Sami Sunchild and the Red Vic
On a Sunday morning 9 a.m. arrives followed by guests filing down the stairs and locals rushing through the front doors. The café fills with voices and laughter as conversations spring up at each table. Near the front entrance there is a table reserved—but not for a private party—everyone is welcome and everyone was invited. It is about to begin and a group of seven gathers around with their attention focused on a woman as they anticipate how their breakfast conversation will unfold.
“What are you doing to contribute peace to the world?” asks Sami Sunchild. Her bright sky-blue eyes, wide with excitement and glistening with hope matched her soft-spoken voice, weathered by age and wisdom.
She explains that they will introduce themselves, describing where they live and what they see when they look out their window so that everyone can learn and share his/her perspective as they discuss what they are doing to make the world a more peaceful place. Thus begins this Sunday morning’s Peaceful World Conversation.
The Red Victorian Bed & Breakfast Peaceful World Center at 1665 Haight St. is Sunchild’s life’s work and permanent residence. It only makes sense that as a single-independent woman she would find peace in San Francisco when she stumbled upon an indefinite opportunity—the Red Vic— back in 1976.
“I want to turn the tourist industry into the peace industry,” Sami says. “That’s my mission, to be getting people off of the tour buses and to be bringing them in to ask the questions: Why am I alive? Why am I here? And what is my greatest contribution?”
Sunchild says that San Francisco is “famous for being open minded and creative,” and that tourists “never touch the heartbeat of San Francisco.” She wants to show people that it is a place that “is alive and full of possibilities, full of living your life.” She says that is why she paints the peace symbol, because it is a universally understood symbol that attracts people.
“San Francisco has been immortalized as the peaceful city of the world,” says Remington Cox, employee of the Red Vic. “The hippie movement started here and Sami… she hasn’t let that dream die.”
Sunchild visually fortifies peace throughout the building. Her therapeutic methods of painting are not only hung for display on the walls, but the building itself is an example of peace and love. The building’s exterior is painted red, even the inside is carpeted in red and “red is the color of love and passion,” says Danielle Barnett, host and tour guide.
Ugyen Dolma, a fellow businesswoman and shop owner of Tibet Styles, just doors down from the Red Vic, has had an ongoing relationship with Sami for the past 10 years and says that she feels the peace and the love from the Red Vic.
“In my opinion, [Sunchild] is one of the most wonderful people I’ve met,” Dolma attests. “She cares for us, cares for humanity, where you come from. She fights for peace. Good people will come to support her.”
Dolma reminisces her first encounters with Sunchild and how she joined in on a Sunday morning’s Peaceful World Conversation.
“I shared everything,” says Dolma. She says that she was amazed by how Sunchild was able to bring everyone to the table to all join in on the conversation. Dolma says it was peace inspiring that everyone was so open and that the conversation was filled with “wonderful moments.”
Kate Hockett, a Red Vic receptionist, says that Sunchild makes those moments happen. Hockett says that people will be seated alone spread throughout the café and Sunchild will walk up to the individuals and introduce people and make conversation.
“The most beautiful experiences come out of it,” says Hockett. She says, “[Sunchild] brings out people’s perspective,” and it’s because “her eye contact is really present… She looks at you and she is looking into your heart.”
Alezeia Brown, a guest from Brisbane, Australia, was on vacation with her partner Justin Wiles and they stayed at the Red Vic and were able to experience the Peaceful World Conversation first hand.
“I felt a bit uncomfortable at first,” admits Brown. “However it was very refreshing just to sit and chat with people about what motivates them and how they intend to make a difference.”
She continues to explain her impressions of Sami.
“Now [that] I have met her and learned some of her story I think her dedication to improving the world one conversation at a time is admirable. Sami is Genuine,” says Brown.
“She’s amazing. [After] meeting her for the first time I feel honored,” Wiles adds.
Though, Sunchild has been accepted by many people, there is still a need for recognition in Haight Ashbury community. Laurie Marshall, Executive assistant and peace networker of the Red Victorian explains that there has been so much negativity on Haight Street, and that many times Sunchild and the Red Vic have been overlooked and misunderstood.
“Sami’s huge focus on building the Red Vic Peace Center has led to a misperception that she only cares about her business,” says Marshall. “She has a heart and mind that encompasses the well-being of the world community on more levels than most people can imagine.”
