Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 8, 2013

Back to the future

Filed under: Alameda, Public Resources — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Look, I don’t want to be the one that pooh poohs everything, that’s not really who I am, but can I just say that the decision to ix-nay the 4th of July Jubilee and replace it with the…and I’m not kidding on the name here, the: Alameda Heritage Day is a pretty lame idea.

“Heritage” while a distinguished word always evokes unpleasant depictions in my head and I think for folks with different background, or shall I say “heritages”, the word might be term that is not as warm and fuzzy as ARPD would want us to view it.   Particularly if used in a historical context.  I guess I’m not understanding what the point of an “Alameda Heritage Day” is.  From the Alameda Patch piece on this:

 funding used for this event will now go towards a new initiative: Alameda Heritage Day.

“We wanted to try something new and fresh,” she said.

The event, expected to be held on Saturday, Sept. 28, will feature an art fair, family activities, music, food and aquatic demonstrations — all of which focus on Alameda’s historical roots.

Now, I get it, can’t forget your past, got it.  But it seems like preserving and celebrating Alameda’s past is pretty well served by the Alameda Museum.   It would seem like a mistake for Alameda to focus on — let’s face it — a whitewashed version of Alameda’s historical roots because I’m pretty sure a Heritage Day celebration won’t focus on things like, oh let’s say when the Japanese internment of World War II cleared Alameda of its Japanese residents, or perhaps the racial covenants that existed that forbid renting or selling houses to people of color, or perhaps the camp-ins at Franklin Park to protest evictions in the 60s, or perhaps, or perhaps the need for the Stargell family (as in Willie Stargell) to file an anti-discrimination lawsuit, or perhaps the fact that because there were no black families living in the South Shore neighborhood so that Terrence Gilmore (yes, that Gilmore) was stopped by the police, or perhaps the segregation of Alameda and Alameda’s schools,  etc and so forth.

As I imagine that those are not the types of Alameda Heritage stories that will be celebrated at the proposed “Alameda Heritage Day.”   Will there be booths depicting the struggles of people of color in Alameda.   Or perhaps there will be a bounce house that duplicates the Franklin Park sit in when fire trucks were called in to hose down the park and the people sitting there.   Or maybe there will be a family activity that will allow folks to understand how it feels to be racially profiled.  New and fresh fun for the whole family!

No, what it probably will be will be pretty photos of Neptune Beach (segregated) or people dressed up in Victorian era garb, but as usual, an incomplete telling of Alameda’s Heritage.

Here’s what an Alameda Heritage Celebration should be, it should be celebrating what Alameda currently is and how that bodes well for the future.   Alameda’s Heritage should be one of amazing innovation and interesting businesses like DOER Marine that builds submerseable machines for undersea exploration.   It should be about new opportunities like the two America’s Cup team which found Alameda to be the perfect place for their amazing crafts.   It should be about VF Outdoor, Peets, Donsuemor, and all the other amazing businesses who have made Alameda their home.   It should be about Alameda’s growing Spirits Alley which — through the amazing craftmanship of those companies — have brought a sense of pride to Alameda.

But mostly an Alameda Heritage Celebration should be about the amazing people of Alameda who represent every race, color, creed, nationality, what have you, out there.   I don’t want to sit around eating tea and crumpets unless it’s served by a British gentleman demonstrating high tea in England next to a booth where they are serving up curry and naan.    Alameda is truly blessed to have an extraordinarily diverse population which belies the perception outside of Alameda about Alameda.   Personally a Heritage Day as described above really does nothing to further the perception of Alameda as ready to step into the future.   So I would urge City staff to reexamine the plans for a “Heritage Day” and make it look to the future and not to the past for inspiration.

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20 Comments

  1. You missed my favorite Alameda heritage story, Lauren. It’s about the time the City Fathers demolished the Native American burial mound and used the remains in paving the streets. Maybe they could work that one into the booth that promotes recycling.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 8, 2013 @ 6:43 am

  2. Perhaps we could suggest an alternative spin on the celebration: “White Guilt Days, A Celebration of Shame in the Island City”. I’ll bet it would be a huge success (I’m not kidding, you may be on to something there.) Heritage Days sounds like one big snore.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 8, 2013 @ 6:48 am

  3. Or we could celebrate the covenants on property on the East End that forbid them to be sold to, well, you know, all sorts of people found undesirable. Those were in force until rather recent times.
    Petaluma has “Butter and Egg Day”, celebrating their status as a poultry capital. They elect some outstanding person to be the “Good Egg” and he/she leads the parade. I kind of like that one.

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — March 8, 2013 @ 6:49 am

  4. That wouldn’t work here, Kate. Too many vegans.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 8, 2013 @ 7:00 am

  5. I always just mentally substitute “Racism” for “Heritage,” and it works out to pretty much the same thing. I cringe at the idea of this city celebrating that. What was wrong with the 4th of July? Too inclusive or something?

