The Rev. Amos C. Brown, 74, is the pastor at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco. He also serves as the San Francisco branch president of the NAACP and is a national board member. Brown first came to San Francisco in 1976.
What do you make of the Bay Area's economic boom?
It's principally been going on at the expense of black people, and the marginalized. And that's what troubles me, as it was even in the Gold Rush days -- blacks were excluded from the boom. It's happening again now.
How much, if at all, is the boom benefiting your congregants at Third Baptist and the people you serve through the NAACP? Are there any benefits?
No, there's no benefits from it. Zero. The black population was dislocated in this town (by the redevelopment of the Western Addition). ...There are not enough blacks left in this town to even fill up Candlestick Park. Why did that happen to one group? Why is it that other groups are holding their own, or they're going up? What's odd about black people that we can't have the same equal opportunities as everyone else to fail and to succeed? There is a disadvantage to being black in this town.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The 2010 Census found that San Francisco has 48,870 African-American residents, or 6.1 percent of its population. Candlestick Park holds about 70,000 people.]
What about solutions? What specific policies might help?
There need to be some reparations. And I use that word without being apologetic. Tennyson says in Ulysses: "I am a part of all that I have met." And you mean to tell me that you feel that we don't deserve anything, when you can give reparations to the Japanese for what we did to them when they were in (internment) camps? Here, in this Northern California region. We gave them reparations. We're talking about a collective effort made to empower a people, and there should be millions of dollars made available: for economic empowerment (and) compensation for the deficiencies in education.
For non-black San Franciscans, explain what difference it should make that blacks are leaving the city. How does it affect them?
Diversity, the rainbow, brings quality to the human existence -- even in music. Dr. (Martin Luther) King once said he had the dream that everybody from bass black to treble white would be significant on the Constitution's keyboard. But instead of that dream being fulfilled, instead of us having harmony, there's been dissonance and noise. Because we do not respect everybody's uniqueness and everybody's culture: be they gay or straight, black, brown, yellow, red or white. We ought to have respect for the worth and dignity of all human life.
Curious about the boom/bust cycle that is reshaping the Bay Area? Check out our Boomtown series.