The Church of Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane has been a mainstay on Fillmore Street in the Bay area for nearly 50 years, but due to rises in rent — and gentrification — the church must vacate the premises within two months.
The 48-year-old San Francisco institution received the news during the last service in February. In 1965, John Coltrane played at a jazz workshop in the Bay area where his music unintentionally inspired two of the audience members to found a church in his honor.
Franzo King and his wife Marina created the church to share the love of the jazz legend’s music in 1968.
The church was founded during the 1960s at the height of counterculture, where spirituality and philosophy intertwined with the outdated ideas of culture in America.
“It’s like a funeral,” Archbishop Franzo King joked. “Everybody shows up when somebody’s dead.”
According to The Guardian, “The church has 60 days to leave its home. Its departure will mark the shuttering of one of the few remaining jazz venues in the neighborhood once known as the ‘Harlem of the West.’ ”
“This was the heart of the Black community,” said King. “You could live in the Fillmore, you could work in the Fillmore, and you could go to the bank and cash a check that a Black person signed. It’s not like that anymore.”
The church has Christian religious ideologies that is rooted in the African Orthodox Church. The founders use the jazz great’s music in services and prayer ceremonies because of the spiritual awakening one achieves as they listens. Amazingly, Coltrane was at first considered a god before being reduced to saint status. Within the last two years, Coltrane has been placed on the official list of saints for the African Orthodox Church.
However, the news is not a complete shock. The West Bay Conference Center, the building that houses the church, had not cashed any of the church’s rent checks in the past two years. This is a common practice in the city when a proprietor wants to force a tenant out.
San Francisco has historically been white. The city is one of many “liberal” white cities that has fallen victim to extreme gentrification and Black residents are being forced out because of the exorbitant rent prices.
“They want my community out of the city,” Sister Brahmajyoti Lee, a founding member of the church said. “They want the African culture, but they want to get rid of the people that brought it here and keep it alive.”