If you walk by the sidewalk of the Shermsonia Laundromat on 20th and Geary in San Francisco’s often foggy Richmond neighborhood, you may catch a sentence of the conversation the manager has started with a neighbor.
“One of the things I like about this job is you get to meet your neighbors. You get to meet them, talk to them,” says Sherman D’Silva. “When I’m locking up and a news story comes on TV, 3 or 4 people will be there and talk about it. Where do you get that?”
Sherman D’Silva is as good a representative of the neighborhood as the Richmond has. He has lived there his entire life, he manages a small business part-owned by his mother, and has an endless knowledge of local affairs.
As he looks out his store window smiling, he points to the next block, “Over there I can see the theatre. I remember as a kid I saw ‘Follow That Bird’ over there. It was a two-movie special with ‘The Man With One Red Shoe,’ it was a Tom Hanks movie. Going to places in the neighborhood with my friends, to me that’s the fondest memory of San Francisco. Seeing the neighborhood grow and expand and get better and get worse. That’s the fondest memory, I don’t know if there’s one particular one. It’s just those everyday things that you do.”
D’Silva has ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors District One office three times. He was first inspired to run by his frustrations with the neighborhood’s infrastructure after seeing a pedestrian be hit by a car while he was doing a laundry delivery at an intersection without a stoplight further east down Geary.
“We didn’t win but we had an impact,” says D’Silva, who received just less than 2 percent of the vote in the most recent election cycle. “I think if we didn’t run, a lot of the issues would not even be discussed.”
When he says “we”, he is referring to his group of best friends from high school, “The friends I grew up with, they’re the ones who help me on the campaign. They want these things taken care of too.
He and his group of friends, all of whom are all lifelong Richmond residents, try to get together a couple times a month. “We go to different restaurants or go for a hike, stuff like that. Just around the area,” says D’Silva.
The son of two Indian immigrants who moved to San Francisco from Kenya in the late 1960s while both countries were under British occupation, he identifies his heritage as one common with his friends, “For me and my friends, we define heritage as kind of your experience. Not necessarily whether a person looks like you. When we talk about something, we know what we’re talking about because that’s our experience.”
He opens, closes, and makes deliveries for the laundromat around the schedule he has with his daughter, who goes to Alamo Elementary School a few blocks away. He will help out in her teacher’s classroom when there are things to be done. When home, they enjoy playing dancing video games on their Xbox 360.
Sherman met his wife, who was raised in China, while they both attended San Francisco State University. At San Francisco State, he got degrees in both business & accounting and Asian American studies. When asked if he did both degrees in four years, he laughs, “Nooo, that was more like 15 years actually. I had to scale back because I was working and taking care of my parents.”
He appreciates both degrees differently. He says of his Asian American studies degree, “For me as a person, I think that degree was more valuable. In business you learn the nuts and bolts for how the world works.”
His two very different pursuits in school perfectly represent the fairness and open-mindedness with which he presents every political issue in the Richmond. “Given a certain set of facts most people will agree. You get divisions when you give people only certain information,” says D’Silva. “A lot of people miss the middle ground. You see it in Washington right now. People are in one extreme and can’t move to the middle.”
Before leaving to deliver a load of laundry, Sherman D’Silva goes on a quick and tediously balanced political tangent about the arguments surrounding minimum wage. He presents both sides of the argument in a way that maybe only a man in small business who also happens to be the son of two immigrants could.