Shame on San Anselmo – Votes to Keep Slavery Honored

No Name Change for Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

At their meeting on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, the Town Council of San Anselmo considered the renaming of Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Calls for changing the name of the 40 mile road, that crosses several Marin incorporated and unincorporated jurisdictions, surfaced amid the Black Lives Matter campaign that followed the death of George Floyd during an arrest last year in Minneapolis. The name Sir Francis Drake is offensive because of the 16th century English explorer’s ties to slave trading and colonialism. A change of name should recognize Colonialism differently, for the land stolen and ensuing genocide, by – as an option – the acknowledging of Marin’s Indigenous people, the Coastal Miwok.

The San Anselmo Council voted 3-2 against a proposal to give the boulevard a historic designation. In a separate 3-2 vote, Council rejected renaming the boulevard by the end of 2022. Since both motions failed, it resulted in no action being taken and there was no direction to bring the item back to a future Council meeting.

SAN ANSELMO SIR FRANCIS DRAKE BLVD. By Melanie Nathan

The Two Council members who voted for the name change were Vice Mayor Alexis Fineman and Steve Burdo. Burdo proposed changing it next year to give residents and business owners more time to prepare

According to the Marin IJ, Town Council member Ford Greene noted: “The overall tenor of the people in San Anselmo is not in support of this.” He proposed an historic designation but opposed a name change. I find his vote and comment extremely shocking: Does the tenor make it right? Here a man who has stood so firmly on progressive ideals for the town is caving to politics to retain his voters. He side-steps the values of an average progressive to fail the anti-racist vote this new era demands. Slavery was popular in its day – did that make it right? Green should have stood up for principle and failed us!

Mayor Brian Colbert, the only person of color on the Council, suggested pushing the decision off until 2022, but the council made no plans to revisit the topic next year. He should have voted YES! Instead he provided the excuse that San Anselmo residents are “focused on making it through the pandemic, preparing for wildfire season and other issues.” (IJ) “The naming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard simply is not top of mind for most people in our community,” he noted!

How outrageous and unconscionable an excuse is that! If this kind of ridiculous “we cannot focus on more than the pandemic” notion were applied universally our world would be in trouble. We would not be having a trial for the officer who murdered George Floyd – “because there is a pandemic” – and nor would Minnesota be settling the Floyd family civil lawsuit for $27Million – “because is a Pandemic”. Since when are we NOT ABLE to attend to a name change during a Pandemic. More difficult things have been accomplished by those less empowered! If I can direct and implement the feeding of LGBTQI refugees in Kakuma Camp in Kenya during a Pandemic, all the way from here in San Anselmo, and much more, surely the Town Council has the ability to focus on pandemic and implement a name a change at this time.

To overlook and turn our backs at this critical time in history when, we as predominantly white people, are called upon to stand tall with BLM and for racial equity, is reprehensible. There will be no other time to make this statement and my message to the Town Council is that YOU as leaders should not in an instance like this listen to tone or assert inconvenience, but should rather show courage and real leadership. Shame on YOU!

I am angered by this! Especially because with the reputation that San Anselmo has as a “white town” – and notwithstanding their recent drive to appoint an Ad Hoc Racial Equity Committee, it should have found its moment of amends and failed in a baseless excuse-filled cowardly submission. Hence, given this outcome, I am unable to continue to serve my Town. I must step down from my appointment by the Town Council to the Board of Review for San Anselmo. I Resign! I will email my formal resignation next week, with a statement as to why I can no longer serve this Board!

When push comes to shove – San Anselmo you can make all the excuses you want and subscribe to reasoning that protects business and convenience, however that is shameful. Here you have an opportunity to make a form of amends for the past and look at your miserable excuses. Your fragile white inconvenience stands ahead of grave injustice and you turn your back.

I am hoping other San Anselmo Residents will speak out and that the voice for change will be actually heard, if it is there! 

