Lindbergh Park had to change its name.
The park was named after pilot Charles Lindbergh, best known for making the first non-stop solo flight between New York and Paris.
But he also blamed the United States’ involvement in World War II on the Jewish people, saying they were misleading the American public about the seriousness of Nazi Germany.
Now, thanks to the work of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, the County Board is set to rename the park for a community activist. A final vote is expected Thursday.
“We shouldn’t be honoring racist figures, especially having one in zip code 53206, which is a predominantly black community with some of the highest black male incarceration rates in the country,” said Alan Chavoya , president of the alliance outreach.
The park, located at North 16th and West Nash Streets, is to be renamed in honor of Lucille Berrien, an activist from Milwaukee known for her long history of inspiring speeches and protests for a level playing field in the city.
After exploring why the park was created, the alliance found some interesting answers as well.
In 1927, then-mayor Daniel Hoan was asked to hire 200 police officers to reduce crime in the area. Instead, he hired 50 police officers and created Lindbergh Park.
âAlmost 100 years ago, the mayor recognized that funding more police officers will not stop crime, but community funding will,â said Chavoya. âIt really caught our attention.
âParks, recreational and educational activities – these help reduce crime by involving young people. ”
The goal of spending more money on the community rather than the police is part of the mission of the alliance, which also focuses on police misconduct, racist political repression and economic injustice.
With these goals in mind, the alliance launched a movement to rename the park.
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That’s where Brian Verdin of the Milwaukee Alliance comes in.
Verdin grew up playing in the park. Berrien too, and Verdin was aware of his activist efforts. Not only did she found the Milwaukee Alliance in 1973, but Berrien was also the first black woman to run for mayor, among others.
So in April, the alliance circulated a petition to rename the park to Berrien, garnering the support of 200 people. Next, the group approached Milwaukee County Supervisor Priscilla Coggs-Jones.
âWhen it was brought to me I was 100% okay,â Coggs-Jones said.
Coggs-Jones was elected in April and this is her first resolution. Supervisors Sheldon Wasserman, Willie Johnson Jr. and Ryan Clancy are co-sponsors.
Growing up in the city, Coggs-Jones had known Berrien. Their bond began with the children in foster care. During his lifetime, Berrien raised over 120 foster children and Coggs-Jones also raised one of those children.
When Coggs-Jones first met Berrien, she said, she found a gentle and generous woman. She said Berrien was a pioneer for the Milwaukee community, always fighting for fair rights.
âWhy not name a Milwaukee County park after a woman who embodies all that community is? ” she said.
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Last Tuesday, Coggs-Jones’ resolution to rename the park was recommended to the full council for approval. The board is meeting on Thursday to vote on the matter.
Coggs-Jones said these types of name change projects can have a big impact on the community.
âIf we can change the way we see our community, we can change the minds of our community, and sometimes that starts with educating them about who a person is,â she said.
Chavoya added that this initiative goes beyond a simple name change. It could also generate more funding for the community, including funds to keep the park a clean and fun place to play.
âWe need to fund our communities,â he said. “What also matters is that the community shows its voice and makes sure that people are listening to our community – that’s all we need.”