The Berkeley Board of Library Trustees will make a decision on renaming the South Branch Library after Tarea Hall Pittman at this month’s meeting, determining the outcome of a three-year-long, grassroots campaign.
The effort to rename the library for Ms. Pittman has garnered wide community support. In addition to a petition, with some 2,000 signatures, the City Council, Ed Roberts Campus, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, Berkeley Bowl, and Berkeley Technology Academy are among the backers of renaming the library branch.
At question is how the trustees will interpret the public library’s naming policy.
During the public comment portion of the trustees’ last meeting, which drawn a larger than usual attendance because of the renaming issue, all nine speakers on the matter urged the renaming of the branch.
Idella Melton, who said she was the mother of the first child to integrate Berkeley Unified, spoke of how integral both the library and Pittman’s “Negroes in the News” radio program were to her in the upbringing and education of her children.
Richie Smith, who moved to the neighborhood in 1949, put Pittman’s significance succinctly, “She was a library.” Others spoke of Pittman’s key role in local and national struggles for civil rights and social justice, some noting that the house from which she worked could be seen through the window of the meeting room.
Rhetoric professor David Holler, a nine-year resident, library patron, and Malcolm X Elementary parent, urged the trustees to read, as he had, the interviews of her that are stored the Bancroft Library to learn of the extraordinary depth of her life-long dedication to human rights.
Another speaker noted how fitting a tribute it would be for the library, which sits just above what was once the border restricting Black residence, to be named after the person who was such an icon of Berkeley spirit, past and present.
Long-time Berkeley resident Charles Austin, who launched the campaign to rename the library, is hoping for a large turn out in support of the renaming at the meeting to decide the matter, which will be held Wednesday, April 22nd at 6:30 p.m. at the South Branch Library at 1901 Russell St.
For more information, contact Dawn Arens at (415) 706-4001.