Petitioning Brea Olinda Unified School District Board of Education

Remove KKK Tributes in Brea, CA: Change the Name of William E. Fanning Elementary School!

We, the undersigned, support the effort to change the name of William E. Fanning Elementary to a name that is more inclusive of the Brea community.  Fanning began as an educator in Brea and then later went on to become the superintendent of the district at a time when segregation and the KKK ran rampant through the halls of Brea and Orange County as a whole until the 1940’s[1].  There is also evidence in the Library of Congress which demonstrates that Fanning was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that has historically discriminated against and persecuted people of color, immigrants, people of the Jewish, Muslim and Catholic faiths, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities[2]

 

The events that have recently occurred throughout the country in places like Berkeley, Huntington Beach, and especially Charlottesville, Virginia, have demonstrated that misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and white supremacy are alive and well, and we believe that we must stand up to all forms of hate and the symbols and monuments that represent them. 

 

Throughout the years, Brea has changed as a community.  The Brea-Olinda Unified School District now consists of a population rich in diversity.  It is now thirty-six percent Chican@/Latin@, thirty-five percent White, twenty percent Asian American, as well as a host of many other different ethnicities[3].   We want our schools to be named after people who represent this diversity and represent a more just and peaceful society for all. 

 

There are two competing narratives of Brea’s past: the first one is the romanticized past, which basks in the glory of oranges and oil in a city that was built from the ground up by the hands of the people, but only includes the achievements of Brea’s White ancestors[4].  The second narrative is the one that has been invisible; where people of color were not allowed to participate in civic life.  This narrative includes the segregation of the Plunge until the 1940’s.  It also includes the many Mexican American laborers who worked in the fields to provide the city with great wealth, but whose names and faces have primarily been excluded from the history books.  One such story highlights the father of Cruz Reynoso, who worked in the Bastanchury farms during the Great Depression and whose son went on to become the first Chicano Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court[5].  There are also the stories of Brea being a sundown town, where African Americans were not allowed to be out in public after dark[6].  And finally, there’s the story of Brea’s Red Lantern Theater, which romanticized Chinese culture, yet Chinese Americans were nowhere to be found[7] (7).  It is important to tell all of these narratives if we are going to build a better city and a better society.

 

This year marks the hundred-year anniversary of Brea, and many celebrations have ensued.  This would be the perfect moment to turn over a new leaf of race relations in Brea as well.  At the end of the day, William E. Fanning is only a name, but changing the school’s name can also be a new beginning.  This is not the same Brea that began one hundred years ago, when people of color were not allowed to take part in civic life, but it is the beginning of a day where we can continue to build on the strengths of the Brea community, realizing that there is strength in our differences.  By changing the name of Fanning Elementary, we can change the perception of Brea and continue to create a culture of acceptance, love and justice. 



[1] http://www.ocweekly.com/news/profiles-in-oc-pioneers-who-were-klan-members-william-e-fanning-brea-schools-pioneer-namesake-of-fanning-elementary-6456127

 
[2] On file at the Anaheim Heritage Center

 
[3] https://www.ed-data.org/district/Orange/Brea--Olinda-Unified

 
[4] A visit to the Brea Museum can attest to this

 
[5] Interview with Cruz Reynoso, 8/30/17

 
[6] http://www.ocweekly.com/news/profiles-in-oc-pioneers-who-were-klan-members-charles-mcclure-breas-first-police-chief-6472328

 
[7] Brea Museum

 

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