Opening Night

Strolling to Herbst Theatre for one of the most delightful events in San Francisco — the Community Housing Partnership’s (CHP) annual Night of the Stars – I was mulling over the hot news coverage that always accompanies opening night at the symphony and the opera.  The gowns and celebrities glitter in our mind’s eye.

Although San Francisco is a big town for fundraisers, in comparison to the big opening night parties, attendance and press coverage just doesn’t match up for events like CHP’s.  Yet they tell the modern day, real world stories of operatic proportions, celebrating the lives of little known, real life heroes who have overcome lives filled with trauma — abuse, homelessness, incarceration; and spotlight the work of the superstars that create housing and jobs for those otherwise frozen out.

Life in the City might be different if they did garner as much attention.  What we celebrate is what we care about.   People in the City’s communities – rich, poor and in the middle – can easily see what matters.

Another rollicking, little-noticed celebration Monday night when REDF portfolio company  Green Streets – a green business providing recycling and janitorial services at McCormack Baron Ragan properties in Hayes Valley, Western Addition and Bernal Heights — held their inspirational launch party at San Francisco Planning + Urban Research (SPUR).  You can check out the photographs here of Green Streets which, under the auspices of Urban Strategies, is operated by and employs young people from the neighborhood – all of them proud, productive, and working.

On the rare occasions that there’s anything in the news about low income communities, and especially about youth, it’s usually a headline about violence.

If we paid more attention to the positive; if the “stars” brought their glitter to Green Streets launch – the people who live in the City’s tougher neighborhoods might believe all the rhetoric about how much we care and expand their hope and sense of possibility.

So next time you have a chance, celebrate the culture of work and the people who are writing a better story for the future with their lives and talent.  Raise a glass to breaking out of the negativity and strife.  These are real stars you want to meet, doing something worth a party.

While you’re cruising for another good party, don’t miss the Volunteer Center awards party on May 11 honoring among others Phil Estes – who we are proud to say is a member of REDF’s Advisory Council — for his service on the Board of the incredible Larkin Street Youth Services.

When you get home from all that celebrating, read about why it’s so important.  Check out this piece from the New York Times about how evidence shows that it’s not as risky as some employers seem to think to hire people with a prison record.

And come to the City Club on May 20 where I’ve been invited to participate in the launch the first ever California Human Development Report — learn about disparities in health and wealth by race and gender in every part of California and what we can do to make a change!

Think about the next ‘opening night’ you want to attend.  Offer your glitter to make a different kind of celebration special the next time.