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 Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast Peaceful World Center at 1665 Haight St., played host to the e-book release celebration of Orna Ross‘ new novel, Before the Fall, on Tuesday night.
A group of about 15 gathered to participate in the event that was highlighted with readings from the new novel. Along with Ross, was a three-piece-Irish-folk group that provided a musical breath in-between readings.
People came from all over to take part in the book release, a few even were fellow Ireland-ers, but all were writers and peace-lovers who joined.
The new release, Before the Fall, has a great deal to do with the civil war in Ireland, and the framework is loosely based on Ross’ own observations growing up there.
“I was brought up in Ireland in the 1960’s and 70’s and the civil war quite simply was not spoken about,” Ross said, addressing her audience. “We learned history in school. It jumped straight from our glorious Republican operating of 1916 to the Eucharistic congress of 1932.”
She then continues to relate the book to her own reality.
“The story is told through the life a young woman,” she said. “She grows up in a village knowing that it is divided in two, but never really having that explained to her. She just sort of grows into it like its the air she breathes.”
Through research she finds that the war had torn friends and families apart, fighting on opposing sides and again relates her own experiences.
“I knew that my father’s uncle had been killed in that war and shot by his best friend… and I was absolutely fascinated by that. How on earth could it get to a situation that you would wind up shooting your best friend?” she said to the audience.
Ross continued on with more excerpts from her story. She closed the night with a poem entitled The Writers Calland the night was played out with one last song from the band.
Orna Ross has had a long going relationship with The Red Victorian and the staff, in particularly Sami Sunchild, the owner of the establishment.
“I have returned many times, alone and with my family,” Ross said. Her relationship with the bed and breakfast peace center has been going on for more than 15 years, and throughout that time, she has worked on numerous writings within its walls.