Would Martin Luther King Jr. rec­og­nize S.F. to­day?

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - OPINION - By John Wil­liam Tem­ple­ton His­to­rian John Wil­liam Tem­ple­ton will host In­no­va­tion & Equity17 at 10 a.m., Sun­day, at the African Amer­i­can Art & Cul­ture Com­plex, 762 Ful­ton St., San Fran­cisco. He will talk about “King’s San Fran­cisco” at 9 a.m., Mon­day, also

Be­gin­ning at age 12, Martin Luther King Jr. spent his sum­mers at his cousin’s house on Scott Street in San Fran­cisco’s Western Ad­di­tion, and walked the streets of the bur­geon­ing nearby Fill­more district. But I won­der if King would feel as com­fort­able in to­day’s San Fran­cisco as he did in the 1940s, when our city rep­re­sented lib­er­a­tion from the Jim Crow in the South.

To­day, San Fran­cisco of­fers the most glar­ing ex­am­ple of dis­place­ment of African Amer­i­cans in the na­tion — King would not rec­og­nize to­day’s Western Ad­di­tion. He also would won­der how in the Bay Area, where Roy L. Clay Sr. pi­o­neered com­puter pro­gram­ming in 1958 at the Lawrence Ra­di­a­tion Lab and was re­search-and-devel­op­ment man­ager for Hewlett-Packard in 1965, so few African Amer­i­cans have jobs in the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try.

In At­lanta and the sur­round­ing area, there are 12,000 more African Amer­i­cans work­ing in tech­nol­ogy than in the Bay Area. In the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., met­ro­pol­i­tan area, there are 15,000 more. It is not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect African Amer­i­cans in the Bay Area to have the same ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy ca­reers as in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

That’s why, on Sun­day, we’re bring­ing tal­ented sci­en­tists, doc­tors, in­ven­tors, teach­ers and le­gal minds to San Fran­cisco to de­stroy the myth of “we can’t find any­one.” In­no­va­tion & Equity17: the 50 Most Im­por­tant African Amer­i­cans in Tech­nol­ogy will con­vene a group of in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors.

Our goal — 10,000 hires in 12 months — ad­dresses that em­ploy­ment dis­par­ity by ask­ing ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, govern­ment agen­cies, in­vestors and em­ploy­ers to make a con­certed ef­fort to reach out among the 450,000 African Amer­i­can tech­nol­o­gists for con­tracts, in­vest­ments, board po­si­tions and jobs so that the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to be a part of what makes the Bay Area so unique.

With 6,000 tech­nol­ogy em­ploy­ers in the area, it would take as few as two new hires per com­pany to reach the goal. Of the 243 San Fran­cisco tech em­ploy­ers we tracked in Sil­i­con Ceil­ing 15, only 18 had a photo of an African Amer­i­can on their re­cruit­ment Web page.

Carra Wal­lace, for­mer chief di­ver­sity of­fi­cer of the New York City Con­troller’s Of­fice, will lead our open­ing ses­sion. She will dis­cuss how to lever­age public fi­nance to trans­form com­mu­ni­ties. Cal­i­for­nia Trea­surer John Chi­ang and San Fran­cisco Su­per­vi­sor Malia Co­hen also will join the panel.

I’ll pro­pose a Nathaniel Bur­bridge in­clu­sive in­no­va­tion cen­ter for the city’s south­east cor­ri­dor to take ad­van­tage of the biotech­nol­ogy and re­new­able en­ergy tal­ent in that area to study the health dis­par­i­ties preva­lent due to en­vi­ron­men­tal in­jus­tice in Bayview Hun­ters Point. Bur­bridge was the first tenured black fac­ulty mem­ber at UCSF and was also the most mil­i­tant NAACP pres­i­dent in the 1960s.

Young King fol­lowed a path that had been paved by W.E.B. DuBois, Carl­ton B. Goodlett and Howard Thur­man, who all came to the Bay Area in the 1930s and 1940s to deal a death blow to seg­re­ga­tion. Thur­man’s teach­ings would form the ba­sis of King’s non­vi­o­lent re­sis­tance.

King saw first­hand as a boy what well-ed­u­cated lead­ers could do to trans­form so­ci­ety. Were he alive to­day, he would be able to tell us how the Bay Area shaped his world view and what he would do if that same sanc­tu­ary were in jeop­ardy.

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