Ceremony Remarks by Ener Chiu
By Ener Chiu
Good evening everyone, thank you to Wa Sung and Karen for organizing this ceremony. My name is Ener Chiu, and I am a founding member of the Friends of Lincoln Square Park. These are my kids, and they are the fifth generation in our family to grow up playing here at Lincoln Square Park.
These days it feels like we’re in a perpetual crisis. The country is divided, we’re putting children in cages, no one can afford to live in cities anymore, the list goes on and on. But what we can’t forget, especially in a time like this, is how important it is to play. That sounds so trivial, right?
But it’s not. Human beings were born to play. It’s how we learn social skills, spend time with our families; it’s how we learn to enjoy our neighbors, and to love our own bodies, and it’s how we build culture. Play and recreation heal us, and give us the stamina and resilience to deal with hard times
So it’s important that we support recreation, especially in urban neighborhoods like Chinatown, where open space is so precious. Lincoln Recreation Center and Lincoln Square Park is the most heavily used open space in the City of Oakland. Look around you. This is a special night, but it’s not atypical. We are so crowded here, and especially in the Rec Center.
That building is 40 years old, and it is the only public recreation center that serves all of Downtown Oakland. You see all those construction cranes around us? That’s 5,000 new apartments opening up in the next two years. Where are those new people going to play? How are they going to learn to play alongside and with the people who have been here instead of crowding us out
How many of you have been coming out to these Lincoln Summer Nights events this year? Raise your hands. These events were a labor of love organized by community members in Oakland Chinatown. The organizing and stewardship that Wa Sung has led over decades to build and maintain this amazing play structure was a labor of love. We take care of each other. And what we need from our City government is not only to come out and celebrate with us, but also to show up and fight for our neighborhood.
So Mayor Schaaf, Councilmember Guillen, Parks and Rec Director Williams, Public Works Director Mitchell: we're honored to have you here, and we’re grateful that City has restored the junk boat play structure, and gotten resources to repave the basketball courts. But what we need right now is your leadership and your commitment to help our community build a new recreation center that is twice the current size so that it has the capacity to serve the existing residents here in addition to all the new people who are moving in. In 2018, our community has privately fundraised more than $100,000 towards a new recreation center, repairing the toddler lot, and programming for this park. But that’s a drop in the bucket.
We need for our City leaders to prioritize this park. That means:
#1: Lincoln Recreation Center should be the City’s top priority for what’s left of the $30M of KK funding that is supposed to go to rec centers.
#2: The City money that was earmarked for the planning of the new rec center needs to start getting spent.
#3: The City needs to commit a significant portion of the $7M in Soda Tax revenue that is supposed to support health, wellness and recreation to Lincoln Rec Center and staffing and programming here in Chinatown.
#4: We need the City to commit its staff to working with our community to apply for public and private grant opportunities. In particular the State’s Prop 68 Park Program fund, which is going to release $255M in funding early next year. We cannot waste this opportunity.
#5: We don’t need housing developers to pay for private gardens and open space and yoga zen rooms inside their luxury buildings. We need them to instead direct that money to support the public parks and open space that we’re all going to share in together.
I hope you can commit to doing those five things tonight. We need your leadership and commitment here.
Before I go, I want to recognize a few amazing organizations who have volunteered tirelessly to put on these events all summer. I’m sorry I can’t name all the individuals, but we want to thank:
Let’s give these folks a round of applause. Lastly, I have to recognize Tommy Wong and Gilbert Gong and the staff here at Lincoln Rec Center. Without their dedication to Lincoln Park, none of this could have happened, and we have these beautiful Made in Chinatown T-shirts for them from Klein Lieu.
Rebuilding Lincoln Rec Center is going to take all of us. If we want our children to have safe places to play, if we want our seniors to not be socially isolated and immobile in their advancing age, then all of us need to support this recreation center. Sign up to get involved. You can make a tax-deductible donation today to our nonprofit fiscal sponsor, the Oakland Parks and Rec Foundation and direct it to Friends of Lincoln Square Park. Any amount helps.
Thank you all so very much!