Mission block party benefits women, immigrants

By Tenzin Shakya & Molly Rosenthal, staff writers

The bi-annual “Party on 18” block party was held Saturday to support the Women’s Building and other non-profit organizations that benefit low-income immigrants in San Francisco.The Women’s Building, is an organization “promoting social change to improve the status of women and girls through education, capacity building and collaboration.” The event was held between Dolores and Guerrero Street and was focused towards celebrating the Mission District All money allocated from the event was put towards employment and housing–the biggest issues facing illegal immigrant women in the city, according to Executive Director Teresa Mejia. The funds directly support the Building’s free grocery, tax advice, financial and technology education programs.

According to San Francisco Women Against Rape’s website, “In 2004-2005, over 13,000 people accessed SFWAR’s wide-ranging programs and services for survivors of sexual assault.”

Dr. Janelle White, Executive Director of SFWAR and Professor of the Women and Gender Studies Department said, “The numbers are not going down.” According to White, the numbers continue to rise and more women are in need of support and resources.

During the event, Bautista Rocio stood by her table and sold bracelets, earrings, and necklaces from her boutique on Mission Street. Rocio, an Ecuadorian immigrant felt as though she didn’t have many options when she migrated to San Francisco. Three years ago, she discovered the Women’s Building, which has since helped her open and successfully conduct her jewelry shop.

“The center has a lot of diversity and support of people,” said Rocio.

Rocio said the Center helped her obtain a work permit to clean houses and nanny. The benevolence of the Building’s services and staff inspired her to volunteer for Mujeres Unidas y Activias–a project organized by and for new immigrant women to educate them on their rights and available community services.

Deportation of illegal immigrants due to the lack of proper paperwork is an issue Graciela Orozco, SF State Counseling Coordinator has been following quite extensively.

According to Orozco, the effect of deportation on children of immigrant families are being neglected.

“Children are being affected with many different types of psychological problems,” said Orozco. “Nobody’s paying attention to them.”

According to Rocio, free services to develop self-esteem and self-sufficiency for women and children are available through the Women’s building. GirlVentures, an in-house organizations arranges hiking, camping, and kayaking adventures to help young women develop and express their strengths.

The proceeds were also distributed to Buen Dia Family School, an organization that facilitates self-confidence building in immigrant children.

Michelle Galli, stood at the Women’s Building booth, where she also works as an intern, passing out flyers and greeting guests. She said,”The best thing about the services at the building is that they’re free.” This usually leaves attendees surprised with wonders about paying.

Galli, who is also an S.F. State Alumna studied World Development and Spanish. She was drawn to the vibrant mural on the exterior of the Women’s Building, which intrigued her to work there.

“First I was just drawn to the mural, but I also wanted to work with immigrants.” The Mural, spanning from the group to the top of the building and wrapping around the east side, is a vibrant depiction of the contributions of women throughout time and history. It was painted nearly fifteen years ago and designed by community organizations in the Mission

SF State student Orquidia Gomer, Biology major is currently the receptionist for the Women’s building. She is the first person women talk to when they walk into the building. According to Gomez, the most common problem facing women in the Mission District is tied to domestic violence, and the Women’s Building helps in battered women cases and provide workshops to build [women’s] self-esteem.

The event also united popular neighborhood businesses such as Regalito, Tartine, Delfina, Bi-Rite, and Kasa to serve partygoers. Attendees purchased food and drink tickets in exchange for gourmet pastries, barbeque from a pig roasting, and specialty salads and ice creams all donated by the volunteering restaurants and grocers.

“It’s our community and people need it,” said Sam Mogannam, Bi-Rite owner since 1974 and cuisine manager for the event. “People get stuck behind their iPhones and computers too often. Being out here is real way to give back to the community.”

The only paid attraction was the live music–a quartet performing songs for children followed by a three-piece girl band that the young ones equally enjoyed.

Photo Credit Kevin Henderson

The event closed with a country style pie-eating contest where locals could sign up to judge. A DJ spun old soul records after a family African jazz band finished their impromptu set from their open garage.

“It’s not about making money,” said Rachael Hurbert owner of Dolores Park Café. “The Women’s Building is the meeting center for our community. It’s the people in our neighborhood that make us who we are.”

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