The African American Out Migration Report:
More Wallpaper?


Aileen HernandezWhen San Francisco’s declining Black population became a national news item, Mayor Gavin Newsom convened a task force to study the problem and offer recommendations to address it. He dubbed it “The African American Out Migration Task Force,” and called on one of the most distinguished women in the country to head it: Aileen Clark Hernandez. The Brooklyn N.Y. native and longtime San Francisco resident has a distinguished history of public service and activism.

When she appeared at the public hearing to discuss the findings of the task force in the chambers of the S.F. Board of Supervisors on August 7, 2008 Ms. Hernandez was both elegant, in a pink suit and her trademark wide-brimmed hat, and eloquent as she spoke in a voice that was at times exasperated.

“I have been doing this since 1962,” she said. “We could paper the walls of this building with the reports that have been made on this issue. If we are really serious, we need a vision. This is a city that still has a problem with discrimination.”

As for the task force findings, it paints a bleak picture of San Francisco's native African American population, or what's left of it. Moderate and middle-income Blacks have, for the most part, left the city. Two-thirds of the African Americans left in San Francisco are considered “very low-income.” Many are living in dilapidated public housing. Nearly half of all public housing residents are occupied by Blacks. And what would be a devastating statistic anywhere, but much more so in San Francisco, one of the hi-tech capitals of the country, only 25 percent of African Americans over the age of 25 have graduated from high school. Unemployment among Blacks is 10.4 percent, the highest in the city. The homicide rate among young Black men is also the highest. In every category, by every standard of measure, against every other racial group, African Americans ranked at the very bottom. Not “near” bottom. At bottom.

The recommendations included: improve schools in poor areas, provide better housing and job training, hold events to boost self-esteem for Blacks and provide poor areas with Wi-Fi access to bridge the digital divide. Ms. Hernandez, however, didn’t give the impression she believed the city was actually going do anything.“San Francisco gives the impression of being liberal and caring,” she said, “but that's all it is, the impression.”