In the last decade the African-American population of San Francisco shrank by more than 22%, while the Asian and Latino populations grew by 11% and the white population decreased by just 12.5%. Black San Franciscans now make up less than 6% of the entire city.
In 2005, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom convened the San Francisco African-American Out-Migration Taskforce and asked them to study out-migration trends in order to try to stem the outflux. The task force, made up of civic-minded citizens, academics, and government employees toiled four years to produce a report (pdf), released in 2009. But nothing came of it.
The University of San Francisco revived the issue Wednesday night at a panel discussion called "The State of Black San Francisco,” which pulled together business, academic, political, activist and spiritual community members to try and look at the problem from all sides.
“The bottom line is who we are as a city is, in fact, and in ways we don’t even acknowledge, deeply infused with the African-American experiences," said Rhonda McGee, a task force member and professor of Law at USF. "And we lose our soul when we lose that component of who we are."
McGee noted that at a population peak in the 1970s, African Americans made up almost 14% of San Francisco's population. Many worked in the Hunter’s Point Shipyard or in Butchertown, where the city's slaughterhouses were located. But as those industries shut down, workers left.