Five years ago I was living in a wonderful apartment. Separated from Hans and living with roommates. A young woman who is an English teacher at San Francisco's prestigious Lowell High School and a woman who used to curate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
It was a wonderful huge place. Wonderful backyard that produced plums and lemons. A kitchen to die for. My room was always bright and cheerful as sunlight would come through the thin white curtains. Where I was staying was an amazing location...as the now defunct Spanganga Theater (which is the cousin for all purposes to the vibrant Darkroom Theater) was around the corner where we were doing a lot of shows and improv jams. It was strange times. Being separated. Being on my own, yet Hans courting me like he had never courted me before.
I was in this apartment for less than three months, when the joy became surreal.
One morning, while taking out the garbage for recycling (something to be painfully honest...Hans and I had never done and I was more than thrilled to finally become a participant in garbage sorting goodness) my roommate comes outside and asked me a question that I will never forget:
Her: (a nice mix of nervous ..tentative and a tinge of "who did we get as a roomie") Shaun? Is there anybody out there that HATES YOU?
I was holding three empty wine bottles when she asked me this at 7:30 in the morning on the back stairs. The response that I gave her is still a little foggy in remembering. I don't know if I said "I beg your pardon" sarcastically like it was a bad joke...or "WHAT?!?" incredulously. She then announced that someone had written hate crime graffiti all over the front of the house.
I was horrified, yet surprisingly it did not sink in at 7:35am that I was an African American woman. It really did not sink in at all.
As I was walking down the long Chicago like hallway of this apartment as though the hallway was "Panning and Trucking" like an Alfred Hitchcock movie taking forever to walk down, all I could think of was "What in the love of all that is holy could be written outside"
I imagined in big block letters "Shaun Landry is a craptastic improvisor" or "Shaun Landry can take her zip zap zop and shove it up her ass" or "Shaun Landry: Taft Hartlied SAG Hack"
Never sunk in...never sunk in that I was black. Never thought about it. I live in San Francisco. I live in The Mission.
Around halfway through this long walk through the hallway my roomie comes from the doorway and says "Never mind...it is (the other roomie).
My other roomie who worked for SFMOMA is Palestinian. This was roughly around the time when the war (thwarting the "Evil Doers"?...I can't remember anymore) started. What I saw on the stoop was pretty horrible:
Die written on the front door.
Die Pig and Die Shit written on the side wall.
Garbage thrown all over the door, front stoop and stairs.
Kill Arabs in big black letter written in front of the house on the street.
I just stood there pretty horrified. It was full fledged Hate Crime nightmare. Something in the 30+ years at that point in time and space that I had only heard about. Only heard about coming from places like the Midwest where I grew up. And geared, towards "My race".
That is when I remembered as I stood in all the garbage that I was black. The horrible irony of it all? It was not geared towards me. If we did not have a small Palestinian flag in our window and instead had a flag from Africa and Ireland in the window...he would have never touched this home. That horrible little shit.
But he did. For his misguided hatred towards Arabs. I was possibly more angry for my roomie than she was. Then again, I probably was not. She was pretty goddamn pissed too.
This is not funny. Oh hell. This is so not even remotely *cute* Some asshole is going to pay.
When you have three politically active women in one home, things occur. When you have active women with dubious PR skills? Shit is NO DOUBT going to happen.
The following weeks became a test of wills between "Prince Charming" and us. I started calling him Prince Charming because that of course is funny to me.
He continued his onslaught of Xenophobic terror not only on our place, but anything around the mission that even smelled of being Arab: The coffee store on the corner of 21st and Van Ness. The Women's Building. He even had the fantastic balls of going to an Elementary School that had mostly Arab children and spray painting there.
When kids from Lowell came to our home and did a beautiful piece of artwork in front of our house to cover Kill Arabs? He retorted with shitting in a bottle and throwing it on the artwork.
When we found that, and the cops were just too slow in stopping this? That is when both myself and my roomie's being targeted realized something that professional artists are good at: Calling the media.
My roomie being targeted got a hold of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Me? It was the first time I used my theater media contacts for not sending in a show date and time. I called Beth Lisick. I called Peter Finch from KFOG. That morning? I called every television station in town.
Gotta love the media. If it bleeds...it leads. For our situation: All the racist graffiti that is fit to print.
So the media blitz began. I called the cops...then called the television stations. The media arrived faster than the San Francisco Police Department. To this very day I am convinced that the police should hook into the call response time of San Francisco's NBC and Fox News.
Our other roomie got a hold of Supervisor Tom Ammiano (how he remembered me on Milk) and he called us directly. Sleep over's were scheduled at The Women's building. Tom showed and did a speech. We showed and did a speech. We camped in front of the women's building to protect it for a night.
Finally we decided to hunt for this guy *ourselves* We assumed correctly with the continual hits that Prince Charming lived at least in a two block radius from us. I started placing flyers around our street. There was one home that had a ripped up American Flag in the window along with a George Bush sticker.
Spider senses tingling. Not to say that this is not an uncommon occurrence to have a beat up American Flag (which if he was really patriotic...that thing should have been burned because it was so torn up) and Bush stickers in the window? But very uncommon when the man is already in office and you just happen to live in San Francisco. I take a flyer, put a small black x in the corner and slide it under his door.
Next day. More garbage and the flyer with the X on it. Now we know where he lives. He lived halfway up the block across the street. Prince Charming is our neighbor.
We web camera out our home in our bay windows and run a line to our television. We all make it a point of giving the impression that all of us have left the house. I do not leave.
From the television in the back room...there is our Prince Charming in broad daylight. In front of our bay windows. He methodically is putting tobacco chaw into his mouth and spitting at our Bay Windows. He waits for a little girl and his family to pass him by. They stop and look at him wondering why he is standing there and leaves. He goes RIGHT BACK to spitting on our windows.
We give the tape to the police. Turns out this guy had numerous records including assault and battery. After the tape and the confrontation and him breaking his parole? All of it magically stopped.
Six months later I moved to my own place. Eight months later? Hans moved back in with me.
"And he would have gotten away with it too...if it weren't for those meddling Arabs and Niggers"
An acquaintance of mine said through the entire month or so ordeal: When did Xenophobia replace house music in San Francisco.
Upon retrospect years later it never did replace House Music. Prince Charming never realized that House Music is much more prevalent here than from whatever backwards world he came from that gave him the uncanny ability to spit upwards to five feet and poo in a glass jar to throw it on someone else's doorstep.
All because of a tiny flag adorned in a window.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.