Tower District

Soreath Hok / Valley Public Radio

Along Fern Avenue in the Tower District, businesses are boarded up, some lined with graffiti. There’s trash piled in the doorways.

But on this sunny Saturday afternoon, volunteers move brooms along the sidewalk and sweep the debris into boxes. There’s an upbeat feeling about their work. 

 

 

One of the cleaning crew is Kacey Auston. She grew up in the Tower and is now leasing the former Bank of America building on this street. It’s still empty but she plans on opening a marijuana dispensary called Cookies Fresno. 

 

The sale of Fresno’s historic Tower Theatre is raising concerns among businesses and residents. The buyer, Adventure Church, currently holds Sunday services at the theatre. But according to Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, that’s a violation of current zoning laws. 

“We researched our land use and code on what is authorized and we have gotten a determination that actually the current use of religious assembly is not allowed,” says Soria. 

 

Traditionally, the Reel Pride Film Festival draws thousands to Fresno’s Tower District for one of the nation’s biggest celebrations of LGBTQ cinema. But in response to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers have turned this year's festival, which takes place this weekend, into an online event. To learn more about what audiences can expect, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with the festival director and board president Kathleen Arambula-Reyna.

Fresno Rogue Festival

This weekend and next, take a chance on Fresno’s Rogue festival, an annual tradition in the Tower District that has performers and attendees bustling from show to show. 

To preview the fringe festival, we spoke to Donald Munro who covers art and culture in the San Joaquin Valley on his website, The Munro Review. We talk about how the festival has changed over the last 19 years, and how Munro decides what shows to see: he starts with a program, a block of time, and open expectations. 

Roque Rodriguez

And now for the Weekend, it’s time for Fresno’s Annual Swede Fest where amateurs and sometimes expert filmmakers take scenes from their favorite movies and remake them with friends and family using lots of household props. We hear from one of the founders, Roque Rodriquez.

 

Diana Oliva

This year, the Reel Pride Film Festival is celebrating its 30th year in Fresno. It’s the sixth largest and sixth longest running LGBTQ film festival in the country. 

"Year 30 is extremely important because it shows the perseverance and persistence of our community,” said Kathleen Arambula Reyna, the director and board president of Reel Pride.

 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

We’ve looked at how redlining has influenced the development of certain regions in the city of Fresno, but what about the history of a particular neighborhood? One tract of homes in the Tower District is turning 100 this year. Those homes, in the so-called “Wilson Island”, have been recognized for their architectural significance and the social influence of their early inhabitants.

Jeannine Raymond lives in the Tower District today, and just published a book about those homes called “Fresno's Wilson Island, and Rosanna Cooper Wilson, the Woman Behind It.”

On this week’s Valley Edition: Allegations of sexual abuse against a popular valley priest have led to a vocal outpouring of support for him that some argue prevents victims from speaking out. Later, we learn about a student art project that tells the stories of survivors of sex trafficking.

And we talk to the creators of a new graphic comic book that gives readers a picture of Fresno’s redlining history and how that plays out today. We also meet Fresno’s new Poet Laureate Marisol Baca.  

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.