Profiles of Success
Hunters Point Family redefines and expands definitions of success to reflect cultural context, community pride and African American values, such as Ujamaa. Choosing to stay in Bayview/Hunters Point while living productively and working effectively is highly valued by this community that has overcome tremendous social and economic hardships by the self-reliance, determination and hard work of the people of Bayview/Hunters Point
At 13, LaDiamond was already running in the streets and “a little wild,” as she puts it, when she followed her cousin into GIRLS 2000. She spent most of her time gardening with Miss Jackie and learning about cultivation, composting, weeding, nutrition, and different types of fruits and vegetables.
Over 12 years with the program, LaDiamond says she “learned a different way to handle things” and eventually earned a design certificate in permaculture, graduated the Bioneers program and proved herself as the administrative assistant for Hunters Point Family, the paid position she currently holds. LaDiamond is also pursuing a degree.
LaDiamond also learned a different way to cook. “I used to fry everything and I wouldn’t dare touch a vegetable,” she says. “Now I bake—no frying.” She’s also traded a starch-rich diet for plenty of fresh vegetables, a healthy choice she’s passed on to her family.
“GIRLS 2000 always kept me with jobs and offered me opportunities,” she says. “Without the program, I don’t know where I’d be now.” LaDiamond’s own two children, ages 4 and 6, are joining Gilman Rec Connect, a fun activity-filled program of Hunters Point Family, while LaDiamond pursues her degree.
“Saving someone, giving people options, giving someone the help to raise their GPA so they can go to college,” that’s what Hunters Point Family means to Candice.
After her older sister had a baby at 15, Candice felt pressure to stay in school, so she joined her younger sister in GIRLS 2000, the program that helped her focus on her studies, develop skills like bookkeeping and prepare for college. In addition to GIRLS 2000, Candice began her job training in the HPF Healthy Lifestyles program working in the Adam Rogers garden with Mama Sylvia.
“Takai and Lena treat us like their nieces; they always told me, “you’re going to graduate high school,” says Candice of the two Hunters Point Family founders and their high expectations. “They tailored opportunities for me,” she said citing the bookkeeping training and the personal statement for college that she wrote with the help of her HPF case worker. In her first year of college, Candice landed a job at Hunters Point Family as a bookkeeping assistant leveraging the skills she learned during her GIRLS 2000 internship at the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners.
Today Candice manages the Hunters Point Family youth-run fruit delivery business, Somethin’ Fresh and continues her college studies with plans to open her own business one day.
“Peacekeepers influenced my life,” says Victor, who joined the program at 15 and now helps with the younger kids.
“It’s not just a place to hang out. We talk about HIV, how to avoid prison, how to avoid becoming a teen father, all the topics you see here,” he says pointing to a large daily meeting agenda propped on the center table. “Peacekeepers keeps people off the streets and from doing dumb stuff.”
Victor has gone from doing dumb stuff in the past to graduating high school and moving forward. “There should be more Peacekeepers, but we need more jobs, a music studio, more trips to different places.”
Peacekeepers offers personal empowerment training, like the ropes course, plus cooking class, music practice, even employment opportunities, though jobs openings are few. “My goal is to keep my current job at Mobility Plus, get a Class B license then work for MUNI.”
About Brother Mo and Brother Malik, who together lead Peacekeepers and peacekeeping within the Hunters Point community, Victor says, “They keep it real with you. I respect Peacekeepers.”
Meganne Pryor attends the Culinary Arts program at City College, where she perfects her skills at piping buttercream, baking puff pastry swans and 7-layer cakes, whipping up chocolate mousse, flan and crème brulée.
“I want to open my own bakery in Bayview Hunters Point with some of the profits going to GIRLS 2000,” says Meganne, 24, remembering the program that supported her in so many ways over the years. “It will be nice to give back and say thank you.”
When she was 9, Meganne joined GIRLS 2000. “I started out in the garden. It was exciting to learn I could plant food in the backyard and harvest it for the community.” She worked with Mama Sylvia and got help with her homework. She loved it. Soon she was volunteering with the Double Dutch class, going on field trips and overnight camping adventures, a visit to the nail spa, and retreats that encouraged the girls to focus on empowerment and talk openly about topics like home life.
During Meganne’s first job, with Literacy for Justice, she led tours of the community’s toxic sites to inform residents of hazards. “The naval yard is a superfund site,” she points out. “Years ago it was sold to the government for $1 and now we have asthma and other health cases that we didn’t have before.”
Meganne shares credit for her achievements with Hunters Point Family and GIRLS 2000. “The experiences I’ve had with Hunters Point Family, they helped shape me. I had access to resources, information and field trips that weren’t otherwise available to me. I had exposure to different environments and culture, which is invaluable. You can’t put a price on that. Without GIRLS 2000 I don’t think I’d be as successful as I am today.”
“I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. I arrived in San Francisco at 5 years old. I was never treated different. Lena took me in, took my family in, like I was from Bayview Hunters Point.”
For Andre and his sister, Bayview Safe Haven became a second home where they worked on computers, got tutoring, did their homework and indulged in a lot of community fun. Andre also participated in Bayview Safe Haven’s stress management class, job training, martial arts training and retreats, all free.
When budget cuts threatened the Hunters Point Family programs, Andre says “the trips changed but it was still the same staff and they didn’t change their support even though the money changed. They taught us not to limit ourselves.”
Now Andre is employed in custodial work at the San Francisco International Airport. “They [Bayview Safe Haven] inspired me to go out there, gave me the motivation,” he says. “I don’t want to settle. This is my first city job and I want more. Maybe I can get into the Plumbers Union. Everyone in my family is a plumber and my sister is in the Plumbers Union.”
Though Andre is no longer at Bayview Safe Haven, he says “we never lost our relationship. I can call someone from 10 years ago.” And he still volunteers at Bayview Safe Haven events like Thanksgiving and Black History Month. “I’ll phone them to help in the kitchen or wherever they need help.”
“I can honestly say this program works. I did it. And it’s not just for African Americans. We have every race; we don’t discriminate. It’s all one family.” Andre adds, “Statistics don’t lie. Bayvewi Hunters Point is the worst community in terms of statistics and for me to come out of this community with a smile on my face, that should be proof right there. I’m smiling, trying to be successful and I know I’m still not at my peak.”
“My friends were getting murdered on the street,” says Ceabe. “I was going through ups and downs and knew if I wanted my life to go better, I had to step up to the challenge.”
At the time, Ceabe was living with his mother and 6 brothers and sisters in Visitacion Valley. He filled out 7 job applications, including one to the Hunters Point Family Job Readiness Program. “I wanted to be the man my father was and take care of my family.”
Out of 1,000 applicants Ceabe was accepted, but without bus fare he walked more than 4 miles round trip each day to attend the program. “That’s how much I wanted it.”
“At first I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt the love as soon as I walked in.” Now Ceabe enjoys his permanent job at San Francisco Foliage (agreenplanet.com) and recently celebrated his 1-year anniversary with his wife, Keisha. “I’m proud of myself and humbled.”
Looking back to the days of peer pressure on the street, Ceabe says, “I don’t want to fit in. I want to fit out and make a difference for the loved ones who are lost.”