Students Nuhamin Woldeyes and Juliniel Woods spoke March 9 before the San Diego Unified School District asking the board to endorse renaming the green space on the corner of Gresham and Felspar streets in Pacific Beach as Fannie and William Payne Community Park.
“PB Middle Joint Use Field is not a real name,” Woods told the school board. “Renaming it after Fannie and William Payne will be giving it some love and care in an actual community park.”
“In 1945, 1,900 PB residents signed a petition to have William Payne, a Black educator, removed from PB Junior High, now PB Middle School, because they felt only Black teachers should teach Black students,” said Woldeyes, who added the purpose in renaming the field is “to show how the Paynes broke down (racial) barriers. Now with your (board’s) help, we can finally give them their rightful recognition as we continue to uncover the history of San Diego.”
Pointing out the drive to rename the joint-use field “is a symbolic gesture that does not remove racism,” Woods noted it was an honorable gesture in “citing two community educators who braved the dark racist side of the 20th century. We have a petition with 3,000 signatures already for renaming the park, and we hope to get more.”
The IB program focuses on fostering critical thinking and building problem-solving skills while encouraging diversity, international mindedness, curiosity, and a healthy appetite for learning and excellence. IB offers high-quality, challenging educational programs to students ages 3 to 19.
PB Middle School IB coordinator Ashley Hensen said the program encourages “international-mindedness in teaching our kids to think beyond their bubble and to be good neighbors. We talk a lot about community service, with sixth-graders doing 10 hours, seventh-graders doing 15 hours and eighth-graders doing 20 hours.”
Woldeyes was pleased with her choice of community service projects.
“I feel a sense of pride in getting the information about the Paynes and sharing it with other people,” she said. “This is allowing us in the community to keep his legacy for others in the next generation.”
Woods was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction their service project has received.
“When I first started doing it (promoting Payne Park), I didn’t think it would get this big,” she admitted. “I was really surprised this many people commented on it. It made me feel really good that people cared this much.”
“This is the dream for students to become part of something like this,” concluded IB coordinator Hensen. “This is a little bit of history. And these girls are part of it. We’re just proud of them.”
Several months ago, San Diego State University administrator Paige Hernandez, and PB resident Regina Sinsky-Crosby, teamed to create a petition drive seeking 1,900 signatures for renaming the recreational space for the Paynes. Their signature drive launched the recreational space’s continuing public-renaming effort.
William Payne started his 25-year career in public schools at Pacific Beach Junior High in 1945 and retired at San Diego High. He was a lecturer and admissions director at SDSU's College of Education, where he worked from 1970 to 1976. He died in 1986.
Fannie J. Payne arrived with her husband in San Diego in 1942 with a degree from Talladega College in Alabama. In the post-war years, they both became pioneering public school teachers. In 1964, she earned her master’s degree from SDSU.
Fannie Payne retired from teaching in 1979. She received several honors for her exceptional service, including a Woman of Dedication recognition by the Salvation Army. She died in 2008.