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.