Support these SF AAPI orgs and stop telling the Muni ‘chicken story’

San Francisco is approximately 37% AAPI*, and here at Muni Diaries, we are 2/3 Asian women, the first-generation American children of immigrants, and proud of our heritage. We’ve spent more than a decade documenting life in San Francisco because we love our city. But that love letter can be harder to write in the shadow of violent crimes against Asians in San Francisco and a mass shooting targeting Asian women in Atlanta.

Like all people of color, we were hardly surprised—this is the reality of being non-white in the United States. But we were horrified for the victims, current and future. As Asian women, public transit enthusiasts, and longtime urban adventurers, we wonder how easily it could have been one of us.

Even in our tiny universe of collecting your stories on Muni, race has been a constant. We started the conversation about race on Muni Diaries in 2009 after an audience member made fun of a Chinese stereotype at our live show (henceforth named the Muni Chicken Story Incident). And we continue having these conversations with one another and within our community today.

Early in the pandemic, our Asian-American readers asked, “Do you feel that people are glaring at you on Muni?” We were almost relieved because we were experiencing the same.

The issue of race remains one of our most frequent editorial judgements in story submissions; ethnicity is often included as a descriptor when relaying a tale, even if it doesn’t add anything to the story. It usually seems unintentional, but from our perspective behind the scenes, it highlights how descriptors of “others” are noteworthy, whereas descriptors of the perceived default—white—are not.

Every incident reminds us that we can’t only be philosophically against AAPI hate, we actually have to do something about it every single day. We will continue to make Muni Diaries a fair and inclusive place to talk about our city, and we encourage you to support these San Francisco-based Asian-American organizations who are on the front lines of advocacy.

If you have other organizations to add, and other actions to share, our comments section and inbox are always open to your point of view.

Photo by Right Angle Images.

Muni Art: “San Francisco United” takes the mobile stage

Local art and public spaces go hand-in-hand, and we’re glad that Muni will once again serve as a mobile gallery for the citizens of San Francisco.

SFMTA is partnering with San Francisco Beautiful and The Poetry Society of America to showcase the work of five local artists and five local poets on our hella local public transit system. In its sixth year, the Muni Art theme is, appropriately, “San Francisco United.” Look for the works on display inside 100 Muni buses through April.

The 2021 Muni artists are:

The 2021 Muni poets are:

Congratulations to all the winners! Learn more about the 2021 Muni artists, poets, and poems here.

Though the city is quieter (disquieting at times), storefronts have shuttered, and anxiety pervades our everything, I’m thankful that creativity is still coursing through this town. United, we’ll get through.

The Muni Diaries and San Francisco Diaries podcasts feature stories about life around town—on and off the bus. We’re Muni Diaries on all your favorite listening platforms, so don’t forget to subscribe today.

Pic: SF Beautiful

Your 2020 commute in 10 memorable moments

Here at Muni Diaries HQ, we usually end the year with a fun and lighthearted “Top Most WTF Moments of the Year” type of countdown. But in 2020…where do we even start?

As shelter-in-place became a more permanent fixture of our lives, documenting life in San Francisco, especially via commute tales, took on a different meaning. We saw the uphill battle faced by so many small businesses and venues (like our beloved Rickshaw Stop), and the struggles of essential workers, particularly Muni operators and first responders—many of whom relied on Muni to get around. We’re grateful that we could help share those stories.

So here are some highly memorable moments from your commuter tales, in this Dumpster fire of a year.

Listen to the podcast episode:

Featured photo by @murkyvillagesf

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“Hearts in San Francisco” to inaugurate newest member

If you think San Francisco needs to gripe less and do more, look no further than artists Kurt Schwartzmann and Deirdre Weinberg.

Listeners may remember Schwartzmann from Muni Diaries Live, where he shared his moving story of how Muni drivers provided his only refuge when he was unhoused. Schwartzmann, who lost sight in one eye due to complications from AIDS, dedicated his art series, “Yellow Line,” to the Muni drivers whose empathy helped him survive those difficult times.

He has since paid artistic tribute to other facets of San Francisco life with artist Deirdre Weinberg, who has created public art for more than two decades. The duo first collaborated on beautifying the outdoor dining space for the iconic Buena Vista cafe this summer, and now they’ve partnered on the newest of the Hearts of San Francisco—which have benefited the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation since 2004.

In this week’s podcast episode, we chat with the artists about how they became stewards of a beloved San Francisco tradition.

Listen to Kurt Schwartzmann and Deirdre Weinberg, interviewed by Muni Diaries cofounder Tara Ramroop:

Schwartzmann sent us photos of the heart in progress, from the day that the plain, unadorned, and apparently heavy and rather “voluptuous” heart was delivered to his garage, to the colorful paint drip that the two artists painstakingly created. He sent us photos of the heart in progress:

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Paul Madonna on finding the “Spirits of San Francisco”

Bagging on San Francisco is one of our city’s most time-honored traditions. In a time when negativity might reign especially supreme, two chroniclers of San Francisco got together to create a new book that encourages people to see the familiar in a new way.

This week on the podcast, we chat with artist Paul Madonna, who has just illustrated a new book called Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages through the Unknown City, written by Gary Kamiya. The book features vignettes of the history and topography of 16 different locations in the city. 

Madonna created drawings of San Francisco ranging from a well-known views spanning over the Embarcadero (above), or more obscure corners of the city like Calhoun Terrace in North Beach on Montgomery and Union (see below). You might know Madonna from his series in the San Francisco Chronicle, “All Over Coffee,” which ran for 12 years. As he draws en plein air—from real life rather than photographs—Madonna had to find just the right time of day to depict his subject. Sometimes, he and Kamiya even found themselves in places they weren’t really supposed to be for the good of their project.

We chat with Madonna about bringing San Francisco to life in his art, his choice of depicting city scenes without people, and why he says San Francisco is “never a jealous friend.”

Listen to the conversation with Paul Madonna and Muni Diaries cofounder Tara Ramroop:

Find your own copy of Spirits of San Francisco at your favorite local bookstore. We are bringing you stories of the people and places that make San Francisco the place we call home. Submit your own story to us by emailing us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us @munidiaries on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

Images by Paul Madonna.

Election special: What every transit rider should know about this year’s ballot

With just a few days until the election, we invite San Francisco Examiner transit reporter Carly Graf to talk about this year’s ballot measures that can change the landscape of public transportation as we know it today.

Sure, the pandemic has severely reduced ridership and budget, but public transit’s woes started way before that. With the proliferation of Lyft and Uber, Muni was no longer the only way everyone can reasonably get around town. And on this year’s ballot, Prop 22 stands to change the operations of these ride share companies in a big way. We chat with Graf about how Prop 22 can impact economic disparity, whether Prop B can fix the toxic workplace that was the Department of Public Works, why you should get to know the BART board of directors, and more.

Listen to the interview:

If you haven’t done your early voting, now is the time. And while you’re at it, here’s an idea: Find three people who haven’t voted yet, and help them get to their polling place. Let’s make it happen.

What do you think of their take on the transit-related props on the ballot? We want to hear from you: email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by @krobinsonphotos

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