Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) has been a grass roots project from beginning to future. It was organized by hundreds of community members who’ve committed their time and energy to the organization over the past 21 years. In a city that is rapidly changing to cater to the one-percent at every level, CAMP is one of the last remaining truly punk venues in San Francisco. The project is in constant dialogue, continuously involved in a struggle of expression that plays out in a vibrant conversation down its length. Some of this dialogue includes protests against domestic violence, war and aggression, or is in support of transgender activism.
In 2012 a mural by artist Tanya Wischerath honoring trans women activists was just unveiled on Clarion Alley. The mural features images of youth activist Mia Tu Mutch, recently deceased community advocate Alexis Rivera, Janetta Louise-Johnson, and Tamara Ching.
Wischerath inscribed this dedication on the wall beside the mural:
The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot occurred in August 1966 in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. This incident was one of the first recorded transgender riots in United States history, preceding the more famous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. Although San Francisco continues to lead in the struggle for equal rights for the LGBTQI community, trans women are often left behind and in the fight for visibility. This mural is a dedication to the work of just a few trans activists out of many who have tirelessly committed themselves to paving the way for a more just, accepting, and righteous San Francisco.
“Painting this was humbling in all respects, and the work these women are doing and have been doing for a long time is bigger than one mural,” Wischerath told the Guardian in an email interview. The mural focuses on activists who are close to the Bay Area community for a more immediate feel, and was inspired by the fierce queens in Paris is Burning, a 1990 documentary of ball culture in New York.
I related this project back primarily to Jessi Gan’s piece, Still at the Back of the Bus. Sylvia Rivera, a combatant at the 1969 Stonewall Inn Riots, played a major role in sparking the contemporary lesbian and gay rights movement. Gan writes, “some formulations of queer and transgender politics assert the signal importance of visibility” (Gan 297). The stonewall riots are representative of trans people “opting to break the silence” in a way that challenges gender normativity. It is celebrated as queer and trans people “coming out” in a quest for “freedom.” The narrative of the Stonewall Riots and of Sylvia Rivera’s experiences as a trans person of color encourages questions relating to visibility and how that visibility is influenced by power and privilege. Tanya Wischerath’s mural is similar to the Stonewall riots in the sense that it gives a positive form of visibility to the transgender activists it celebrates. However, Rivera’s experiences show that queer/trans visibility “is not a simple binary; multiple kinds of visibilities, differentially situated in relation to power, intersect and overlap peoples lives” (Gan 297). Rivera’s story also shows that relations to power as well as location, influence queer/trans visibility. Institutions of power project gendered and racialized meanings onto people, which means that not all spaces will be accepting of various forms of identity.
SF Mural Arts Website