    Comment by Ayse — March 8, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  6. Apparently this is still very much in the planning stage, so your letters to ARPD and the newspaper will likely be taken into account. I’m sure the planners would appreciate community input and assistance now rather than criticism later. I’m pretty liberal but I had no idea that some had such a negative reaction to the word “Heritage” although, now that I think of it, it does turn up in conjunction with ultra conservative (angry old white guy) groups. What would be a better name? I’m sure they would be open to suggestions.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 8, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  7. Since our Mayor and City Council represent so many different ethnic heritages — none are what one would have considered a “typical” Alamedan 50 years ago — I’m going to be cautiously optimistic that this will not be a “whitewashed” celebration. If I happen to run into Marie Gilmore or Marilyn Ashcraft, I will mention this, and other concerned citizens should do so as well.

    Incidentally, I moved to the Bay Area from Baltimore, and the two communities I’ve lived in here (Albany & now Alameda) have been orders of magnitude more diverse than anything I encountered there. A lot of the old East Coast/Midwestern cities are still pretty segregated.

    Comment by trow125 — March 8, 2013 @ 9:59 am

  8. p.s. The only reason I mentioned Marie & Marilyn specifically was because those are the two city officials I have had some personal contact with. Obviously if anyone knows Stewart Chen, Lena Tam or Tony Daysog, that goes for them as well…

    Comment by trow125 — March 8, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  9. 3. Kate, have you heard about the Jewish Commie chicken farmers of Petaluma? http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/10728/when-left-wingers-and-chicken-wings-populated-petaluma/

    Comment by M.I. — March 8, 2013 @ 10:17 am

  10. Maybe they could call it Legacy Day with the idea being a celebration of the good things we inherited from previous generations (like the architecture) and the good things the current residents want to gift to future generations.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 8, 2013 @ 10:56 am

  11. What an uplifting post Lauren. A bad bowl of cheerios today?

    Seriously doesn’t every city and town in America have some shameful history to it? What makes Alameda any different? Why should Alameda be immune from the damage some Bad Egg city/county/state leaders inflicted in the past? I’m glad you pulled it together at the end there. Your suggestions about current heritage are outstanding.

    Comment by Sideline — March 8, 2013 @ 11:18 am

  12. Alameda has too much NOT to celebrate…let’s develop plans for a future free from bigotry, exclusion of anyone for their income level, sexual preferance, culture etc. etc. and focus on how, in this beautiful tree lined street community ,we can celebrate a plan for the future for the best of what we CAN be then celebrate that!

    Comment by Helen Sause — March 8, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  13. Sideline: I think Alameda’s “shameful history” is too close to the present to be ignored when we consider the few examples that I mentioned above. Someone reminded me that I forgot to mention that as close as 1990 this community was embroiled in a pretty nasty bit of institutionalized racism which involved the Police Department and their radios. And when we still have people referring in cryptic terms to “those people…” then we still do have problems.

    If we insist on centering a party around Alameda’s history and celebrate it as “Heritage” then you must take the bad with the good. I think the comment by Ayse really crystallizes my issue and a lot of others’ issue with the word “Heritage.”

    If we want to celebrate Alameda then let’s do it properly, but propping up some faux historical ideal is not the way to do it.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 8, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  14. Lauren, re#13 you make a good point on recent history. With the city council mirroring diversity of our city residents. What about the police and fire fighters? Have you any numbers on the percentage of minorities working for these 2 departments?

    Comment by Alameda lurker and resident — March 8, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  15. what about the Italians that were re-located because the Naval Base went into Alameda. I have a friend whose family had to move from the West End to Oakland.
    Of course, the little son had to walk to Alameda to collect rents on properties the family owned.

    Comment by Suzanne Lindsey — March 8, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

  16. How about Alameda Bigoted, Homophobic, Racist, Non-diverse, Beautiful Tree Lined Streets, We Promise to do Better Because Now we’re Really, Really Nice People Acknowledgement Day

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 9, 2013 @ 9:34 am

  17. I rather like Denise’s suggestion of a ‘Legacy’ day.

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — March 9, 2013 @ 10:19 am

  18. The title “Heritage” Day just flew under my radar screen until you brought up its connotations. I initially responded positively to it because it was proposed for a day other than Fourth of July (when people do have other plans with friends and family after the parade) and because I thought the activities planned sounded fun. Maybe an Alameda Unity Day or Alameda Comes Together Day would be more fitting – celebrating Alameda’s diversity today and featuring art, dance, food etc.. from our many cultures. Perhaps the Alameda Multicultural Center could provide guidance. In the 1940’s Alameda celebrated what it called “Western Days”. I have photos of my parents in front of their place on Lincoln and Walnut posing in full western garb. Whatever we do I hope it can be home-grown. I think we do a good job now of celebrating Earth Day in Washington Park. Something on that scale to start with might be nice with a Alameda celebrates its diversity theme.

    Comment by Carol Parker — March 9, 2013 @ 10:53 am

  19. Seriously though, if the city decides to have this thing, I suggest dropping all the modifying adjectives like ‘heritage’, ‘legacy’ and the like just call the thing ‘Alameda Celebration Day’. That should cover everything from the sordid though glorious past, present and future depending on each individual’s persuasion.

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 10, 2013 @ 10:18 am

  20. ARPD welcomes feedback on this new event, including input on the event name, concepts and activities. We are creating a Steering Committee to help plan the event and it is in the very beginning stages of event development. Anyone who is interested in participating may contact me directly at awooldridge@ci.alameda.ca.us. Thank you, Amy Wooldridge, ARPD Director

    Comment by Amy Wooldridge — March 12, 2013 @ 11:41 am


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