Bill Sorro

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Bill Sorro


Bill Sorro (1939-2007) was San Francisco activist and the husband of Giuliana Milanese.

Early life

Bill Sorro was born, to a Filipino father and a Spanish/Scottish mother and raised in San Francisco's Fillmore District among African Americans and Asian Americans, and raised his family in Bernal Heights[1].

Venceremos

Bill Sorro danced with the Performing Arts Workshop and planned to make it a career until a trip to Cuba convinced him to work for social change instead.

Sorro and Giuliana Milanese met in Cuba in 1970. They were part of the second Venceremos Brigade, a U.S. group that took trips to Cuba to support the revolution and work side by side with Cubans. The two married in the I-Hotel in 1973[2].

Activism

Sorro was a 25 year trade unionist, socialist and founding member of Ironworkers for Union Democracy in Oakland. He helped build the Asian American Movement as a member of the Kalayaan Collective and the Union of Democratic Filipinos[3].

International Hotel

Bill was best known as a leader in the struggle to save and rebuild SF’s International Hotel (‘I-Hotel.')

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In the late 1970s Bill Sorro helped establish the I-Hotel Tenants Association which fought for years against the evictions of the mostly senior Filipino and Chinese tenants who were forcibly evicted from their homes on the night of August 4th 1977. Afterwards Bill worked with Emil De Guzman, Al Robles and others to establish the Manilatown Heritage Foundation which successfully secured the former I-Hotel site for low-income housing and the new Manilatown Center which opened in 2005[4].

In 1968, the hotel's owner started eviction proceedings against the residents, largely poor and elderly, in order to build a parking garage. Sorro became a major force in one of San Francisco's most memorable and protracted conflicts. The nine-year battle ended in the middle of the night on Aug. 4, 1977, when tenants were dragged into the street. The building was demolished two years later, but the fight over the site's future didn't end[5].

"Bill worked so hard to help get the building up," said Emil De Guzman, president of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, where Sorro served as vice president. "It's good that he could leave us knowing we accomplished that."

Communist Party reformer

In 1991 Bill Sorro, Northern California, was one of several hundred Communist Party USA members to sign the a paper "An initiative to Unite and Renew the Party" - most signatories left the Party after the December 1991 conference to found Committees of Correspondence.[6]

CoC National Conference endorser

In 1992 Bill Sorro, housing activist, San Francisco, endorsed the Committees of Correspondence national conference Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s held at Berkeley California July 17-19.[7]

Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s

The Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s was the Committees of Correspondence's first national conference held in Berkeley, California July 17-19, 1992.[8]

Workshops that were held at the conference on Saturday, July 18 included:[9]

Economic Crisis Homelessness, joblessness, poverty & the enduring economic crisis. What should be the role of the left in shaping strategy and building an effective fightback.

Center for Political Education

In 1999 Estella Habal, Emil de Guzman and Bill Sorro, former I-Hotel Tenants and KDP activists gave talks entitled "Black Liberation Movements in America: A Marxist Analysis". The talks were sponsored by the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism linked organization, the Center for Political Education.[10]

Housing activist

In the 2000s Bill Sorro anchor for a growing housing justice movement in San Francisco, from the Mission Anti-displacement Coalition to the South of Market Community Action Network[11].

References