Community

Pop-Up Events and Caravan Protests Against Racism in the Richmond District

Pop-Up Events and Caravan Protests strengthening  the Richmond District

By Genevieve Ennis

“There were more than 1,000 cars, it was incredible,” Erin Feher said about the June 4 caravan protest she organized.

 “So many people have expressed how it really fired them up to take further action,” she said.  “Many people relayed how it forced them to finally have some real talks with their kids about the realities of racism.” 

Photo by Genevieve Ennis

Feher has now organized multiple protests in the Richmond District. Her husband, Danny Montoya, founder and lead teacher of The Butterfly Joint, a woodworking studio for kids of all ages on 45th Avenue and Cabrillo Street, designed the flyers and created the routes. “There is little separation between what Danny does with his business and what we do as a family, and he helped to promote the protest through his business mailing list,” Feher said. 

Feher explained how she got involved in the protest planning process.  

“I saw a post on Instagram from Showing Up For Racial Justice about an open Zoom meeting that was about to take place, guiding people new to organizing on how to best get involved and support the Black Lives Matter movement,” she said. “They talked about the car caravan protests and I immediately thought that could help mobilize the many families that wanted to get involved but were unable to take their young kids to a protest or were immunocompromised folks who still have to be extra cautious with COVID. 

“I was struck by the disconnect between the vibe downtown, where protests were taking place, and the sleepier corners of the city, like my own. I wanted to bring some of that energy and awareness to my own neighborhood,” Feher said.

She texted the idea to  her friend, Gaelen McKeown, who Feher said “was so helpful, and led chants throughout the protest, printed more than 200 fliers, and created dozens of extra signs for people. The protests that Feher organized have helped to raise awareness within our community and have gained publicity on NPR.

“I was very impressed by the turnout and energy of the caravan protest,” Laura Chambers, resident of the Sunset District said “I cheered as the cars went by. This was a great way for whole families to be involved while still being able to social distance and feel safe. Most of the cars I saw had children riding in them with homemade signs. I think the protests are working; they are taking up space and making people see what is going on, whether they want to or not. I hope they continue and that people stay involved and invested.” 

Laura Chambers, resident of the Sunset District said: “I work for an elementary school and have been gathering resources about racism that parents can use in a kid friendly way to have these difficult conversations with their children and learn what is going on in the world so they can make better choices when they grow up. It is an important topic for everyone to talk about, even if it is uncomfortable. I think racism has been glazed over for too long,” 

Andrew St. James and Scott Padden have found another way to bring life to the streets of the Richmond. Over the last several weeks, they have put on multiple pop-up shows. 

“Our great friend Ashley Graham is buddies with the Balboa (Theatre) crew. She has had a long relationship with the Balboa selling her upholstery wares through her Little Russ Thompson shop and helping coordinate the Rewind Wednesdays,” Padden said. He had been on tour with his band and St. James was producing shows for The Chapel before the pandemic hit and. They are both – like many people – re-envisioning what their next moves look like. 

“I left for a tour in early March, right before everything started getting really serious with COVID,” Paddens said.  “By the time we were halfway across the country, it was becoming clear that we were in for something truly unprecedented. We ended up playing two shows, cancelling the tour, and turning around,” His band, Goodnight Texas, has song called “The Railroad” featured at the beginning of the Netflix show, “Tiger King.” Padden added: “You can’t predict whether or not a show will be a hit, but wow this one was definitely a hit. ‘Tiger King’ was released immediately after our cancelled tour. I never assumed things would blow up, but we started getting all these messages from our friends and family and other fans.”

“We linked up with Andrew St. James through Graham, who sells cross stitches in our lobby and co-hosts Rewind Wednesday with us,” said Chloe Ginnever, general manager of the Balboa Theatre. “They were trying out the drive-by concert idea and we are all in for creative solutions to bringing entertainment to the people during this time of having to stay at home.” 

Photo by Genevieve Ennis

“The pop-up concert was a unique and fun experience,” Chambers said.  “It was the perfect way to get a small group of people together and experience new music but maintain social distancing. I loved how intimate the performance felt and would choose to attend more of these experiences than a big concert venue any day.”  

“This concert happened just a few hours before the beginning of the protests that erupted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Nora Trice, former Richmond resident. “So much has happened since then. It’s been really incredible to watch people coming together peacefully at protests including a lot of artists and musicians using their talents to help keep spirits high. 

“The pop-up concert was the first ‘plan’ I’d had in months, and it was great,” Trice said. “I don’t live in the Richmond anymore, but events like this remind me of how special it is. Every passing car either stopped to listen or smiled as they drove by. I’m really grateful for the moment of levity they provided.” 

The Richmond can expect to see more pop-up concerts, caravan protests and popcorn pop-ups at the Balboa. Feher suggested ways the community might get more involved. 

SURJ SF has been really helpful, and sponsored the second protest with us. We also teamed up with BFF.fm, our local online radio station for live broadcasts during our protests. Most importantly, this has sparked some really fruitful real conversations with neighbors, which was the whole point.,” Feher said.

She has created a regular email list to keep people informed on local developments and actions. One Richmond SF has also become a great resource for the community. The Balboa Theatre has helped in many ways to create a space for our community and also offers movies in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Ginnever mentioned they “have partnered with several of the smaller studios and are working with local theaters to present their films online and sharing half the ticket price with the theaters they’re teaming up with. It is a good way to keep the community engaged and spotlight some more indie titles that normally wouldn’t have gotten much attention” 

The Balboa Theatre is scheduled to reopen Aug. 15 and will continue to offer movies on www.cinemasf.com

“We will have reduced capacity, and some patrons may be too vulnerable to be out and about, so the virtual screening room is definitely something we’d like to keep as an option for folks,” Ginnever said. “We’re so grateful for everyone who’s been supporting us through being closed. We can really feel the love and we’re so happy to be a part of this neighborhood and can’t wait to be back.” 

“I think the things that happen on a grassroots level say a lot about a community. These local events – from pop-up concerts to virtual film screenings to caravan protests – make it easier for people to stay engaged, and that’s really promising,” Trice said.

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