A growing SDFP community continues to write the people’s history
By Anna Daniels
On Sunday June 1, San Diego Free Press editors, contributors and supporters celebrated our second year anniversary. There was much to celebrate. Since our inception on June 4, 2012, we have published over 3,000 articles and provided original content seven day a week through an all volunteer effort. New writers with unique perspectives and interests have joined us in the past year and editor Doug Porter of The Starting Line fame published his 500th article. Our growing readership tells us that we have been able to consistently provide relevant content.
The articles we publish run the gamut of news, analysis, opinion, personal interest stories and the arts. What sets SDFP apart from other media is that these articles are all provided by citizen journalists. These citizen journalists often provide information about communities that are ignored, stereotyped and marginalized. We are essentially writing a people’s history of San Diego in which we are not only observers but becoming agents of change too. The potential is clearly there for writers and readers to find each other, talk to each other and act together. Editor Frank Gormlie has often said “If you don’t like the news, make your own.” And we are.
This past Sunday’s celebration was our first multilingual gathering. We slipped effortlessly back and forth between Spanish and English; Rich Kacmar recited some Goethe in German and Mic Porte added a soupçon of French. The other languages we spoke were of politics, the arts and personal reflection. Older and younger sat side by side, attentively listening to each other. We shared food and stories, drank wine and beer in dappled sunlight. A three hour celebration extended to five.
While the Internet enables SDFP to operate on a day to day basis in a de-centralized manner–we have no office– there are benefits and pleasures from having face to face conversations. That is why we schedule joint contributor/editor meetings every few months. Over the past year they have become more social rather than agenda driven. Important work still gets done but in a very different way.
On Sunday we had the opportunity to introduce new contributors and long time supporters to the larger group. A few days after we launched the site in 2012, activist Shelley Plumb was the first person to sign up for our RSS feed. Since that time she has become an engaged reader, providing comments and encouragement while she continues her own advocacy work for the environment, social justice and libraries. The editors are grateful for all of you who believe in what we are doing and are willing to support it by becoming part of the online conversation.
One of our newest contributors is Maria Garcia. She wrote a paper about the history of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights while attending SDSU in the 1970’s. Maria never forgot about the topic over the ensuing decades. She recently resumed her research and has been conducting interviews that have evolved into a unique people’s history of Neighborhood House. It is a fascinating glimpse into the way the Settlement House movement took hold in San Diego’s Logan Heights community–the only settlement house on an international border.
Daniel Gutiérrez has provided a link to UCSD. A member of UAW local 2865, Daniel has reported on labor issues that affect graduate students on the UCSD campus. He is interested in doing field research in Tijuana after his graduation. Daniel’s articles attract an extensive labor and academic readership to SDFP. The interest is clearly there for those topics and as SDFP begins its third year we hope that new contributors will amplify Daniel’s voice. It’s long past time for a weekly labor column and consistent information about what is happening on our college and university campuses.
Editor Brent Beltrán’s family– both the one he was born into and the one he embraced with an abrazo fuerte when he married Olympia–is a source of talent and creative energy. SDFP readers traveled to Peru and Machu Picchu with Brent’s brother Michael. The series was written under the byline of “Mikey Beats.” Mike provided lively weekly installments chronicling how he and his wife got there and what happened next. We enjoyed Mike’s company immensely at the party and hope he will become a SDFP regular contributor.
Brent also introduced the editors to “Junco Canché— our first editorial cartoonist– at the party. An editorial cartoonist has been on the SDFP wish list since we launched. Joaquín (Junco) spoke to me about the influence of Mexican political cartoonist Eduardo del Rio whose comic books on the topics of Marxism and socialism have shaped intellectual thought among the young as well as the old in Mexico.
Eva Posner contacted us last year, asking about how to contribute articles. Her inquiry letter was one of our most memorable, with its fluid prose and intriguing references to her life in the Southeast. Eva is a new arrival to San Diego who quickly figured out her points of entry into local politics. She and her partner recently decided to extend their lease another year. Eva told me that her connection to the SDFP community provided an important connection to San Diego itself. She now has a little boy and it is clear that she is not simply passing through.
Lawrence “Larry” Herzog is also a new contributor. He is a professor of Public Planning in SDSU’s School of Public Affairs. Larry provides a link to the academic and urban planning community. His article “Wildfires: San Diego’s Ecological Elephant in the Room” was published in January 2014. In retrospect, it was eerily prescient. We are looking forward to the release this year of his book Global Suburbs: Urban Sprawl From the Rio Grande to Rio de Janeiro.
SDFP began publication of its second serialized novel Tío Emilio and the Secrets of the Ancestors one year ago. Author Richard Juarez is a San Diego native with roots in Barrio Logan. He is familiar to many of us as the driving force behind Barrio Logan’s first new housing in over 50 years–the Mercado apartments, an effort which culminated in the Mercado del Barrio retail center and the Estrella del Mercado apartments. None of us suspected that he had been working for fifteen years on a novel for young adults. Rich recently read two chapters of the book to enthusiastic Hoover High School students in City Heights.
These new contributors and the those who were unable to attend the celebration bring fresh perspectives and a depth of personal, professional and academic experience to SDFP. Will Falk, Susan Taylor and Avital Aboody made their writing debuts during our second year, while Remy Bermúdez, Mic Porte, Ish von Heindrick-Barnes, Karen Kenyon, Alejandra Enciso Guzmán and Beryl Forman have now joined the ranks of the “original Freepers.” The San Diego Free Press would not, could not exist without their contributions.
We hope these new contributors will become an ongoing part of the SDFP infrastructure. Over the past two years the editors have had an opportunity to work closely with a committed group of contributors that includes Jim Miller, John Lawrence, Norma Damashek, Ernie McCray, Judi Curry, Bob Dorn, Jim Bliesner and Jay Powell. This particular group of contributors has shaped not only what we say, but how we function as a collective. Their interest and wisdom have been invaluable, their sense of humor a life saver in demanding times.
The San Diego Free Press hasn’t been around long enough and doesn’t have money enough to become a well-oiled smoothly run machine. It is much more like a work of art in progress. There are whole parts of the canvas that remain blank, there are many partially realized faces still in the shadows. The possibilities are only limited by our collective imaginations. We are beholden to no one except our fellow editors, writers and readers. That means we can take risks other media outlets wouldn’t consider and we do.
My deepest personal gratification has been to work side by side with editors Annie Lane, Doug Porter, Patty Jones, Frank Gormlie, Brent Beltrán and Rich Kacmar over these past two years and to get to know so many of the SDFP contributors. I have learned something important that transcends covering local news and presenting progressive views. Thank you all.
Are you ready to add to the people’s history in San Diego? Are you ready to help write it? SDFP wants to hear from you.
Author’s Note: I will continue to update this post with the names of contributors which I omitted at the time of publication. I am truly sorry for those omissions. “The imperfect is hot within us” as Wallace Stevens wrote.