Members of a unique San Francisco institution—a Black-run church and concert space dedicated to pioneering jazz saxophonist John Coltrane—learned on Wednesday (February 24) that they had a week to move out of their space.
Reverend Wanika K. Stephens of the Saint John Coltrane Church told Bay Area outlet KQED that she found a notice from the Sheriff’s Department on the church’s door saying that all belongings must be removed by March 2.
The church is the latest casualty of the Bay Area’s notorious gentrification and sky-high cost of living. It was one of two jazz-specific venues in the city’s Fillmore Jazz Preservation District, and one of the few remaining organizations run by Black residents in what used to be the West Coast’s answer to Harlem. While expected, the eviction notice came only a day after the city’s Board of Supervisors honored the church and its founders.
Archbishop Franzo King and Supreme Mother Rev. Marina King founded the church in 1971, with the mission "to paint the globe with the message of ‘A Love Supreme,’ and in doing so promote global unity, peace on earth and knowledge of the one true living God," referring to Coltrane’s defining album of the same name. Archbishop King spoke at the supervisors’ meeting, condemning those who wished to push out the church:
Our fight then is not for a storefront on Fillmore Street. The focus of our efforts are [sic] to snatch back from the jaws of the defilers of human dignity the rights of Black and brown communities to live and prosper in this city that they have given their labor and their culture.
King also refuted claims from the church’s landlord, The West Bay Conference Center, that the church wasn’t paying rent. She said that the landlords want to replace them with tenants that can pay higher prices.
Church officials have asked both city officials and residents for help via a Change.org petition.