parks

Community Petition Leads to Renaming of Park in Pacific Beach to Honor 2 Black Educators

The Pacific Beach Middle Joint Use Field at the corner of Felspar and Gresham streets will now be called the Fannie and William Payne Joint Use Field

NBC Universal, Inc.

After efforts from petitioners, a park in San Diego’s Pacific Beach community will be renamed Thursday to honor two Black educators who overcame adversity in the 1940s.

The Pacific Beach Middle Joint-Use Field at the corner of Felspar and Gresham streets (which doubles as a baseball diamond and soccer field) will now be called the Fannie and William Payne Joint-Use Field.

William Payne was hired in 1945 to teach at Pacific Beach Junior High School, reports NBC 7's Joe Little.

The change of name honors Fannie and William Payne, who made history working for the San Diego Unified School District.

In 1945, William Payne became the first Black teacher hired at Pacific Beach Junior High – and only the second Black teacher in San Diego schools. His wife, Fannie Payne, was a teacher and counselor for 36 years in San Diego schools and an alumna of San Diego State University active in local philanthropy.

Courtesy of San Diego Unified Board of Education
Fannie and William Payne were two Black educators in San Diego County who overcame adversity in the 1940s. Now, a public park is being renamed after them.

William Payne, however, was not welcome with open arms at the junior high school.

During that time, 1,900 residents in Pacific Beach signed a petition asking that William Payne be removed from his position because he was Black.

In the summer of 2020, Pacific Beach residents Regina Sinsky-Crosby and Paige Hernandez discovered the story of William Payne and set out to make things right. They authored a petition to rename the joint use field the Fannie and William Payne Community Park.

They created their petition on Change.org, and reached out to the PB community for support. Pacific Beach Middle School students Juliniel Woods and Nuhamin Woldeyes also led the effort.

The community members wanted to recognize a teacher who broke down barriers – and his wife, who also dedicated her life to education.

“He didn’t back down,” Sinsky-Crosby told NBC 7 in July 2020. “He didn’t say, ‘I’m going to stop teaching.’ He continued teaching, in spite of all this adversity.”

The efforts of those who started the petition were also supported along the way by The Pacific Beach Community Recreation Group, the Pacific Beach Planning Group (PBPG), and other community groups.

And, little by little, their online petition collected signatures – more than the 1,900 signatures of those who wanted William Payne fired in 1945.

Today, the petition has 3,107 signatures.

On March 9, 2021, the San Diego Unified Board of Education voted to unanimously approve the name change.

After that – on April 15, 2021 – the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Board approved the name, too.

On Thursday – 76 years after William Payne was hired to teach in San Diego – the park in PB will be dedicated to him and his wife.

Local leaders San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego Unified Board of Education President Richard Barrera will host a ceremony at the field.

The community members who petitioned for the change will be at the event, too.

The San Diego Unified School District said a surviving godson of the Paynes who is not able to attend the ceremony due to illness has given the district a statement on his family’s behalf, which will be released after the dedication ceremony around noon.

New signage bearing the names of Fannie and William Payne will be unveiled Thursday. As part of the city of San Diego’s Play All Day program, the joint use field will be available as a local park after school hours and during school breaks.

The city and SDUSD said the renaming includes the joint-use area and the hard-court areas of Pacific Beach Community Park – including the basketball and tennis courts.

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