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Mary Rogers
Community Organizer

Mary Rogers
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Video Credit: KQED

Mary Rogers
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Examiner

On Becoming an Activist

I was appalled at the housing situation in San Francisco and really got angry when I found out that nobody wanted to rent to black families. I tried to rent a house in the Sunset and when they found out I was black, all of a sudden it was rented. I had to move to Webster Street between Eddy and Ellis, in one of the worst vice communities you could move into. I was busy in the community trying to clean the community up. And then when Hannibal Williams and others started to form WACO, I thought, this is a place where we can really get something done. We really had a good base where the community addressed their concerns and we would go and work with them. We saw that kids got back in school, that mothers got their welfare grants on time, and cleaned up the streets with brooms and shovels.

On Urban Renewal in the Fillmore

The bottom line was to remove all blacks out of the Western Addition, build high-rise and high income apartments, and bring all the suburbanites to San Francisco. That was the bottom line of the Redevelopment Agency. The plan was to move us out, to give moving costs and $2,000 for renters to find a place. For the homeowners, they gave them a set amount of money and that was it. There wasn't anything you could do about it. My position was, I refused to accept that I couldn't stay where I wanted to stay. I refused to go somewhere else because I was black. I decided I wasn't going to move. I wasn't going anywhere until I got good and ready.

 

WACO Protest
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Examiner

On the Goals of WACO (Western Addition Community Organization)

We wanted to still be a part of the community. We wanted our businesses to still exist. Our churches to still exist. Our children to still go to the neighborhood schools. But we couldn't get any funding through the Redevelopment Agency for blacks to get any kind of business going. When they started talking about the Fillmore Center, they did three different studies on it. They were going to do it in phases so that small businesses that were on Fillmore, and on the side streets, could come back in. It was going to be built by and for the community. So what did they do? They took all of those stores and emptied the land and tore all of those buildings down.

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