Since moving to the Potrero Annex-Terrace housing complex in 2001, after living in Bayview for the previous 20 years, Uzuri Pease-Green has become increasingly involved in community activism. She’s especially passionate about issues relating to housing and homelessness, social services, and policing.
She serves on San Francisco Police Department Chief Will Scott’s African-American Advisory Committee and the Community Police Advisory Board at Bayview Station, in addition to participating in procedural justice training – which seeks to improve interactions between officers and the public by emphasizing fairness, transparency, legitimacy, and impartiality – at the SFPD Academy. She’s a board member of Community Awareness Resources Entity, co-founded by her husband, with a mission to “repair the internal hostility” in Potrero Hill’s public housing and “make the neighborhood safe for residents,” which held its fourth annual free Thanksgiving dinner at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center last month. And from Monday through Thursday, Pease-Green drops off food donations to single-room occupancy hotels on Sixth Street and Bayview homeless shelters.
In 2010, Pease-Green’s broad range of neighborhood involvement coalesced into a job as a community builder for Bridge Housing’s Rebuild Potrero project, which broke ground last January. She functions as “the liaison between Bridge and the community, as far as talking to people, explaining to them about the rebuild, getting them to come to the meetings, helping to organize the meetings, helping to put out some of the fires with the rumors that are going around that we’re all going to get kicked out. I wanted to work for Bridge because I wanted to be on the inside to see what they were doing, to make sure we weren’t all going to get kicked out,” Pease-Green said.
A 2013 San Francisco Chronicle article showcased Pease-Green’s “walking school bus,” a program in which she and her daughter, Urell, escorted kids from Annex-Terrace – where, according to the Chronicle, 53 percent of schoolchildren are chronically absent or tardy – to Daniel Webster and Starr King elementary schools to make sure they arrive safe and on time. Volunteers continue the program today, alongside other Bridge Housing outreach initiatives – including a walking club and gardening classes – in which Pease-Green has played a part.
Earlier this year, Pease-Green, a 52-year-old mother of eight and grandmother of 13, graduated from a training program at Emerge California, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the number of Democratic women in political office. The experience prompted her decision to run for District 10 Supervisor, with the incumbent, Malia Cohen, termed out after 2018.
“I’m definitely the underdog,” she attested. Her work at Bridge Housing had taught her the value of being “on the inside” to “lift up the voices” of her community. “A lot of people feel like they’re not being heard or listened to,” she said. “I want to go to each part of the District, because of the fact that what might work in Dogpatch might not work in Bayview-Hunters Point.”
Although other candidates may talk about District 10’s homeless problem, Pease-Green has experienced it firsthand. “I’ve slept on the sidewalk in a cardboard box. I understand. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t say, ‘Oh, I think I’m going to be homeless.’ It’s like a gradual domino effect, and some people don’t know how to pull themselves out of it,” she explained. “A lot of people say you just need to put them in a house, but that’s just not the whole thing to it. People have to be taught how to pay the rent, pay the bills, and not end up homeless again. And then there’s mental health issues and substance abuse issues and violence, domestic violence. There’s a whole array of things that come with that.”
Pease-Green has been clean and sober since March of 2009. She quit alcohol, crack, and cigarettes simultaneously. A graduate of Walden House’s rehabilitation program, she subsequently became a drug counselor there. “My life is an open book,” she stated. “I actually pride myself that I have been homeless and that I have had an addiction and that I’ve overcome both of those obstacles and I’m going forward in a positive way.”
She’s vowed not to forget her period of hardship. “Years ago, I used to run around and I used to carry a broom, and I would try to sweep people’s driveway and try to pull their weeds, and that’s how I fed my addiction. Now that I’m sober, I’ve kept two clients, and I’ve kept the clients so that it keeps me grounded, so I don’t get a fat head. If you get a fat head, you’re doomed to repeat and go back into your addiction.”
She promises to carry this lesson of humility into politics, where, on the Board of Supervisors, her main priority will be “keeping myself open” to District 10 residents and remaining immersed in the concerns of her community, rather than serving “corporate” interests. “I don’t change who I am. I continue to be me. I like people; I like to talk, and I’m boisterous. And I’m not a yes-woman at all,” she declared.
Pease-Green acknowledged that she’s “running against some good candidates” and that she’s “not interested in doing smear campaigns” against them. “[Shamann Walton] is doing what he does, the Board of Education and so forth, and that’s good, but I’m also doing what I’m doing in the community.” She noted that she’s “not using this to go further in the political world. I want to be supervisor; I don’t want to become mayor or become a senator or anything like that. That’s not my focus.”
She hasn’t sought any high-profile endorsements: “I don’t know anybody but the people.” As of October, her grassroots campaign had raised about $2,000. “My community is behind me, which makes me feel really good. I have a lot of people that are behind me a hundred percent,” she asserted. “They’re like, ‘You need to run. We want you to run.’ I say OK.”