Movers and ShakersPersonalities

Movers and Shakers in San Francisco

By Julissa James

High achievers on our radar this month, from Bay Area heavyweights to the next generation of power players.

Ryan Coogler

Illustration by Olivia Wise.

He boasts “Wakanda forever,” but the Black Panther director’s roots run deep in the Bay. “When people ask me where I’m from, I tell them the Bay Area and there’s a sense of pride there,” Coogler said in an interview with Rolling Stone. This awards season, Coogler’s blockbuster film earned an Oscar nomination for best picture and became the first major superhero flick to win best performance by a cast in a motion picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. When the Academy Awards rolled around, the film nabbed three of the six Oscars for which it was nominated. Black Panther isn’t the first of Coogler’s films to give African Americans and their stories a platform. His directorial debut, Fruitvale Station, depicts the tragic police killing of Oscar Grant, played by Michael B. Jordan (who would later embody Wakanda’s antihero, Erik Killmonger). With a Black Panther sequel already in the works, hometown fans are (justifiably) anticipating further greatness.

Vicky Nguyen

Illustration by Olivia Wise.

The NBC Bay Area senior investigative reporter and her team won the 2019 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for “Drivers Under Siege,” a gut-wrenching broadcast uncovering the physical violence Bay Area bus drivers face while on the job. In conversation with the Nguyen, her sense of civil service is emphatic. “That is always the hope of investigative journalism — that you are going to hold people accountable, that you are going to help change laws, change lives,” the USF alumna tells the Gazette. “When it happens, it’s really meaningful.” The award came as a “shock and an honor” for Nguyen, but she says giving these bus drivers a voice and sparking systemic change at AC Transit regarding their safety was the real prize.

Jay Turnbull

Illustration by Olivia Wise.

Who’s to thank for San Francisco’s well-preserved — and breathtaking — historic architecture? Turnbull comes to mind. In fact, the architect just won the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award from the National Trust for historic preservation projects like the Palace Hotel and the Ferry Building. His namesake firm, Page & Turnbull, was one of the first in San Francisco to specialize in such work. In his acceptance speech at the PastForward conference, Turnbull got introspective. “When we speak of preservation today we are really talking of community and continuity,” he mused. “A thought strikes us: Wasn’t it in this room I heard something true? Wasn’t it on that street that I understood something about the heart of this city?” Keep doing what you do, Jay!

Kamala Harris

Illustration by Olivia Wise.

At her recent rally in Oakland, she granted many a Californian’s wish by announcing her 2020 run for the presidency. She opened her speech: “I am so proud to be a daughter of Oakland, California,” eliciting a wave of cheers from the 20,000-person crowd at Oakland City Hall. She continued, “It was just a couple of blocks from this very spot nearly 30 years ago, as a young district attorney, I walked into the courtroom for the first time and said the five words that would guide my life’s work: Kamala Harris, for the people.” A sea of signs printed with the same phrase, now her slogan, vibrated with infectious energy. The bedrock of Harris’ political ideology: morals instilled by her immigrant Indian mother and Jamaican father — both of whom were student activists at UC Berkeley in their day.

Tony Stefani

Illustration by Olivia Wise.

The founder and president of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation has something we all desire: a mission in life. Stefani’s passion to spread awareness on the high number of cancer-related deaths among firefighters is both admirable, and at this point in California’s history, poignant. “Our foundation is extremely concerned about the wildland mega-fires which occurred over the last two years, and the toxic exposures that firefighters faced,” Stefani tells the Gazette. “We funded two separate studies looking into these toxic exposures and the future health of the men and women who fought those fires.” To further its noble cause, the foundation hosts the Art of Fire gala on March 23 at the Palace Hotel.

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