African-Americans are leaving San Francisco
Joseph Blue has lived in San Francisco for 20 years and toughed out the drastic decline in its black population, a phenomenon that persists despite being recognized for decades as a problem.
Neighborhoods that once thrived with African American culture and black-owned businesses have all but disappeared.
"San Francisco no longer has a viable black community," said Blue, an African American who lives in the Western Addition. "The middle class is gone, and what we have left is underprivileged, uneducated, poor black folks."
San Francisco officials are now calling the thousands of black people who have moved away "the African American diaspora," and the mayor's office is putting together a task force to figure out what can be done to preserve the remaining black population and cultivate new residents.
San Francisco's black population has dropped from 96,000 -- or 13.4 percent of the city -- in 1970 to an estimated 47,000 in 2005, about 6.5 percent of city residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African Americans make up about 12.1 percent of the nation's population overall.
"The decline is phenomenal," said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California.
San Francisco is not alone. From 1995 to 2000, Oakland and neighborhoods of Los Angeles lost tens of thousands of black residents. Not one West Coast city made a list of the nation's top cities for African Americans compiled last year by Black Enterprise magazine based on income potential, the cost of living, proximity to employers and housing costs. Most are in the South and most -- coincidentally or not -- have black mayors.
"We don't even have any black leaders," said Blue, who unsuccessfully ran for supervisor in 2004. "When I moved here, there was a vibrant and enthusiastic black culture that brought its own ethnic mix and vitality. Now, the culture and the political influence have evaporated. The population is so low that it is beyond saving."
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