When I learned that Rebuilding Together San Francisco had its eye on the OMI, I knew I needed to volunteer — it offered me the chance to use my camera to assist a great organization and to reconnect with the memories of the “me” who used to live there.
I never referred to the OMI as such — life for me took place in 2 distinct hoods: Ingleside and Lakeview, each with its own character and feel. I was raised Pentecostal and attended church at the Voice of Pentecost on Ocean Avenue in Ingleside. I lived in Lakeview, at 240 Thrift Street, not far from Oceanview Park (where Rebuilding Together will be planting a community garden).
Ingleside has always been a quiet and unnoticed neighborhood in San Francisco. Its center for me is at Ocean and Lakewood, where Voice of Pentecost is located. The church’s color and decor are different now, and a lot of the old members are gone, but somehow it remains unchanged. It still represents the dream of Marilynn Gazowsky, a woman from Arkansas, who felt moved in the 1970s to start a Pentecostal church in San Francisco, to save the city from itself. It still serves an ethnically and racially diverse working class population. It is still a constant in my life, even though I no longer attend church — it comforts me that my Ingleside hasn’t drastically changed.
But Lakeview, just over the hill from Ingleside, used to be pretty rough. I think my favorite Lakeview handle is “Lunatic Village,” coined by RBL Posse, who rapped about the realities of Lakeview dope slinging and cap busting in the 1990s. Although I lived in Lakeview for ten years only two blocks from Oceanview Park, I think I played there twice, and never unsupervised. My father was jumped there once — I’ll never forget how vulnerable and pissed I felt when I saw his two black eyes and pockets ripped from his pants.
When I arrived at Oceanview Park to photograph the plots that Rebuilding Together will cultivate on April 30, 2011, I was happy to see how much the park had changed. The Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreational Center is beautiful! And the playground structure is wonderful — it’s shiny and pretty and was busy with much little people activity that day.
The whole feel of Lakeview has completely shifted. It feels safer, brighter, and more family oriented. I know that it will continue to shift — positively — because of Rebuilding Together’s efforts. I’m so glad I got to return to my old hood and know that it has and will continue to undergo major change, and that I was there to document it.
Written by Emilie R. – Emilie will be taking ‘Before/After’ photographs of a couple Rebuilding Day projects. You can also read more about her story from the “I Live Here: SF” site here, created by another one of our amazing community partners (as well as volunteer & SF resident extraordinaire).