Famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo may soon have a street named after her in San Francisco — and if it happens, it would be the sweetest revenge.
According to KQED, the city is renaming Phelan Avenue, which shares its namesake with former San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan, because of the politician’s racist legacy.
Phelan, a former U.S. senator who passed away in 1931, is considered both a philanthropist, celebrated for his support for the arts, and a racist, who ran a campaign on anti-Asian sentiments. One of his slogans was “Keep California White,” and he once shared his supremacist beliefs in a 1901 essay titled “Why the Chinese Should Be Excluded.”
“At a time when the country is rethinking who deserves to have statues and parks named after them, [having] a street that an institution like City College is on named after someone whose family left a legacy of racism, doesn’t reflect [our] values,” Alisa Messer, an English professor at City College of San Francisco, told the San Francisco Examiner last month.
The public will vote on a new name, which includes Kahlo, Chinese-American historian Him Mark Lai and writer Thelma Johnson Streat, this month. However, City College’s trustees have already cast their vote for Frida Kahlo Way, as an image of the barrier-breaking artist lives on a Pan American Unity mural on the campus theater.
“[The renaming] certainly won’t be an insignificant cost to the college. It will take time to change our website and all of our documents,” trustee Tom Temprano said. “But it’s about sending a strong message to our community, our staff and our faculty about what our values are.”
It will take about a year for the street’s name to officially be changed.