Kyle Borland

Storyteller and strategist at the intersections of cannabis, branding & communications, justice, and Urbanism.

Way of the Whigs

I cried on Tuesday.

It wasn’t for the reason I was expecting - after all, the polls hadn’t closed in Alabama yet - but it consumed me all the same. I never expected to see the news of Mayor Ed Lee’s passing as I scrolled through my newsfeeds that morning. Even more of a surprise was the audible shock and feeling that followed.

I wasn’t particularly fond of Mayor Lee. I didn’t hold any ill will or grudges against him, but I wouldn’t go to bat for the man either. So, when the tears slid down my cheeks and I mourned the loss of a man I never knew, I came face-to-face with a profound, personal change that had occured during my time in the City, under Mayor Ed Lee’s leadership.

Since moving to San Francisco, the rising beams and floors of Salesforce Tower have been my mile markers. Like so many others on their first day in the City, my Lyft/Uber picked me up at SFO and dropped me on a corner of Berry Street with the sun bouncing off the glass highrises. Without a friend in sight or a destination in mind, I made my way around SoMa, taking in the activity. Eventually, I stumbled on the TransBay/East Cut/Call-It-What-You-Want neighborhood to the beginnings of our City’s soon-to-be reigning giant.

Since then, everytime I see SalesForce Tower, I’m taken back to that first day in the City. The grandeur, the business, the loneliness, the opportunity. I always thought that when the tower capped out and the businesses moved in, I’d feel that familiar visceral transition. I was wrong.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017, was the real end of my first San Francisco.

I have only lived here for a short time but, in that, the City has acted out the personal struggles I fought in my head. A time of forced transition - either by tech or time - that neither of us was truly prepared for. All the while, dealing with the residuals of my previous almost decade-long stint in Alabama. Will I be financially forced back to a hostile land? Should I go back willingly? Which fight is more worthwhile: the Heart of Dixie or the Heart of the West?

On Tuesday, my world’s came together. The nation already had its eyes on Alabama and, with Mayor Lee’s passing, both of my homes were in flux. The world held its breath as citadel-like strongholds of both parties were monumentally shaken.

Alabama chose between a pro-choice Democrat or a twice-removed state Supreme Court justice with a penchant for pedophilia. San Francisco had its first mayor die in office since George Moscone was assassinated in 1978 (along with Supervisor Harvey Milk) and, in the process, Supervisor London Breed ascended to become our City’s first black, female mayor.

I didn’t realize it but Mayor Lee represented my initial years in San Francisco more than the building of any tower could. His place in politics, his role in this City’s history and present...all compounded into a sort of avatar I didn’t know I was using. But, I guess that’s what a mayor is supposed to do. They embody the City they represent. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To personify a City, so its people can connect to it in a visceral and lasting way.

Our acting mayor, London Breed, has the chance to do just that for an even greater swath of San Francisco and the Bay Area. For a black woman to helm the richest region in the country — make no mistake, the mayor of San Francisco is the closest thing we have to a regional leader — is monumental. For a black woman who grew up in the Fillmore, a community our racism and our complacency has gutted from the inside out, to serve as the face of San Francisco — the Heart of the West — is what our City, and our country, needs.

As I look back at Alabama from the City That Knows How, I hope they keep at it. Even a Doug Jones win is only one chapter in a story that goes back farther than this City is old. The fights ahead there will be brutal and, as we all know, have often times been bloody. Luckily, Southerners are more than up to the fight. That legacy was on full display Tuesday as 98 percent of Alabama’s black women flooded the electorate, even in the face of historical levels of voter suppression, to reject Moore and his hateful Ole South tendrils.

ALSen 2017

I know many people say that old San Francisco has gone the way of the Whigs (or the modern Republican party) and I’d have to agree. I have been here for a little over two years and am already seeing a different City be born before my eyes. Though I would say, we are blessed to live in this ever-changing chimera of a City. It’s what makes San Francisco, San Francisco. Truthfully, it’s what makes a city, a City. To change is to be human.

That’s why, sometimes, the stars truly do fall on Alabama. Sometimes, a seismic shift — whether by purpose or tragedy — does bring a City back together.

On Tuesday, I cried because a good man died who gave his life to the City I love.

On Tuesday, I cried because black women did what only black women can do, again.

On Tuesday, Alabama and San Francisco — my homes — changed.

On Tuesday, Hope finally jumped out of the box.


This Week was Rough