S.F. Black Power

There are two Black elected officials in San Francisco, District Attorney Kamala D. Harris, and Kamala HarrisSupervisor Sophie Maxwell. Ms. Harris is a 1986 graduate of Howard University and received a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1990. She served eight years as Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, across the Bay from San Francisco, before entering city politics. She is the first female DA in S.F. She was first elected to S.F. DA in 2003 and ran unopposed to win re-election in 2007. While she identifies strongly with the African American experience, Ms. Harris is not “African-American.” Her father, a professor, is Jamaican American. Her mother, a doctor, is from India. Ms. Harris was named one 2007’s “100 Most Influential Black Americans” by Ebony Magazine.

Sophie Maxwell represents the embattled District 10 which includes Bayview Hunters Point and Sophie Maxwellthe last patch of undeveloped land in the city, the shipyards. Supervisor Maxwell was re-elected in 2006 for her second term but does not enjoy wide support in her district because she consistently sides with developers. Both women may be the last Black elected officials in San Francisco. Ms. Harris reportedly has her eyes on state-wide office, possibly attorney general. Maxwell will be termed out of office in 2010. She may be the last Black representative for District 10. With its rapidly shifting demographics, it's doubtful an African American could muster the needed support.

No longer in power, Willie Brown was San Francisco's first Black mayor (1996-2004) and Speaker Willie Brownof the California State Assembly for 15 years. He was one of the most powerful politicians in the state. How much benefit Blacks got out of having a Black mayor for eight years is debatable. Brown served during the dot com boom and, depending upon how one looks at it, displayed either a pragmatic view or callous disregard for those struggling to stay in the city. He famously remarked, and I paraphrase, San Francisco is an expensive city to live in, and if you can’t affoird it, you just have to leave.