Third Baptist Church pastor and SF NAACP president Amos Brown continues his campaign of calling attention to the state of the Fillmore District, in a new op-ed saying the neighborhood is experiencing “an explosion of homeless tent encampments, open drug use, and violence.”
The Reverend Amos Brown is coming up on 50 years as pastor of Third Baptist Church, the first African-American Baptist church established west of the Rocky Mountains. And his elder statesman status is reflected in that he was appointed vice-chair of the California Reparations Task Force, the first-ever state-level group “to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans” affected by the legacy of slavery.
But Rev. Brown has also been on something of a personal crusade in recent weeks complaining of homelessness and drug use in the Fillmore District. To that end. Brown has a new op-ed in Wednesday's Chronicle on the matter, entitled “No more studies and no more conversation – clean up the Fillmore.”
“Today’s Fillmore is unrecognizable,” Brown writes in the Chronicle. “Meanness has been growing on the streets for years, driven by an explosion of homeless tent encampments, open drug use, and violence — including street shootings and vicious attacks on community leaders like the one that sent James Spingola, director of the Ella Hill Hutch Center, to the hospital over the summer.”
While an elder statesman, Reverend Amos Brown is certainly a political figure too. He actually served on the SF Board of Supervisors from 1996 to 2001 (appointed by Willie Brown, draw your own conclusions). He serves as the current president of the SF chapter of the NAACP, and in recent years has acted in that capacity to oppose the closure of SF Juvenile Hall, spoke out at length in this past spring’s redistricting drama, and called for the resignation of school board member Ann Hsu. But Brown has generally been one of Mayor London Breed’s most vocal supporters, and likely sees himself as something of a power broker in the SF political machine.
And it probably ought to be noted that there is a current tension between the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement, with the NAACP being seen as an old guard that is none too fond of this “defund the police” language. The two groups certainly have differences of opinion on law enforcement in Black and brown communities.
Brown’s op-ed is a fairly paint-by-numbers, grandfatherly scold, and you can see where he falls on law enforcement involvement. “From faith leaders to business owners to residents, we have to confront the situation with compassion but also with resolve that we cannot allow our streets to be used as a drug market or a toilet, or for violence and crime to be routine,” he writes.
And crime is up in the Fillmore District, some crimes by small amounts, others by larger percentages. A Chronicle analysis from earlier in December noted that “According to the SFPD’s crime statistics, larceny crimes — such as shoplifting — along with arson and assaults have increased this year in the Northern District, which includes the Fillmore, compared with a year earlier. There were 5,995 larceny thefts so far this year compared with 5,496 last year. There have been 62 arson cases so far this year compared with 35 in 2021.”
So it may be that Brown’s angle is to get more resources invested in the Fillmore, which is understandable if things are affecting his congregation. But Brown’s op-ed also bemoans that the Fillmore Heritage Center is “a shadow of the landmark draw it should be.” He does not mention that he has been actively involved with efforts to transfer ownership of the center “to the local Black community,” and whatever politically connected local leaders might represent the local Black community.
Image: @BrookeJenkinsSF via Twitter