Time to Embrace ‘Chochenyo Park’

Time to Embrace ‘Chochenyo Park’

Rasheed Shabazz

In Woody Minor’s response to my column about the “official” name of park formerly known as Jackson Park, (“Let’s name it ‘Alameda Chochenyo Park’, Jan. 13), he does not address the central question on my Jan. 17 column: “Did the City Officially Name Its First Park ‘Alameda Park?’” Neither of us has identified any primary sources indicating that the City adopted an official name for the park before the 1909 “christening” of Jackson Park.

Minor thinks that the name “Alameda … played prominently in the proceedings of the Park Naming Committee.” As a Committee member who attended every weekly meeting since September, I’d say that’s inaccurate. Alameda Park was just one of many names considered by the Committee.

Minor writes that “the name “Alameda Park” topped the chart in a community poll.” Kinda. A nuanced analysis might note that that survey was simply one of three polls during the week of Thanksgiving. The first two polls took place during a Nov. 23 Community Forum. There, Ohlone was the most popular followed by Alameda and Chochenyo for second. (I would assume Minor would have known this considering he was present.)

The post-forum “community poll” Minor references was neither a popular vote nor even ranked-choice voting. That survey asked respondents for their top five name choices. Of 625 responses, Alameda received 384 votes, Ohlone 295, Peace 157, Justice 130, and Chochenyo 115. Combined, Ohlone and Chochenyo received 410 votes. Notably, 175 respondents only selected Alameda and no others, skewing the count. Additionally, based on IP addresses, a number of respondents may have “voted” multiple times.

Finally, as the staff report for the Jan. 19 City Council meeting states, based on the self-reported demographics of survey respondents, “the respondents did not represent the full diversity of the community.” (And reading some of the written comments attributed to Black respondents, I’d wager a few people falsified their racial identities — but that’s speculation. Perhaps some Black people want to keep Jackson Park?)

So beyond possible “voter fraud” and the overrepresentation of older, white respondents, the survey was just one of three polls. Instead of blowing off steam and reacting emotionally it might have been better to analyze the data, refute my critique, instead of making false assumptions and inaccurate conjecture.

For those who do not use Next Door and want to evaluate the primary sources for themselves, visit the rename Jackson Park website: (http://renamejacksonpark.word¬press.com/about).

As for the Committee’s recommendation of four names and exclusion of Alameda, other Committee members can speak for themselves — which Jessica Santone does an excellent job elucidating last week (“Putting the ‘Alameda Park’ name in context,” Jan. 13). My rationale for not recommending “Alameda Park” to the Commission is visible in the same survey Minor referenced. (It is often wise not to read the comments.)

Besides the attachment to a Victorian narrative of history, “Alameda” has been promoted as the “neutral” and apolitical response to Andrew Jackson. A number of survey respondents wrote that they did not want the park name changed. But would accept Alameda Park as compromis. One respondent wrote, “Should have remained Jackson Park. Since the Parks department succumbed to political pressure, name it Alameda Park.”

There is a sentiment in our community that our city’s public park should continue to honor the enslaver and human trafficker Andrew Jackson, but if we have to change the name, let’s just go with something “politically correct.” Another respondent wrote, “The original name was Alameda Park, and so it should be its current name. It’s in Alameda’s history, stop changing our history!” Some think renaming Jackson Park is “erasing history.”

One Alamedan wrote to the Recreation Commission, “The name of Alameda Park is a recognition of the history of this park and non-political.” Any name chosen is political. Alameda Park represents the politics of preserving the status quo and, for some, avoiding addressing issues of systemic and symbolic racism — represented by Jackson.

The Committee received over 155 proposed names from four sources: a 2019 ARPD survey, and 2020 surveys by the Coalition to Rename Jackson Park, Park Avenue residents, and the Renaming Committee. As the person who started the petition to rename Jackson Park in 2018, I’m curious: Why didn’t anyone suggest the name “Alameda Park” before the park was renamed? And why didn’t any of the people now insisting on the name “Alameda” support the petition to remove Andrew Jackson’s name?

Personally, any of the top 10 names — including Alameda — would have been better than Jackson, as long as there is educational signage explaining the name change. The top 10 list which included women like Mary Rudge, Asian American leaders like Niel Tam, Fred Korematsu, and Yoshiko Uchida, the Committee recommended four names to the Commission. I would have supported any of them: Justice, Mabel Tatum, Ohlone, or Chochenyo. That position comes from a statement from Raquel Williams, a committee member and member of the Youth Activists of Alameda (YAOA). “Each of these names is a learning opportunity.”

Last Wednesday, Rename Jackson Park hosted a Community Dialogue with members of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, one of many Ohlone tribes. Corrina Gould outlined her people’s history in Huichin and on the land nowoccupied by the City of Alameda. I did not learn that history in Alameda schools. Renaming Jackson Park to Alameda Park or a concatenation with Alameda before Chochenyo” centers the dominant preservationist narrative of Woody Minor and Alameda Victorian Preservation Society. Alameda can honor histories that do not privilege the “City of Beaches and Homes” narrative. If folks want something “original,” what better than the original people?

Embracing “Chochenyo” provides an opportunity for healing. For 111 years, Alameda honored Andrew Jackson, largely responsible for the “Trail of Tears.” In 2018, I recommended “Justice Park” in response to the injustices against Black and Indigenous peoples committed by Andrew Jackson “Confronting racist symbols in Alameda’s public spaces,” Mar. 29, 2018). Uplifting local Indigenous history is the most fitting repudiation to Andrew Jackson and a step towards justice on stolen land.

Rasheed Shabazz is a member of Rename Jackson Park. In 2018, he started the petition to rename Andrew Jackson Park.


Bruce Langley
Bruce Langley's picture

Embrace it? My first choice in the ARPD online survey was Chochenyo. That survey challenged me to self-learn about the people that made this a first community. And, your op-ed inspires me to continue that self-study to know more of them. Thank you for that and your other efforts in making this happen.