Kirk Crippens: The Point


Chet's Living Room

While reflecting on the African-American community of San Francisco, James Baldwin once said, “This is the San Francisco Americans pretend does not exist.” The Bayview-Hunters Point district, at the southeastern corner of the city, has for years been isolated from the rest of the city and cited as a significant example of urban marginalization. A recent Brookings Institution report identified the area as an “extreme poverty” neighborhood. Yet today, with a new light-rail and other plans on the horizon, the area is the focus of redevelopment projects. The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, a superfund site requiring years of toxic radioactive pollution cleanup, is being targeted for 10,500 new homes. Once an outskirt, Bayview-Hunters Point is on its way to becoming another coveted San Francisco zip code. While the African-American community watches its neighborhood transform, gentrification threatens to undermine its accessibility. Once considered a historic African-American district, displacement is underway.

 In 2010 Kirk Crippens was invited to make photographs of Bayview-Hunters Point. He began wandering the neighborhood with his camera, but the work looked just like what it was: an outsider wandering the perimeter of a community. If the work was going to have any authenticity or power, Crippens needed to connect in a significant way. He decided to attend one of the churches he saw in the neighborhood. In early 2011, he walked into Providence Baptist Church. His life changed that Sunday morning; he was adopted by the congregation of Providence. The church became the lens through which he learned about and connected with the community. Crippens now serves on an arts board in Bayview-Hunters Point, and the church is his home away from home.

 While other projects focus on the gritty, troubled aspects that come from oppression and economic struggle, The Point is a celebration of Bayview-Hunters Point. It features the people who’ve grown up and lived their lives there- the kings and queens of Bayview-Hunters Point.

The Point opens at RayKo Photo Center on September 10th where a host of artists from Hunters Point will be performing: Jesse Sahbi (an artist from Bayview via the Ivory Coast) will be singing and playing guitar, Mary Booker (a legendary Bayview poet and playwright) will be reading poetry, and a small group from the Voices of Providence Choir are also performing! Portraits of these residents and many others will be in the exhibition. Come celebrate this vibrant San Francisco community and meet Kirk Crippens and the luminous people of Hunters Point!