By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
While the city of Norfolk is readying plans to invest $4.5 million dollars in redeveloping Barraud Park, Norfolk resident Elaina Dariah is launching a petition drive to change the park’s name.
Dariah is Navy Veteran who lives in nearby Dowrie Park off Tidewater Drive.
She said the park is named after the Barraud family, who were French Huguenots from England.
They settled in Norfolk during Colonial times. Daniel Barraud became a successful merchant, did business with George Washington and shipped goods to England.
But the damming feature about Daniel Barraud’s history for Dariah is that he offered rewards for the capture of runaway slaves.
“This Park is named for a man who helped keep Black people enslaved,” said Dariah. “He denied them emancipation. I walk through that park as part of my health ritual. I see our children and adults who do not know about the history of the park they love so much.”
“I don’t think the city should be honoring a family or a man who was involved in keeping Black people who sought their freedom, enslaved,” she said. “I think we have many African-Americans whose names could be used to honor that park.”
Dariah stood before the Norfolk City Council on May 23 and read a petition outlining her stand on the issue.
Both are named posthumously and were born in Norfolk.
She offered two names: John Jenkins Roberts, who was one of the founders of Liberia.
The other is Ella Baker, born in Huntersville. She was a civil rights activist who worked with the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC.
Once word of Dariah’s petition drive gains more momentum, she is assured that other names of historic figures now deceased will be submitted.
Dariah’s work comes at a time when monuments and other structures honoring Civil War heroes and other racists are removed from public spaces.
Dariah said the quest to change the name came after she attended a show where national Poet/Author Kwame Alexander read some of his works in early April.
Dariah said that Alexander said his mother lived in the Barraud Park community.
He said he would visit her and hone his skills in tennis at the park’s tennis courts.
She said that she meets people at the park who talk about the history and activities put on by the Black community at the park.
“So, I wanted to know whom that great park was named for,” said Dariah. “That’s when I ran across a newspaper article about Barraud.”
Dariah, born in Seattle, Washington, retired in 2001. She served in the Navy for 35 years before entering the civil workforce.
She told the GUIDE last week that she will be collecting the required number of signatures in the coming weeks.
“I talked to a lot of young and old people and when I tell them about the history,” she said, “they said it is time that the name should be changed.”
But at the recent meeting of the Lindenwood/Barraud Park/Cottage Civic League, there was some pushback against Dariah’s petition drive.
Milton Reid was born in a home on Barraud Park Avenue and still lives there. He worked for the city of Norfolk for several decades before he retired.
He said he disagrees with Dariah’s effort because despite David Barraud’s history, “it was from the heart when his family willed that land to be used as a park for Black people years after he died.”
“As a child, I remember Black and White boy scouts using the park for Jamborees. During Easter that park was so full you had to walk over people. Over 95 percent of the people who use that park cherish it because of its history and pride that Black people have invested in that park.”