Latest park news
City seeks to memorialize the Sidney Dearing family | Sam Richards, Piedmont Exedra | May 17, 2022
Memorial to Dearing family moves forward | Sam Richards, Piedmont Exedra | April 5, 2023
Since May 2022, after first meeting with descendants of the Dearings, a Piedmont Park Commission subcommittee has hosted five stakeholder meetings to help create a plan for a memorial site. Among those stakeholders — the Piedmont Anti-Racism and Diversity Committee, the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign, community members in the “Sidney Dearing Working Group,” the Piedmont Beautification Foundation, and immediate neighbors of the Triangle Park. Members of the Dearing Family have been working with Piedmont leaders on this project, and City Administrator Sara Lillevand said they’ve been involved in every step of the process, including five meetings of stakeholders.
“Guiding principles” for whatever form the Dearing Family Memorial eventually takes, include honoring both Sidney and Irene Dearing; being visible from the street, not just from inside the park; and making educational elements about the Dearings’ lives and accomplishments, and their history in Piedmont, part of the memorial.
The Dearing family is open to the idea of bronze sculptures or other relevant pieces of physical art. Local Black artists and/or designers would be commissioned to create any such pieces, though Councilwoman Conna McCarthy said she hopes Piedmont High School art students can be part of the process, too.
The city has been working with consultant Cornelia Sylvester on the memorial project. Monday night, Sylvester told the council she has been “surprised and delighted” that Piedmont leaders have made the commitment they have to this memorial project, and that they’re “brought this subject to the surface” over the past two years.
Two descendents of the Dearings — one from Texas, another from Oakland — weighed in Monday night, both welcoming the efforts to memorialize their family and their history.
“The family does hold this historical, horrible event near to our hearts,” said Tympani M., a Texas resident who referred to Sidney Dearing as her great uncle. She has been in contact with subcommittee members in Piedmont. “We all know the horrible things the family went through … and we appreciate you guys having the (nerve) to address it.”
From the City of Piedmont, October 24, 2023:
November 7 presentation from internationally renowned landscape designer Walter Hood launches design phase of City of Piedmont’s Dearing Memorial Project
- The City of Piedmont invites community members to a presentation by internationally renowned artist and landscape designer Walter Hood on Tuesday, November 7th, 5:30pm at the Alan Harvey Theater (800 Magnolia Avenue). The City has engaged Hood’s firm, Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, to design a memorial for Sidney & Irene Dearing, which will be located in Triangle Park at the intersection of Magnolia and Wildwood Avenues, near the home they once owned.
The presentation will launch the design phase of the Dearing memorial project, which was initiated by the City Council in 2022. In his presentation, Hood will discuss his approach to design as a cultural practice, weaving together history, landscape, and memory to express contemporary and historical cultural stories through the built environment.
“Memorializing Sidney and Irene Dearing is an essential part of the work the City Council committed to in 2020, when we unanimously resolved to examine our history, practices, and biases, and create a more inclusive and welcoming community,” said Mayor Jen Cavenaugh. “This project is only one step in that journey, but it is a critical one. Owning our City’s past is how we come together as a community to define who we are today and in the future.”
City initiative to memorialize
Dearing family history began in 2022
Sidney and Irene Dearing were Piedmont’s first black homeowners. After purchasing a home in Piedmont through an intermediary in 1924, they were subjected to a yearlong campaign of harassment, threats, and violence, including multiple bombs placed at their property. They were ultimately forced to sell their home to the City at a loss under threat of seizure by eminent domain.
The City’s work to recognize and memorialize the Dearing family’s experience in Piedmont and the City government’s role in their forcible expulsion began in May 2022, when the City Council directed the Park Commission to develop recommendations for a physical memorial to the Dearing family to be constructed in Triangle Park.
Over the next year, a subcommittee of the Park Commission engaged in a series of facilitated conversations with relatives of Sidney and Irene Dearing, as well as community stakeholders. This work grew into a set of guiding principles, including a request from the family that the memorial should not be limited to the injustice Sidney and Irene Dearing experienced in Piedmont, but also reflect their lives and accomplishments outside of and in spite of this tragedy. Additionally, the guiding principles ask that the memorial be created by a local black artist.
Following the November 7th kickoff event, Hood Design Studio will work with members of the Dearing family and a Technical Advisory Committee to develop designs for a memorial. Two preliminary design concepts including an illustrative plan and eye-level perspective drawings will be shared publicly, with an opportunity for all community members to share feedback that will inform the final design. The City hopes to begin construction of the memorial in Spring 2024.
Hood Design Studio known internationally for integrating cultural storytelling into landscape design
Founded by Walter Hood in 1992, Hood Design Studio approaches their work as a cultural practice, grounded in the power of storytelling to express people and place through public art and landscape architecture. The firm is known internationally for their work crafting meaningful public spaces that empower marginalized communities and pay homage to the communal histories of sites. Recent projects include the African Ancestors Memorial Garden surrounding the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, the Lift Ev’Ry Voice and Sing Park in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Peter Oliver Pavilion Gallery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Local projects include the de Young Museum gardens in Golden Gate Park, the recent Oakland Museum of California gardens redesign, and Splash Pad Park in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood.
As an individual, Hood is recognized across the globe for his contributions to art, landscape architecture, urbanism, and research. In addition to his work at Hood Design Studio, he currently serves as chair of UC Berkeley’s Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and is regarded as one of the pre-eminent American landscape designers working today. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, and the Knight Foundation Public Spaces Fellowship and holds membership in both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Learn more about Walter Hood and Hood Design Studio at hooddesignstudio.com.
Dearing Park is across the street from his previous house (#103).
Sample historical plaque
The internet gives a wide range of costs for a plaque: "The cost can be as much as $5,430 (plus installation costs) or as little as $410 for a standard State or National Register of Historic Places plaque."
Pushback against a plaque
Letter Vice Mayor Tim Rood received in 2021 (original picture from his twitter account on the right, transcribed on left):
Feb. 19, 2021
Dear Vice Mayor Tim Rood,
I wish to urge you to get us out of the racism hole you are digging for us current Piedmonters. I oppose any city apology and monument commemorating the awful treatment of Sidney Dearing, in 1924. My grandkids now in Piedmont Schools were not implicated in that. And neither were you. Acknowledge it, sure, and move on.
Please stop applying collective guilt and "while guilt" and turning over every rock in current city government with the magnifying lens of anti-racism. You should be bringing us together and providing constructive paths to assisting the less fortunate, but not with the lens of race. That is divisive.
The author isn't hard to figure out, they're of a grandparents age with multiple kids in the Piedmont School system. Being a multigenerational child of Piedmont myself there are only a few sets of grandparents with multiple kids in the school system. To protect her grandkids, I wont post her name here.
The "racism hole" in Piedmont did just get dug by Tim and didn't end with Sidney Dearing and family as we have seen with current racist events still happening here in Piedmont.
Mayor Teddy Gray King and the City of Piedmont recognizes Sidney Dearing on April 18, 2022.