Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 16, 2020

Stop the steal: Rec and Park style

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

It has passed by without a lot of fanfare but the Rec and Park Commission has elected to move forward with renaming Jackson Park to Chochenyo Park. It’s a name that was offered as a better alternative to represent Alameda’s Indigenous population in lieu of Ohlone. Of course this still needs to be okayed by the City Council but it’s such a step forward from where we were in 2018 when this topic first arose. Which is why it was rather surprising to hear a commenter at the Rec and Park Commission meeting proclaim that this process was too short.

What isn’t as evident for those either who (1) did not watch the meeting or (2) don’t pay attention to Alameda preservation issues is that there apparently was some major consternation over the name “Alameda Park” not moving forward from the subcommittee level to the Rec and Park Commission for consideration. There were a lot of comments from the public, including incoming City Councilmember Trish Spencer, asking for the Commission to produce the online poll which would show which name came out on top to, I guess, justify their crankiness at “Alameda Park” not being a finalist. In fact, AAPS published one side of an email conversation between Alameda historians about whether “Alameda Park” was the official name or something more casual. Why this mattered, I suppose, comes down to a larger overall discussion about Alameda’s history, legacy, future, and whose history and legacy is told and preserved.

Clearly this is not something that will be resolved in discussing the renaming of one park, but it’s a conversation that should be had and is long overdue because for too long the history and legacy of Alameda has always been told from one point of view. But I digress.

The suggestion that the poll results were somehow being hidden from the public was simply absurd, but even more ridiculous when it came from a former member of the City Council who will be returning to the City Council shortly. Essentially the Rec and Park director said, “yeah I’ll put up the results” and she did. Unfortunately what the “release the vote” folks failed to understand was that the survey was only part of the subcommittee’s process and not the be all end all. After all an open survey is how you end up with Boaty McBoatface. Apparently this ship is now the RSS Sir David Attenborough which probably would have never won a popularity contest on the internet. Also, yikes.

While doing a first pass at listening to the comments this was my takeaway:

One good point made by Commissioner Aimee Barnes about why not “Alameda Park” is that, if we’re looking toward the future and looking to make right past wrongs using a name which — while it is the name of our city — is a Spanish word. And given that the Spanish colonized this land, it probably doesn’t move the narrative forward in any meaningful way.

But this public comment is indicative of the issues that have surrounded this discussion about the renaming of Jackson Park in general. It comes with (1) ignorance of the history around Andrew Jackson in general which is an indictment of our education system and (2) an overarching white grievance shtick which we’ve seen more than our share of this year. It’s worth listening to the whole thing to understand why diverse representation is needed on our Boards and Commissions. And where there is not a lot of diversity, that those members recognize their limitations and seek out diverse representation in the form of subcommittees. Because without that recognition we’d be stuck back where we were in 2018 with Rec and Park members punting on this issue and saying things like “You know the history books I read as a schoolchild are different from the history books now. And there’s a lot of, you know, opinionated history that goes out there now so, it’s like, maybe we figure out, okay who is the historian or what is correct in history and we find out who is that author.” Or “We have to do the grey part.  We have to make the decision of what is good and bad and that is not fact.  That is opinion.  The opinions 200 years ago for slaveholders was probably good.”

That public comment is also indicative of why we need to have a public discussion about Alameda history and who is considered an authority on the topic.


  1. OK- read what Rasheed and Woody Minor had to say and looked at the voting results.

    Argument against Alameda Park- anything in the Spanish language is colonial. It should be named for its original inhabitants. We should ignore the actual results of a community survey because not enough people of color voted.

    Argument for Alameda Park- this was Alameda’s first park, and its original name, and was by far the first choice of all those who voted.

    Park Commission- let’s name it something else.

    Hmmm- for so many years young people used to call this “needle park” as drugs could be scored there. Hopefully this is not the current reality. But in reading about the history of this plot it was clear that the park itself was not created by indigenous people. It was created by developers, named Alameda Park on all early maps, and then renamed Jackson Park in the early 1900s.

    I suppose you could make the argument that developers, and maps are also “colonial” and “capitalistic” and that school children should not be taught in English or Spanish because those are “colonial” languages, but most sane people would reject those arguments.

    The people have spoken- Alameda Park

    Comment by Nowyouknow — December 16, 2020 @ 7:12 am

  2. Suppose there was a public vote on this, like we just had on A/26. Is there any doubt Alameda Park would handily win?

    Comment by dave — December 16, 2020 @ 7:22 am

    • Why would we have a public vote on a park name? Can you point to any other park in Alameda which has put the name to a public vote?

      Comment by Lauren Do — December 16, 2020 @ 8:23 am

      • Why would we have a public vote on a park name? Can you point to any other park in Alameda which has put the name to a public vote?

        Of course we would not do that, hence the use of the word “suppose,” which means to assume, or to imagine, or speculate.

        But if I may ask again, suppose/assume/imagine/speculate there was a public vote. Do you believe Alameda park would easily win?

        Comment by dave — December 16, 2020 @ 9:03 am

        • Of course it would win. People like the familiar. If it goes head to head against Chochenyo (eww too hard to say!) or Mabel Tatum (who?) I have no doubt that the average Alamedan will go for the bland and uninspired.

