Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011-12-20 "African American Art & Culture Complex thriving" by C.W. Nevius from "San Francisco Chronicle"
In 2002, the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition was on the verge of collapse. London Breed, who grew up in the dangerous and infamous (since demolished) Plaza East tower in the neighborhood, was asked by then-Mayor Willie Brown to revive the center.
"There wasn't much money, and the place was falling apart," she said. "The facade was just awful. And there were no kids."
Breed, who was in her 20s and not long out of college, leveraged city funds and some foundation grant money for the complex. That first year she helped put together a Halloween haunted house, then geared up for a December holiday fair. It helped that San Francisco firefighters donated Christmas toys, as Breed knew well.
"I was one of those persons who had to get toys from the firefighters," Breed recalled.
The 11th annual holiday fair was held last Saturday and Breed estimates that more than 800 kids came to get toys, visit a petting zoo, ride a pony, decorate cupcakes and have their photo taken with an African American Santa Claus.
"I saw one little boy sitting down," Breed said. "And I said, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I'm exhausted. I need a break.' "
 It was a nice moment for Breed, who admits that she took the job with trepidation.
"I was actually a little worried," she said. "I knew there was going to be a lot of drama."
And now? The crowd of kids and families validated a lot of hard work.
"I think," Breed said, "Saturday was one of the best days of my life."

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