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    A Cup of Kindness

    By Joanie Juster–

    As we count the days to the end of what has been a particularly challenging year, I find myself more grateful than ever for even the smallest acts of kindness. In a world filled with conflict, let’s celebrate those who choose to make life better for others around them.

    A Gift of Peace of Mind

    Over the past few years, I’ve been asked to help with a difficult and delicate task: helping to write obituaries for friends or family members. Being entrusted with distilling a loved one’s rich and meaningful life into too-few words is both a deeply-felt honor, and also absolutely daunting. What I’ve found on each of these occasions was that, no matter how long or how well I knew that person, I really knew very little about them at all. Where did they grow up? What kind of family did they come from? What early influences helped mold them into the person I was lucky enough to know? What jobs or careers did they have before I met them? What were their proudest accomplishments, which they would want to be remembered for? Without that kind of information, whatever I wrote felt empty, and my words lacked insight into the fullness of their lives.

    That’s when I realized: when doing estate planning, it isn’t enough to leave a financial and legal paper trail. To really give your loved ones peace of mind, draft your own obituary. It doesn’t have to be fancy—feel free to leave the prose to others. But providing even an outline of your life with all the facts, places lived, dates, and accomplishments will be a tremendous help to those who will be dealing with the aftermath of your departure from this earth.

    None of us is guaranteed how much time we have left. Do it this month, and make sure someone you trust knows where to find it. Think of it as the ultimate holiday gift. Your survivors will be grateful.

    Focus on Community at Tunnel Tops Park, December 10

    Whenever I sit down to write this column, the word I use most frequently is “community.” Each of belongs to a variety of communities, based on our identity, our work associations, our volunteer and social activities, and other traits and activities that bind us to others.

    An extraordinary new book provides a window into some of San Francisco’s communities that have received too little attention until now. Focus on Community is a catalogue of the photographs of Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado, who immigrated to San Francisco in 1928 as part of one of the first waves of immigrants from the Philippines, known as the Manong (“older brother”) generation. Like so many immigrants of that generation, he first supported his family by working in the kinds of jobs most available to people of color at that time: as a janitor and houseboy. Career opportunities for immigrants, particularly immigrants of color, were still very limited at that time. When he returned to San Francisco after serving as a medical technician in the Army during World War II, he enlisted with the Army Reserve for eight years while working as a cook at Letterman Hospital in the Presidio. His workplace became his second home, until he retired in 1975.

    A group photographed by Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado

    But Alvarado also had a hobby and a passion: photography. And specifically, photographing the communities in which he lived and worked. After he died in 1976, one of his daughters, Janet Alvarado, made a remarkable discovery: a treasure trove of over 3,000 4”x5” negatives of the photographs he took throughout the 1940s and 50s. His photographs reflect a very particular community of that time in San Francisco: people of color living their daily lives—working, dancing, attending parties, posing proudly with their cars. They show a side of San Francisco of that period that has rarely been shown before, in luminous black and white photos that capture people, and their community, in relaxed, candid moments.

    Janet Alvarado is an artist also, and as a lesbian of color and cancer patient, has spent many years deeply involved in building community. After discovering her father’s work in 1976, she became the founder and driving force behind The Alvarado Project, a nonprofit community-based volunteer organization of artists, students, and educators, which seeks to foster multicultural understanding, strengthen the community through art, cultural programs, and collect historically significant artifacts and material about the Filipino-American community. She has spent many years carefully stewarding her father’s photographs, worked closely with Stanford University Archives to help archive this valuable collection of photos, and is inviting the public to help celebrate the publication of a catalogue of her father’s photographs called Focus on Community: The Ricard Alvarado Photography Archive at Stanford. The book launch celebration will take place Sunday, December 10, from 3–6 pm at Tunnel Tops Park in the Presidio. Admission is free, but a suggested donation of $10 is welcome. For tickets:

    SOMA Second Saturdays: 3rd Annual Holiday Market

    The LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District is kicking off the holidays with their third annual Holiday Market on Saturday, December 9. The market is an indoor version of their monthly SOMA Second Saturdays, and will take place at SOMArts Cultural Center at 934 Brannan Street. There will be more than thirty vendors and a free shuttle will be provided, courtesy of San Francisco Love Tours, which will be making a continuous loop through SOMA with stops at some of the favorite Cultural District venues, including SF Eagle, Azucar Lounge (opens at 3), Powerhouse (opens at 4), Zozi’s Loft, Leather Etc., and Mr. S Leather.

