Recently, while going through some papers I found a print out of an article that appeared in the SF Chronicle about seven years ago, it was a response to a poster campaign by the San Francisco Print Collective and the Coalition on Homelessness. The posters produced all dealt with the issue of homelessness and how the city of San Francisco has reacted and specifically then mayor, Willie Brown. There were about 10 designs that were screen printed and they were wheat pasted throughout the city. My poster had the image of a man holding a machine gun standing in front of a shopping cart with the text “How Many People Do You Need to Start A Revolution…There Are 15,000 Homeless in San Francisco…Is that Enough?”
When I started working on my poster I remembered a discussion we were having while I was doing an internship at the COH. We were talking about solutions for homelessness, one person brought up the idea that we should all march out to the SF armory and take all the guns and march to City Hall demanding to be heard and our issues addressed.
There was also the book by Leslie Marmon Silko, The Almanac of the Dead, where she writes of the Army of the Homeless which bands together in preparation to take back the stolen goods and land from the wealthy. I always thought that her idea of the Army of the Homeless was out there, she talked about youngsters who left home and old Vietnam vets all whom were waiting for the moment when revolution came and they could join in. Her portrayal of the Army of the Homeless was not a romantic one, and that’s what the sad part was, the reality of it. It was people who had ended up on the “outskirts” of society, people who had been failed by modern society people who had no choice but to look for another way to survive and exist with dignity.
After reading the article again I was pretty upset, I think the writer could only see “addicts trading their AK-47s for a quick fix”, not being able to imagine what it would be like to be part of a movement of people with a purpose at the same time dealing with issues of drug abuse and mental health. A movement of people banding together to change their situation and take their destiny into their own hands.
I think writer missed the point but there were countless others who were inspired by the poster. A few months later while putting up posters against the war in Iraq a guy came up and asked me about the poster. It turned out he had seen the posters when they were first put up in the streets, he said they had inspired him and expressed how much the poster with the guy, the shopping cart and the machine gun meant to him. In the end that was who the poster was for, people who field disenfranchised, people who have been failed by society and struggling to keep living in a dignified way.
Here is the link to the article from the SF Gate Website: I’m going to Disneyland.