Petition seeks to rename San Francisco park in remembrance of “Grandma Huang”

Visitacion Valley Playground. (Photo: Rec and Park Department)

Updated on Sep 28:

Petition link: http://chng.it/RWpCggW9TK

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An outdoor playground in San Francisco may soon be renamed to remember an assault victim, associating with a goal to deliver positive messages to the neighborhood.

Yik Oi Huang(黃馬奕愛), an 89-year-old Asian American “Grandma Huang” who lived in the city’s southeastern community Visitacion Valley, was brutally attacked in 2019 while she’s exercising in the Visitacion Valley Playground. After a year of hospitalization, Huang passed away in early 2020.

Community members now are organizing to start a petition to change the name of the public park where the crime was committed to “Yik Oi Huang Peace and Friendship Park”.

Ronald Colthirst, a staff member of a community center in Visitacion Valley, initialized the idea after participating in the community’s gathering events to commemorate Grandma Huang.

“The gathering was very moving, very unique, very powerful”, Colthirst told the World Journal. He wanted the “spirit”, which exhibited within the community in support of coming together rather than instigating divisiveness and hatred, to be memorialized.

It’s rare in the city’s public property renaming practice to include “Peace and Friendship” after a name. Colthirst explained that he wished the park not to be labeled as the playground with a tragic, violent assault, but to create a place of “peace and friendship”, bringing the community together.

Colthirst praised Huang’s granddaughter, Sasanna Yee(余嘉雯), for her efforts after the incident, including unifying the community and advocating for healing, showing her extraordinary willpower.

Sasanna Yee and her grandma Yik Oi Huang. (World Journal archive photo)

Sasanna Yee, now a peacemaker bridging communities as one, said that the community was fractured after the incident, so she wants to use the name of “Peace and Friendship” to bring more peace in the southeastern area and get the community “healing”. She also pointed out that the city government can allocate more funding and resources to the Visitacion Valley area so that the community members can exercise and mingle in the public more safely.

A spokesperson for the Recreation and Parks Department responded in an email saying that the seven-member Recreation and Park Commission has the power to approve or deny the renaming. The typical rename process is:

  1. Submit a petition requesting the name change with signatures from the community members in support
  2. Hold two community meetings
  3. Have the support of the district supervisor
  4. Have the support of the Recreation and Parks Department
  5. Obtain approval from the Recreation and Parks Commission

The office of Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represented the Visitacion Valley area in the local legislature, told the World Journal that “we are 100% on board” of the renaming idea.

The signatures collecting step is unfeasible due to the pandemic. Colthirst said that he is in discussion with the department to find out the requirements for an online petition, and will launch the campaign soon.

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The Chinese language version of the story appeared on the World Journal on Sep. 23, 2020.

Bilingual journalist. San Francisco-based.