To do so they removed a statue of a founding father, diplomat and stateman: Ben Franklin.
If Tacoma residents had any class they’d boycott the park and make efforts to remove everyone involved in this “woke” white guilt action.
On Monday, Metro Parks Tacoma continued the trend of local institutions rightfully reexamining the names we’ve bestowed on important places, and — in the process — took a small step toward better reflecting the city it serves.
Since the 1930s, the roughly 20-acre park in Central Tacoma at 1201 S. Puget Sound Ave. — between South 12th and South 16th streets — has been named in honor of Ben Franklin, the portly kite flier and founding father. It was an homage contrived largely out of proximity, given the nearby elementary school that bears the same name.
Now, a unanimous vote by the Metro Parks’ Board of Commissioners has changed that.
In a decision that board chair Erik Hanberg jokingly described to The News Tribune as “pulling a King County,” Metro Parks officially renamed the park in honor of Tacoma’s Rosa Franklin, a former nurse and longtime parks supporter who became the first African American woman to serve in the state Senate.
At Monday night’s meeting, Franklin, 93, described the park renaming as an unexpected honor.
“Are you sure?” Franklin recalled asking when she heard the news.
“I used to live in that district. My two kids … went to Franklin Elementary, so you know that was a long time ago,” Franklin said. “I’m so appreciative.”
According to Debbie Terwilleger, Metro Parks’ director of business, administration and planning, the proposal met Metro Parks’ criteria for consideration. She said park staff spent roughly a month researching the idea and, ultimately, preparing recommendation in favor. During a public commend period Monday night, no one spoke in opposition to the move.
The transition won’t be expensive. Terwilleger said, though a final cost estimate is not yet available. Re-branding the park will require a new sign to be made, and interpretive features highlighting Sen. Franklin’s legacy are also planned. The interpretive signage is expected to cost roughly $5,000, she said.
According to Metro Parks board commissioner Aaron Pointer, who is Black, whatever the cost, it’s well worth it.
Renaming Franklin Park in honor of Rosa Franklin carries significant meaning, both symbolic and practical, Pointer said, particularly during Black History Month.
Prior to the renaming of what’s now Judge Jack Tanner Park along the Tacoma waterfront in 2019, Pointer noted, Tacoma didn’t have a single park named after an African American.
Now, it will have two, hopefully with more to come.
That matters, Pointer said. Not only will it provide a concrete example of the work Metro Parks has done to improve equity, inclusion and diversity, but it will serve as an example to Tacoma residents — young and old — of the important role Black Tacoma residents have played in the city’s history.
“I really believe that it means a lot to people — and to kids — to see people who look like them represented in the names of parks and schools and other facilities,” Pointer said. “It gives people inspiration. To some, it might not mean a lot. But to others, it can mean a sense of belonging, and that the city recognizes that our people are a part of the city, and not just something that is disregarded.”
Hanberg, who was one of the first Metro Parks commissioners to discuss the possible name change, said the decision isn’t meant to disrespect or diminish Benjamin Franklin’s impact.
Rather, he said, the idea is to honor a woman of color who spent much of her life living in Tacoma and working to make the city a better place.
Since the decision will require little more than a sign change and residents won’t have to learn a new name for the park, Hanberg described the move as an obvious “win-win.”
“In this case, there was an opportunity to take a name from someone who had not been from Tacoma and had died long before the city was founded and replace it with an icon who is also a woman of color,” Hanberg said. “I don’t think (Ben Franklin) loses anything by having Tacoma change the name … to someone who is actually connected to our city and has done great things for our city.”
According to Metro Parks Board Commissioner Jessie Baines — one of Tacoma’s many young Black leaders — the decision to rename Franklin Park in honor of Sen. Rosa Franklin does help right a historical wrong.
While Ben Franklin’s history is complicated — at one time he owned two slaves but later in life he freed them and became an abolitionist — the truth, Baines argued, is that dead white men are constantly put on a pedestal in this country, despite blemishes or missteps, while people of color have rarely received similar recognition.
Baines described Sen. Rosa Franklin as “a trailblazer” who inspired many Black leaders in Tacoma, including him.
“I think we have to start looking at things that are named after individuals, and we don’t know their history, and then find great stories and people to replace them with,” Baines said.
While no exact timeline was provided for when updated signs will be added at the newly christened Sen. Rosa Franklin Park, Terwilleger said she expects the transition to be completed in the coming months, hopefully with a proper, public dedication ceremony.
Terwilleger described the board’s decision as an example that Metro Parks is committed to “walking the walk” when it comes to better representing all of Tacoma.
“I think the power is that we’ve put out aspirations, and we’re trying to take actions that actually put meaning behind it,” Terwilleger said.