A local shop worker, June Smith, from Decades of Fashion, just next door to the Red Vic, agrees and hopes that Sami’s peace and love would spread.
“There is so much negativity on this street,” Smith says. “I wish that Sami Sunchild’s mission of peace was more widespread in the Haight Ashbury district.”
Nevertheless, Sami Sunchild is still fighting and she will not give up.
“[Sami] keeps going, when her eyes are stinging, her balance is off and her precious vision is compromised,” Marshall says. “For 30 years, Sami has been a model of bringing beauty, imagination, play and a focus on peace to the street.”
Now an 86-year-old woman, Sunchild sits in her café and recounts how she struggled since she was just a little girl. Osteomylitis, an infection in the bones of her leg, consumed her childhood. She said that as a nine-year-old girl she found her life’s worth after nearly dying.
“I was here for something. [My parents] gave me a feeling that life is worth living and you can contribute something,” says Sunchild.
Sunchild devoted her life to changing the world and promoting peace. She graduated with an M.A. and Ph. D from Columbia Pacific University. Studying Transformational Art and Societal Change established the foundation that led her to greatness through peace.
After living in multiple cultures, marrying twice and adopting two children, Sunchild found the Red Victorian. It became hers, and she had established her life as her own independent person and with that ideology she wanted to create herself as she thought she was.
In 1977 she legally changed her name to Sami Sunchild and even had a name changing ceremony. She had bore the name of three men before, and now she wanted her own. She chose Sunchild, because the sun is the source of life and she says that we are all children of the sun.
As her own woman, Sami Sunchild has only one thing in mind.
“What I’m really convinced is that I want to, as long as I’m alive… I want to keep giving my gift to the world.”
The extensive amount of marijuana sales in recent weeks in the Haight Ashbury has led to police action, according to smoke shops and street dealers.
There has been an increase in enforcement against the offense. Undercover officers have been approaching people in the streets asking if they know where marijuana is sold and when the sale is secured, the arrests are made, according to street dealears.
“I actually went to jail a couple of days ago,” said a street dealer known as Mission. “I didn’t even make a sale or anything. They dismissed all of the charges.”
Mission explained that before the arrest, a suspicious person asking for marijuana approached him. He felt uncomfortable so he denied having any connections to drug sales. He then saw the same person approach every “street kid” on the block asking for marijuana.
“Thirty seconds later they arrested me for sales,” said Mission. He said that once the officer found a seller, seven to eight undercover officers swarmed the dealer and made the arrest.
Similar instances have occurred up and down Haight Street according to shop workers. In front of the store The Cannabis Company at 1334 Haight St. a man was smoking marijuana and was ambushed in the same way.
Eric Rosenberg, piercer at Braindrops just next door to The Cannabis Company remembered the occasion.
“Like eight undercover cops swarmed him,” said Rosenberg. “It was overkill, too many officers for one guy.”
Allan Sprague, manager of the Cannabis Company, said that the man arrested in front of his store is a local “street kid” who stops in on occasion.
“All of a sudden I’ve heard that they are on the hunt for the small-time weed offenders,” said Sprague. He said that customers have been coming in and telling him their stories of their run-ins with these undercover officers.
“There have been 60 to 75 busts in the last two weeks,” said Mission. Even though he and others have been arrested, the dealers continue with their sales, but with more caution, he said.
The San Francisco Police Department was contacted and would not comment on the matter.
Every week happy health-conscience shoppers swarm the lot where Stanyan St. and Waller St. meet in hopes to find delectable goodies grown right here in California.
Luckily, the day that started out gloomy, brightened up with the sun radiantly showing through the clouds just in time for the Upper Haight Farmers’ Market. The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association is a non-profit community service organization that assembles the Californian companies to come together at various markets.
“We are reaching out to the community and trying to share as much information about vegetables and healthy eating and healthy living,” says market manager Luke Walton. “All of the farmers come from California. All of the products are made and grown here.”
Walton says that they try to teach their customers to eat seasonally since they are shopping for locally produced foods. He explains that most of their shoppers tend to buy from business that grow and/or produce their product within 100 miles which helps with them adapt to the seasonal eating.