    But wait, wait—there’s more! In addition to shopping, the Holiday Market will include entertainment. Twisted Windows will be providing ambient performances on the SOMArts stage, along with a special burlesque performance by Alotta Boutté. Visit the PhotoBooth for holiday pictures with Naughty Santa. There are even rumors that there might be elven puppies! And to top it all off, enjoy Kinky Speed Friending. There will be two different rounds of Kinky Speed Friending with PsychoKitty at 12:30 and 2:30. For details & updates:

    Fighting HIV Stigma the Friendly Way

    Long-time volunteer and activist Kelly Rivera Hart recently competed for a title for an organization with which I was not familiar. I had seen the colorful Team Friendly tent at Castro Street Fair, but didn’t really know who they were, or what they did, so I asked Kelly to educate me about this organization’s work, and why he was committed to their mission.

    Team Friendly is a nationwide grassroots movement committed to reducing the stigma of HIV, encouraging testing for HIV, and improving quality of life for those living with HIV in friendly ways—one conversation at a time. The founder, Dave Watt, wanted to create a symbol that would show that he was positive-friendly and invite conversations where people could freely discuss HIV with him, stigma-free, regardless of their status.

    He created a variation of the ubiquitous smiley face from the 1970s. One eye is a negative symbol, signifying people who are HIV-; a plus symbol representing HIV+ people in place of the nose, and the other eye is a black circle, for all those who don’t know their HIV status. The bright smile is meant to welcome everyone, no matter who they are, or what their status. Pins and

    t-shirts bearing the Team Friendly symbol have popped up at LGBTQ+ fairs and bar events over the past few years. Watt has stated, “Mr. Friendly was carefully designed with equal weight for both a positive and a negative symbol. It’s important to me that the symbol is for everyone without indicating the person’s status.”

    After winning the Mr. Michigan Leather contest in 2008, Watt spent a year traveling to over 40 events, talking to people about the stigma of HIV, and passing out Mr. Friendly buttons. His advocacy led to a movement: According to their website, Team Friendly now has outposts in 22 locations around the country. Team Friendly Bay Area, formerly Mr. Friendly SF, grew out of attendees at the 2012 Folsom Street Fair being invited to have more inclusive, friendly conversations about HIV.

    Steve Nunez-Jirgl, who was the first Mr. Friendly SF in 2015, and is now the president of Team Friendly Bay Area, said, “It starts with that first conversation, with us standing by them no matter what their status is. He went on to say that they are constantly evaluating their campaign to be more inclusive.

    The newest Team Friendly ambassadors for 2024, Kelly Rivera Hart and the first Team Friendly Pup, Pup Loadz, were chosen at a competition at SF Eagle on November 21. Rivera Hart shared the following about why he chooses to support the work of Team Friendly: “One out of every seven people with HIV don’t know they have it, largely because of the fear of the stigma towards people with HIV that still exists. It’s time for that to change, now. We are family and we need to be treating each other with more kindness and respect, and work together towards ending this 40-year-old pandemic.”

    For more information on Team Friendly:

    The Greatest Gift

    During this season of giving, remember that the greatest gift of all is the gift of your time and friendship. Being a willing ear to someone who is lonely or troubled can make all the difference in the world—and it costs nothing. Kindness is the greatest gift of all.

    Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.

    In Case You Missed It
    Published on December 7, 2023