Black unity poised to save historic state park
Allensworth State Historic Park was founded in 1970 in honor of Colonel Allen Allensworth, a Civil War veteran, who established the only California town (in 1908) populated, financed and governed by Blacks. The park draws vacationing families, school tours and scholars wanting to learn more about Black history.
Nearly a decade ago, Allensworth State Historic Park was threatened. Beverly Blake, founder of Allensworth PALS (Preserving Allensworth Legacy Support Group) told Final Call Staff Writer Charlene Muhammad why and how a Black collaborative of activists and leaders are moving to save it.
Final Call (FC): Why is Allensworth State Historic Park (Allensworth) at risk?
Beverly Blake (BB): Tulare County officials helped to begin a process that would place two mega dairies across from the park’s entrance, without the knowledge of the community. These dairies will create several tons of manure, 10,000 gallons of manure water daily, and will draw millions of flies. First, because land is zoned for a particular use, does that mean that the owner of that land has a right to develop it, even though it’s a legal authorized use to the detriment of those around it? Do businesses have all rights even to the point of killing off a cultural landmark?
FC: The Allensworth community learned of the dairy proposals last year during public hearings regarding planning and began to fight to preserve the park. What is the status?
BB: The Assembly passed Bill 576 June 4, which would create a 2.5 mile buffer zone around the park. The Black Caucus completely co-authored this bill, not just voted for it. They are shepherding this bill through legislation, so when it comes to Black unity, my hat is off to the California Legislative Black Caucus because they have stepped up to the plate and are seeing this through to the end.
FC: Why do you believe the decision is historic?
BB: This is historic legislation because the state is looking at using its power (Black Caucus and others) to make this a front line issue in the legislature. The state itself is overriding a decision made by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. There’s the mindset that counties and municipalities’ territories are almost sacred, so there is an almost unspoken rule that one never crosses that barrier. But, because of the lack of support in public Black interests regarding Allensworth, the State of California is now poised to overrule the supervisors’ decision.
FC: What other organizations helped to gain this early win?
BB: The NAACP of Sacramento, the Friends of Allensworth, members of 2nd A.M.E. Church, members from the House of Unity of Oakland, a motorcycle organization, Ministries of Truth and Hub City News rallied around this issue. Every Black person needs to know that they are the one that needs to come forward. It falls upon our shoulders to make sure that our story continues to be a part of the American fabric and culture. That is our responsibility to not only America, but our children and those to come, to preserve our heritage and legacy.
FC: Thank you.