In the 1950s, Blacks in San Francisco didn’t have that many places to go and socialize.
As a result, Peacock Lounge on Haight Street was founded by a group of African Americans in the Fillmore who wanted a place with an inviting atmosphere.
“The Peacock lounge was started in 1955, by seven people who wanted to leave something for their kids,” said Alex Watson, business manager for the Peacock Lounge.
“These seven formed a non profit corporation in 1961, the Unity Mutual Benefit Association, and the Peacock Lounge became a Black-owned, community-based facility, which has remained open and affordable to the community.”
Over the years, various events have taken place at the lounge, including wedding receptions, birthday parties, socials, lodge events and meetings of organizations. But the facility fell on bad times within the last few years, as the neighborhood changed.
One of those who saw the Peacock lounge needed some upgrading was Utuma Belfrey, a San Francisco-based electrician and vice president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
She spearheaded the effort, involving her organization and labor unions to help bring the Peacock Lounge back to life.
“This is the start of Black History Month, and we decided to use this month as a starting period to help renovate the building, making it more accessible to the public,” said Belfry, speaking at the kickoff event for the renovation of the lounge.
“Various organizations ranging from the painters union, electrical workers, Black firefighters and other individuals have volunteered to help improve and modernize this place,” she said.
Among those who attended the kickoff at the lounge were Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Supervisor John Avalos and newly elected State Assemblyman David Chiu.
“Part of what is special about San Francisco are buildings and facilities like the Peacock Lounge,” said Chiu. “Our trades and African American community are coming together at a time when the city is changing, and this is important – to help keep this place open.”
Over the next two months, various members from organizations such as the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, will take the time from their regular work schedules to renovate the Peacock Lounge, including painting, changing the lighting and making improvements on the kitchen.
Shon Buford, a San Francisco firefighter and life-long San Francisco resident says that keeping the Peacock Lounge open is a very important project.
“This, the Fillmore, was once a community that African Americans flourished in,” said Buford. “The Peacock Lounge was a testament to this, as Blacks came here for various events. As blacks still remain in the city, we need to help to keep this place open.”
“This started out as an idea to give the Peacock Lounge some curbside appeal,” said Carl Jones, Northern California president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. “We saw this as an opportunity to help a Black non-profit to stay open, and we are glad we got involved in this project.”
After the facilities are upgraded, the lounge will have live music nights every Friday night, as well as other community events.
“In San Francisco we don’t have to many places that are African American owned and affordable to hear live music and jazz performers,” said Belfrey. “This will be a reality very soon, once this project comes to fruition.”