Julius Kahn Playground in The Presidio was named after a politician who led the effort in 1902 to make permanent the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

New name for Julius Kahn Park to be unveiled

A new, community-chosen name for Julius Kahn Park will finally be unveiled Wednesday.

That’s according to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, which announced the unveiling — but not the new name — Tuesday on social media.

Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. members of the Chinese community will host the renaming announcement with opportunity for public comment at the park’s clubhouse on West Pacific Avenue and Spruce Street, in the Presidio.

Pending any reversals in the decision, that name will then be submitted to the Rec and Park Commission for a vote at a later meeting, according to Rec and Park.

It’s been a little over a year since members of the Chinese community, flanked by Rec and Park officials and members of the Board of Supervisors, announced the effort to remove Kahn’s name — and his racist legacy — from a 92-year-old city playground.

Julius Kahn led the effort in 1902 to make permanent the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States. Members of the Chinese community today say that decision, rooted in racism, tore families apart. The act was finally repealed in 1943.

In calling for the Chinese Exclusion Act’s passage, Kahn called Chinese people “morally the most debased people on the face of the Earth,” and portrayed them as criminals. The rhetoric echoes our current national struggles.

“The fact is, history matters,” Hoyt Zia, president of the Chinese Historical Society of America’s Board of Directors, said in April 2018 when the effort to rename the park was first announced.

The renaming was backed by a non-binding resolution from now Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, who has also backed the renaming of Phelan Avenue as Frida Kahlo Way, and Rec and Park Commission Vice President Allen Low.

Chinese for Affirmative Action took an early lead in the effort, which was later joined by more than 30 organizations.

Rec and Park Director Phil Ginsburg also backed the renaming effort, and said last year that Kahn was “on the wrong side of history.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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