Posted April 23, 2020 by Editorial Staff in Art+Culture

COVID-19 and Its Effect on Black Arts in San Francisco

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Pictured Above: BayviewLive Festival
Op Ed Contributor: Tyra Fennell – Founding Director & CEO, Imprint City

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Tyra Fennell

There is a saying that when “white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” African Americans in San Francisco have been fighting gentrification and aggressive outmigration from San Francisco for decades. Now with COVID-19 impacting the Black community disproportionally due to pre-existing disparities such as the alarming rate of pre-existing conditions as well as environmental and economic injustices, the aforementioned issues have been greatly amplified.

How will the impact of COVID-19 translate to Black arts communities and organizations which showcase artists from the African Diaspora? Many of these organizations and artists were already struggling due to low patronage and lack of public arts funding support. Therefore, when we see wealthier institutions with hefty endowments such as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) furloughing or laying off 300 staff members, how will institutions like the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) weather the COVID-19 storm? Currently, MoAD is promoting an online art auction benefiting the museum, one of the many Bay Area cultural organizations experiencing dramatic revenue shortfalls during mandatory closure but how will the rest of the Black arts landscape survive?

There is a saying that when “white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” 
Son of the Tailor

Son of the Tailor at MoAD’s online auction

My background is in the performing arts as a singer/songwriter so I know firsthand what it is like to live gig to gig and how vulnerable many artists feel with the cancellation of festivals and concerts. There is also no foreseeable end to social distancing in sight so artists are unable to plan their recovery by planning future performance and exhibition dates. In 2018, I co-authored legislation in partnership with then District 10 Supervisor’s Malia Cohen’s office to designate the Bayview as San Francisco African American Art and Culture District, which are also supported by the Hotel Tax Fund. The “Hotel Tax Fund” (or “transient occupancy tax”) is a 14 percent tax levied on hotel room charges. This funding may be reallocated to support the pending San Francisco budget shortfall, which could potentially create funding gaps for all of the City’s cultural districts. So where do we go from here to ensure the Black arts community in San Francisco is supported?

So where do we go from here to ensure the Black arts community in San Francisco is supported?

I am currently the founding director of Imprint City, a San Francisco based non profit arts organization that produces large scale events in communities to support its local economy. My experience as both an artist and arts administrator, specifically focusing on providing a platform to African American artists gives me a unique perspective on ways we can support the Black arts community in San Francisco. The Imprint City team is working to reconfigure our Southside and BayviewLIVE festivals, which will include virtual activations and art exhibitions. But how can someone can support the Black arts community in San Francisco?

  • We understand everyone is stretched for resources but please consider donating and re-newing your memberships to Black cultural institutions. No amount is too small.
  • Virtual concerts and performances are popping up through various social media platforms. Please support by watching and donating directly to the artists.
  • Advocate to your district supervisor the importance of supporting Black arts in San Francisco so when public funds are available, those communities and artists are not underfunded or overlooked.

For more information on Imprint City and how to support events like the BayviewLIVE Festival, please visit