Artists in the 3.9 Collective are responding to San Francisco’s dramatic loss of African American citizens with work that both reminds us of the city’s vibrantly diverse past and expresses resistance to present trends
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San Francisco’s once-vibrant African American neighborhoods — such as the Fillmore, once known as the “Harlem of the West” because of its jazz scene – have witnessed a dramatic exodus of black people in recent decades. A group of black artists known as the 3.9 Art Collective are responding to those declining numbers with work that both reminds us of San Francisco’s past and expresses their resistance to the present trend. Their name comes from the percentage of African Americans that some predict will remain in the City by the time the next census takes place, in 2020.
The 3.9 Collective’s exhibition, Hiraeth: the 3.9 Collective Searches for Home at the University of San Francisco’s Thacher Gallery, runs until April 21, 2015. The Welsh word Hiraeth roughly translates to a longing for a far-off home — one that may not even exist or has been changed by time or idealized by memory.
For these artists, the idea of Hiraeth expresses a rootlessness that comes not only from the expulsion of black communities through gentrification but also encompasses factors such as the lack of ancestral history because of slavery and the appropriation of African American art and music by mainstream culture. “Our spirit and humanity has been relentlessly under attack, “says 3.9 member Nancy Cato. “As an artist I feel a tremendous responsibility and desire to visually respond to the enormity of being Black in America.”
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