          Comment by Lauren Do — December 16, 2020 @ 9:09 am

        • So charitable of you to come down and awake us plebes.

          Comment by dave — December 16, 2020 @ 9:15 am

        • You want me to dance around why people would vote for “Alameda Park” and say bullshit like “oh they’re embracing heritage” or “it’s nostalgic”? If you can’t recognize the basic reason why the average Alamedan would vote for Alameda Park over Chochenyo Park or Mabel Tatum Park then you’re either (1) lying to yourself or (2) being deliberately obtuse.

          Comment by Lauren Do — December 16, 2020 @ 9:19 am

        • If you can’t recognize the basic reason why you are trumpeting your superiority vs the average Alamedan by shouting from the rooftops how strongly you support naming it Chochenyo Park or Mabel Tatum Park then you’re either (1) lying to yourself or (2) being deliberately obtuse.

          Comment by dave — December 16, 2020 @ 9:25 am

    • Dave: we have a representative government, from the federal down to the state level, for a couple of very good reasons. One, obviously it would be cumbersome to have the people to vote on every single issue. Second, and more important – we generally expect representatives to have a better understanding of the issues – more time dedicated to researching, more access to resources and experts, more inputs from the public. Your A/26 example is a good one – when virtually every single elected leader (local, regional, state) endorsed appeal of A/26 but the voters went the other way, that was telling. It’s a complex issue, and the average voter probably likely doesn’t know about things like ABAG and RHNA or that building housing is a state mandate, whereas elected leaders do know this. The average voter either votes no to things they don’t understand entirely, or votes for something they are most familiar with (“Alameda Park”). If you were to randomly select 5 Alamedans, and they spent as much time on the issues as the commissioners did, would you still believe “Alameda Park” would handily win? Probably not.

      Comment by DavesNotHereMan — December 16, 2020 @ 8:54 am

  3. Putting easier questions, such as the former Jackson Park, to one side, if we are to anticipate future reckonings in Alameda with the past of this country (while keeping in mind one author’s postulate that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”) when it comes to re/naming public property, we might discuss how we would handle another matter (matters, in fact) of our own that is very similar to the one that San Francisco is in the process of addressing

    Comment by MP — December 16, 2020 @ 8:38 am

    • I’ve been thinking a fair bit about this and I wonder if we’re — as a society — too precious about the permanence of the naming of our public spaces. When I look at this process of renaming Jackson Park while, in this case, it was to stop honoring someone who probably should have not been honored in the first place in the future we should probably be looking the process of renaming as something to honor someone who may not have been around when the public spaces was first created but has a meaningful connection to this city and that space which would spark community conversations about why we’re honoring that person.

      Specifically, I’m thinking about one of the finalist names for this Jackson Park renaming: Mabel Tatum. A lot of people don’t know about her because her history does not get told by our traditional historic legacy gatekeepers. But if there is anyone with a tie to a specific park whose bravery and courage at a time when it came at great risk to her deserves recognition and whose story deserves to be told: it’s her.

      Comment by Lauren Do — December 16, 2020 @ 8:52 am

      • Subject to the risk that any name might have behind it things that in significant ways do not match contemporary views, it sounds like not a bad idea. I have not discovered her tie to frmr Jackson Park, specifically, yet. Instead my quick research revealed a specific connection between her activism on housing issues and Franklin Park. “Mabel Tatum, a housing activist who delivered a stirring speech in 1966 as families protesting impending evictions from the Estuary Housing Project camped in a tent city at Franklin Park in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood.”

        I would add though that if we as a community don’t know much about Mabel Tatum because of traditional historic legacy gatekeepers, we should probably also blame those same traditional historic legacy gatekeepers for us as a community not knowing much about many of the local names that appear on public spaces that are outside the memories of just about everyone currently residing here, say, e.g. Lum versus Corica, and even Corica among the younger set. Sadly or not, I suspect that even if Alameda’s traditional historic legacy gatekeepers – and assuming there still exists such an occupation – abandoned their posts, there might not be huge rush to get inside unless it is expected that Trumps or Kardashians or how to keep the kids out of trouble or whatever high or low things that keep people tuned into the other channels are to be found inside. But, yes, down with the traditional historic legacy gatekeepers!

        Comment by MP — December 16, 2020 @ 9:42 am

  4. What exactly did Rasheed have to say about this? Where did you read anything that I wrote about Alameda Park, when I haven’t even finished or published my critique yet?

    Senor Woody Minor did not honor my requests, but includes my name in his historical narrative. That says a lot. It’s too bad that the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society didn’t reach out to the individual that started the conversation. Hmm.

    Don’t worry though, I’ll share the citations and analysis you don’t get from the “traditional historic legacy gatekeepers” soon enough.

    Comment by RAsheed ☥ Shabazz (@Rasheed_Shabazz) — December 16, 2020 @ 5:32 pm

  5. I’d go with Mabel Tatum Park. Cool lady, cool name.

    Comment by Alameda Bound — December 16, 2020 @ 6:51 pm

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