Coming from a community that has experienced racism and displacement since the early nineteen-hundreds, San Franciscans of Filipino descent living in the industrial South Of Market Area (SOMA) are raising $65,000 to fund their long-awaited cultural district, which is expected to launch in August of this year. San Francisco’s City Hall has provided the community with a $150,000 grant, $130,000 of which they will use to fund a night market that will kickstart the cultural district.

cultural district

Young Filipinos in early San Francisco. Liwanag.

With the money, they are looking to establish a free-entry monthly festival, to be held every third Friday of every month in the abandoned archaic Mint Building, seasoning it with Filipino music, art, dance and food. So far, they have contracted Joya Velarde, DJ Umami, Mad Noise, among others. As for the food, there will be Mestiza, Mohinga House, the Sarap Shop and other Filipino restaurants will set up their booths at the festival. They group has set up an account on Indiegogo, as we type, they have raised $15,643 which represents 24% of the total amount needed to turn SOMA into the cultural district it once was.

SOMA is home to one of California’s largest Filipino-American communities. Before becoming a “sea of sameness,” the neighborhood was famous for its cultural diversity. In April 2016, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation to allocate a piece of land in the SOMA neighborhood to house to the cultural district the community has been dreaming of. The land encompasses a wide variety of buildings, parks, and community service groups that have served the Filipino-American community for years. The impact SOMA is looking for is to provide a periodical financial return to the locals so they can resist the high tide of deep-rooted gentrification and frequent displacement.

cultural district

After the City Hall has approved granting SOMA Pilipinas a land for the cultural district. WILFRED GALILA.

SOMA Pilipinas is the organization championing the Filipino-American community’s right to culture and they say the project has been a long time in the making. Ada Chan, the organization’s project manager said that the initial formal conception of SOMA Pilipinas as a cultural heritage district was over a decade ago. “But no actions had been taken on the part of the city to move it towards realization since then; it is only because of the activism of the community in response to the current development boom in SOMA that this proposal was able to come forward and be realized.”