who lived or worked somewhere that is now or will become a supposedly cool new place to be seen to eat, get drunk, buy $100 shoes, or...twitter.

Many people would love to have a job doing that kind of meaningful cultural work.


Instead of choosing beteen "history" and herstory," why don't you just call it hysterically?

Glad you mentioned Robert Louis Gates who, very eloquently, speaks of the importance of retracing history. He also did a documentary called "Blacks in Latin America". A bit of it is on Youtube: offense, Thornton - I mean Bob -- but if there ever really was a Freiherr von Kime ("baron" was only used to denote a non-German noble), I wonder how he would feel about being related to YOU!


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