Not only was there food at the market, there was also a local line of skin-care product called Skincare by Feleciai. Everything at the market was of course California produced and is a way to support the local economy.
Also among the contributors was a Labelgmos.org’s representative spreading awareness of genetically modified foods with a ballot initiative. What better place than Haight Ashbury!
The Upper Haight hosts their farmers’ market every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Make sure to check it out as businesses rotate every week. Oh and if you are still hungry… remember Off the Grid serves up dinner time meals at the same location Thursday Nights 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Another adventurous night in the Haight turned into an event filled experience. I had heard of a couple of things going on and I couldn’t quite decide which to cover so I ended up touching base at multiple places.
First off we have Amoeba Music who kicked off the week with an all ages free show featuring Japanese all-girl rock trio Stereopony.The band that originated in 2007 from Okinawa, Japan, drew in a crowd that swarmed the aisles of Amoeba’s CD racks. People found stools and steps to stand on to get a vantage over the crowd of about 70 people.
The band is currently touring and will be playing at Slim’s tomorrow night April 10 if any of you are interested in going to check that out. Be sure to follow Amoeba on twitter for more upcoming in-store events! Not only do they post what their store is currently doing but they also like to help out with anything music related. So if you are into music they are a great feed to follow.
Oh… and as for my other experience for the night… you are just going to have to wait for it! I will post it tomorrow. Here’s a hint—though I doubt anyone will guess(unless you follow my twitter feed @GonHaight which you should because it is awesome!)—sex and cupcakes. That is all…
Piper’s Shoe Parlor adds to the ever changing Haight
The Upper Haight is a galleria of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes competing in a constantly changing market. A new endeavor—by way of shoes—steps its way up establishing prominence in the neighborhood.
Piper’s Shoe Parlor at 1682 Haight St., dreamt up by brother and sister Justin and Jessica Dega, opened in Aug. 2011. Their shop is a thought-out showcasing of unique footwear revitalizing the soul of the Haight Ashbury shopping experience, according to nearby businesses.
“I think we need more stores like them on the street,” says Lisa Beach, buyer at Aqua Surf Shop. “It’s a refreshing store to have… It’s a good presence.”
Beach explains that the shop adds diversity to the street. Although there are many stores focused on shoes, she says that Piper’s is a “good move for Haight,” because it is a step towards retail growth in the neighborhood.
Justin says that their product is what makes them stand out from similar stores.
“I think we dig a little deeper than some stores,” says Justin. He explains that they look for “unestablished brands,” because they are “willing to grow” as Piper’s itself grows.
Jessica agrees by saying that what makes the store work is the fact that they build a partnership with the companies that they work with.
“It’s actually really nice to work with other companies that are small,” says Jessica. “They understand where you are coming from and they want you to succeed.”
The store has received a warm welcoming thus far and they are glad to be a part of the Haight Ashbury, especially since their location happened by chance.
“It fell into our lap,” says Jessica. She says that they were in the “right place at the right time,” and that they are “happy to be in this location.”
“As of now this is where I want to be,” adds Justin. “It’s an established retail area.”
Maurice Lee, manager of Wasteland agrees that there is no better place for Piper’s than Haight Street.
“I like when shops open up, rounding out Haight Street,” says Lee. “It’s not another ‘head-shop’ so that is awesome!”
Piper’s is still within its first year and Justin and Jessica are in the process of learning their business with hopes for great growth.
“I think a lot is changing on Haight Street right now,” says Jessica. “The fact that this is a new endeavor for both of us and since it’s ours, we want it to work.”
She says that within the next five years they plan to expand to different locations, maybe even different cities and states.
“Really we are just trying to keep and learn where we stand,” says Justin. He explains how eventually they will have a responsibility in contributing to making the street “thrive” by participating in merchants associations, fund raisers and events.
As for now they are putting their passions and experience to the test. The store sells everything from hats, bags, coats and jewelry, but of course their main focus is on the shoes.
“We definitely like to put a lot of effort into finding things that are cool and have good design that maybe people don’t know about,” says Jessica.
“We can finally put everything into it,” says Justin. “We are definitely passionate about shoes… what drives us is our love to find something new.”
Address: 1682 Haight Street
Business Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 a.m to 8 p.m.