Excerpts from my Article written March 10, 2021:

When I moved to Marin County in 1995, ten years after immigrating to the United States, with Los Angeles my first stop, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was back in Apartheid South Africa. Marin was the white Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg, Marin City was Alexandria Township, Oakland was Soweto – and need I say more! Well okay this: – I noted that these enclaves were divided according to race, a seeming compliance with a “Group Areas Act” akin to that insidious hallmark of Apartheid South Africa. Upon studying the history of the ‘lay of the land” as it pertained to property ownership and legacy wealth in Marin – I was right! It just happened differently. The racial divide is less spoken – and equally institutionalized!

Immediately wanting to understand and hoping to exert my experience of South Africa, I joined the Board of Fair Housing of Marin (FHANC) and also served as an appointed Commissioner on the Marin Human Rights Commission. I am not sure that I made any difference at all. For the past 26 years that I have lived here, with raising my daughters here, serving as VP for San Francisco Pride and directing African Human Rights Coalition for LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees, I have seen not a whole lot of change in the lack of diversity, inclusion and equality, in this county. 

I have noticed that we claim the title as ‘one of the most liberal counties in the United States’. And while this claim is made I have watched the vast majority of my neighbors and community – be it in the political or social realms- speak out of the left corner of their mouths while continuing to live out of the right corners of their mouths. Through their votes and much more… AND this is the baton our politicians have continued to hold in the complacent circular relay that has got us nowhere – other than back to this moment – as is further reflected, albeit this age of anti-racism.

This Trump delivered era of anti-racism, and quest for inclusion, equality and diversity still yields a very cowardly Marin – as exemplified by cowardly leadership. FULL ARTICLE HERE

Brian Colbert, Mayor – The ONLY person of color of ALL those presented on this page and he tends conservative in his votes – VOTED NO
Alexis Fineman –  A young woman in her twenties, The MOST courageous /progressive and a lone voice of all presented on this page. VOTED YES
Eileen Burke – VOTED NO
Forde Greene – VOTED NO
Steve Burdo – VOTED YES

Notably the County Supervisors also voted to retain the name with a 4-1 vote! The 40 mile long road runs between Marin’s Pacific coast and the San Francisco Bay, and passes through several different town jurisdictions, all within Marin County. Some passes through the unincorporated areas of Marin County. I wrote about all the jurisdictions votes in my Article dated march 10, entitled: Marin County Supervisors and Town Councils Cowardly on Drake Anti-Slave Name Change, here.

When push comes to shove – San Anselmo you can make all the excuses you want and subscribe to reasoning that protects business and convenience, however that is shameful. Here you have an opportunity to make a form of amends for the past and look at your miserable excuses. Your fragile white inconvenience stands ahead of grave injustice and y9u turn your back.

In conclusion I repeat:

To overlook and turn our backs at this critical time in history when, we as predominantly white people, are called upon to stand tall with BLM and for racial equity, is reprehensible. There will be no other time to make this statement and my message to the Town Council is that YOU as leaders should not in an instance like this listen to tone or assert inconvenience, but should rather show courage and real leadership. Shame on YOU!

I am angered by this! Especially because with the reputation that San Anselmo has as a “white town” – and notwithstanding their recent drive to appoint an Ad Hoc Racial Equity Committee, it should have found its moment of amends and failed in a baseless excuse-filled cowardly submission. Hence, given this outcome, I am unable to continue to serve my Town. I must step down from my appointment by the Town Council to the Board of Review for San Anselmo. I Resign! I will email my formal resignation next week, with a statement as to why I can no longer serve this Board!

When push comes to shove – San Anselmo you can make all the excuses you want and subscribe to reasoning that protects business and convenience, however that is shameful. Here you have an opportunity to make a form of amends for the past and look at your miserable excuses. Your fragile white inconvenience stands ahead of grave injustice and you turn your back.

I am hoping other San Anselmo Residents will speak out and that the voice for change will be actually heard, if it is there! 

By Melanie Nathan
African Human Rights Coalition
(nathan@africanHRC.org)
Executive Director
AfricanHRC.org
Speaker: Melnathan.com
Blog: Oblogdee.Blog
pronouns: she / her / hers

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