We Should Plant Memorials That Heal
By Kathleen Richards
East Bay Express
20 September, 2017
Image courtesy of Vimeo
Even before the movement to remove Confederate structures gained momentum in the South, monuments have stirred controversy for what they show — or don't show. They've been used to mark significant moments in history or to declare our ideals, but too often they are imperfect renderings of the past, or worse, distortions of the truth. Whose history and values are portrayed, and whom do they alienate?
In a recent article in the East Bay Express, Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Urban Design Walter Hood was highlighted for his environment restoration efforts that encourage activism as well as environmentalism. In an attempt to highlight the history and importance of Oakland's namesake—the oak trees the city was named after—Hood created a project to help his students think of ways to become activists beyond protests.
At the time, he had been thinking about the history of Oakland and its long-forgotten namesake trees. “Most people don't think about it,” he said. Not only are oak trees part of the city's history, but trees are also “a metaphor for life — this notion that we can all be in nature and see each other equally,” he said. So, Hood had his students take care of oak saplings. And at the end of the semester, he passed them on to students at Prescott Elementary School in West Oakland, where they are now part of the school's garden. His long-term goal is to disperse them in the community in order to “re-oak” Oakland, particularly in the parts of the city that need trees the most.
Through his work, Hood tries to get people to recognize where they live. “Because when you recognize that, you can act,” he said. Trees help root us to a place and to ourselves.
Hood’s feature fits into a larger discussion on the use of trees as memorials. You can read the article in full here.