It began with a yucca tree. Artist, landscaper and chef Binta Ayofemi encountered the colossal knot of trunk, limbs and sword-shaped leaves in a vacant lot in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood in 2021. Across the tree, a dense 10-foot forest of fennel had overtaken the yard, subsuming it again into the wild.
The property had fallen into disrepair within the two years for the reason that adjoining constructing had gone darkish. Sam Jordan’s Bar, town’s oldest Black-owned public home, had closed in 2019, rendering a legendary nook of the Bayview abandoned—till now.
This summer time, Ayofemi will remodel the empty patio right into a barbecue restaurant and “Black Beer Backyard.” The launch is a component of a bigger art work she calls Yard that she plans to unveil with a block celebration in August.
Throughout its 60 years in enterprise, Sam Jordan’s was an essential gathering place for the Bayview’s Black group. Ayofemi purchased the property in 2021, stopping its foreclosures. She additionally co-founded a Black-owned belief to guard the bar’s cultural heritage website, and the group hopes to finally breathe new life into the constructing. The opening of Yard alerts step one in returning the longtime group hub to the general public.
Final July, a joyous block celebration honored the late Sam Jordan, a boxing champion and San Francisco’s first Black candidate for mayor, nevertheless it additionally helped Ayofemi set the tone for her future enterprise. She advised The Normal she plans to host a block celebration on Galvez Avenue—now renamed Sam Jordan’s Method—yearly.
The Black Beer Backyard will function out of repurposed cargo containers sourced from the shipyards of San Francisco and West Oakland. Although she is a chef herself—educated on the culinary incubator La Cocina—Ayofemi plans to collaborate with a to-be-announced anchor tenant who will helm the barbecue.
Yard’s grand opening will coincide with Black August, a monthlong occasion to commemorate Black freedom fighters and political prisoners.
Greater than a 12 months within the making, Yard additionally supplied Ayofemi with a lens by which to find the hidden historical past of the neighborhood. Poring over archival maps of the world’s watershed, she discovered that an Ohlone creek as soon as flowed beneath the tree, explaining why Sam Jordan’s skilled mysterious flooding 12 months after 12 months. She additionally discovered that Black cowboys as soon as managed a cattle run alongside Third Avenue. She mentioned she hopes to honor that agricultural legacy at Yard.
“I need to deliver the historical past of the world into the current,” she mentioned.
The beer backyard additionally goals to assist revive the porch tradition that was as soon as vibrant within the Bayview. Ayofemi mentioned she sees the outside area as an invite for residents to share communal area and search respite from the industrialization that solid a poisonous pall over the neighborhood throughout a lot of the twentieth century.
“We’re conscious of the toxicity, however there’s additionally the potential for regeneration if extra individuals handled the land with respect,” she mentioned.
Initially hailing from Brooklyn, Ayofemi was a recipient of the 2022 Society for the Encouragement of Modern Artwork Award. Her multisensory set up, “Continuum,” was proven throughout a spring 2023 exhibition at SFMOMA that honored the world’s Black and Indigenous residents. Whereas creating the murals, she found that the identical Ohlone creek that flows beneath Yard extends from the Bayview to SoMa—coursing beneath the museum itself.
“I’m very fascinated by the websites we stroll by each day and the senses that may be reawakened by our ancestral and reimagined areas,” she mentioned.
A longtime resident of the Bayview, Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods herself, Ayofemi is at the moment crowdfunding for a sliding gate in order that residents can entry the yucca tree from the sidewalk.
Sooner or later, Ayofemi mentioned she plans to broaden Yard’s choices to incorporate a craft distillery. Whereas restoring the courtyard, she found a lean-to that she believes as soon as supplied shelter for a makeshift distillery.
This previous Monday, as Ayofemi defined the lot’s latest transformation, she regularly returned to the yucca tree—a symbolic and tangible basis of the long run Black commons she envisions for this block.
“The tree is the principle character in all of this,” she mentioned with a smile.
📍 4004 Third St.
🗓️ Opening in August 2023