“The name of the park is very dull -- it doesn’t really say anything about our community,” Regina Sinsky-Crosby said with a sigh as she stared at the Pacific Beach Middle Joint Use Field.
The park located at the corner of Felspar and Gresham streets in PB doubles as a baseball diamond and soccer field. Sinsky-Crosby and Paige Hernandez, both residents of Pacific Beach, recently authored a petition to rename the joint use field the Fannie and William Payne Community Park.
Sinsky-Crosby said William Payne was the first Black teacher hired in Pacific Beach in 1945, only the second in San Diego schools.
“Finding his story is not easy," Sinsky-Crosby said. “It’s getting buried with time. He spent his life dedicated to teaching. He was a French teacher. He studied in Paris.”
Payne wasn’t welcomed with open arms at the then-Pacific Beach Junior High School, however.
“Nineteen hundred residents of Pacific Beach signed a petition asking that he be removed from his position,” Sinsky-Crosby said. “Because he was Black.”
That’s why she and Hernandez are specifically trying to get 1,900 signatures on their petition to honor Payne and his wife, Fannie, who, for 36 years, was also a teacher and a counselor in San Diego schools.
“He didn’t back down,” Sinsky-Crosby said. “He didn’t say, ‘I’m going to stop teaching.’ He continued teaching in spite of all this adversity.”
The petition had more than 1,000 signatures by Monday afternoon -- and it also has the support of San Diego City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, who represents Pacific Beach.
“I applaud the efforts of the petitioners to honor the name and important legacies of Fannie and William Payne,” Campbell said in a statement. “I look forward to being involved with the community to support this effort.”
A number of comments on the petition and on Nextdoor disagreed with the name change. Some people said they were tired of the rush to change the names of community parks and buildings. Others said they liked the current name.
“Never go on Nextdoor," Sinsky-Crosby saidm sarcastically. "That’s the first rule of thumb."
The petition does not look to rename the PB Rec Center or Pacific Beach Middle School. Instead, it focuses on the name of the joint-use field.
“There’s a lot of good opportunities here,” Sinsky-Crosby said.
Sinsky-Crosby and Hernandez are expected to present their petition to the Pacific Beach Planning Group Wednesday night.