SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco Recreation and Park Commissioners today voted unanimously to approve changing the name of Visitacion Valley Playground to Yik Oi Huang Peace & Friendship Park. The name honors the memory of a neighborhood grandmother and community advocate.
Huang was assaulted while doing her daily exercises at the park on Jan. 8, 2019 and died of her injuries a year later at age 89. Friends and family of the longtime Visitacion Valley resident led the effort to rename the site in memory of Huang’s compassion, friendship, and service to her community. For more than 17 years, Huang served as an ambassador for the Visitacion Valley Friendship Club, which offers senior services to the Chinese immigrant community and advocates for voting rights, AAPI issues and emergency preparedness.
Affectionately called “Grandma Huang” and “Huang PoPo,” she was quick to form friendships with both English speaking and Chinese speaking neighbors through Sunnydale’s food assistance program. She collected recyclables and gave the proceeds to neighbors and friends.
“Grandma Yik Oi Huang loved her family, friends, and neighbors and was known for her joyous spirit and countless acts of kindness,” said Mayor London Breed. “So many of the friendships she developed began and flourished at this park, and now, with the renaming of Yik Oi Huang Peace & Friendship Park, we will forever be reminded of the lasting legacy she left on this community for generations to come. I want to thank the Yik Oi Huang Peace & Friendship Park Organizing Committee for guiding the community during such a difficult time and for their work advocating for justice, all while bringing together friends and loved ones to remember the life of Huang PoPo.”
The Yik Oi Huang Peace & Friendship Park Organizing Committee submitted its renaming proposal to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department in 2021. The Committee conducted broad outreach, holding two community meetings and gathering 2,496 signatures from neighborhood leaders, residents and organizations.
“I am happy that this ordinary, yet extraordinary human life, is being recognized and celebrated because Yik Oi made—and is still making—a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” said her granddaughter Sasanna Yee, who co-founded the renaming committee. “My grandmother’s joyous spirit will live on in the laughter and happiness of the community as they befriend each other at the park, creating social cohesion that eliminates the conditions that led to such violence.”
“Grandma Huang was attacked the same day I was sworn in as District 10 Supervisor. My staff and I visited her the next day in the hospital and left completely heartbroken. It has greatly impacted our work on public safety,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, a supporter of the renaming effort. “The Visitacion Valley community has been working to heal from this incident. Beyond the rename, the goal is to bring back programming and staffing to the park and facilitate multiracial and multicultural connections among neighbors to continue to build cross cultural relationships in the community.”
“Yik Oi Huang’s name means abundant love, and that has been her legacy,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “The park that she loved has become a place of resilience and healing thanks to her cherished community.”
“Thank you for memorializing a kindhearted, hardworking immigrant, and proud American citizen,” the Yik Oi Huang Peace & Friendship Park Organizing Committee said in a statement. “Yik Oi Huang Peace and Friendship Park will serve as a reminder of our past and a beacon of hope for our future. By acknowledging the tragedy at this park, we highlight the health equity issues of Visitacion Valley as well. May there be community safety, justice, and healing for all.”
Attached Image: Tribute to Huang PoPo showing her love for cooking, gardening, and sharing. Soul art collage by Rosanna Chang.