By David Pendered
The Rodney Cook Sr. Park in the Vine City neighborhood should be renamed because its namesake helped lay the foundation for a Georgia Republican Party that critics have connected to suppression of black voters, according to Atlanta-based civil rights advocate Joe Beasley
“For us to ignore it would be irresponsible,” Beasley said of the naming. “Mr. Cook’s core values are more in keeping with Gov. Marvin Griffin, who put up the Stone Mountain carving to show that black people were going to be kept in their place.”
Beasley suggested the park be named for Ivory Lee Young, Jr., who represented the area on the Atlanta City Council from 2002 until his death in 2018.
Griffin signed legislation in 1958 to create the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. The association was charged with purchasing the Stone Mountain and surrounding land to establish a park. According to a report by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the park is to “serve as a memorial to Southern history” and includes, “a large sculpture commemorating the Confederacy.” Then Vice President Spiro Agnew dedicated the carving in 1970.
Beasley remarked in a text sent in the wee hours Sunday that he has not received a response from city officials to a letter he sent about the naming issue. The April 25 email is addressed to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore.
Beasley is in South Africa this week to monitor the national elections on Wednesday. Voters will determine whether the African National Congress will continue to control the legislature, as it has since the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela heralded the end of white-majority rule.
Beasley’s letter observes:
- “I by no means seek to tarnish the character of Mr. Cook, but urge you to take a look at his ‘core values.’ You will find that he is the chief architect of the modern day Georgia Republican Party. His mentees are the late U.S. Sen. Coverdale and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
- “That does not make him a bad person but his values are diametrically opposed to those held by residents of Vine City! Which should disqualify him from having his name placed in a park, which will house statues of African heroines and heroes.”
Beasley also reiterated his call to ensure the planned statuary in the park does not honor Tomochichi, an 18th-centuryt chief of the Yamacraw Indians. Tomochichi is credited as a leader who played a large role in the settlement of Georgia by negotiating with early settler Gen. James Oglethorpe, according to a citation in the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
- “As the principal mediator between the native population and the new English settlers during the first years of settlement, he contributed much to the establishment of peaceful relations between the two groups and to the ultimate success of Georgia.”
Beasley offered a different perspective on Tomochichi’s role in history.
“To us, he would be called a turncoat,” Beasley said.
“He was an accommodationist who didn’t live in Atlanta and shouldn’t be honored in an Atlanta park,” Beasley said. “He was so taken by the people coming from Europe that he just adored them, to the point of going to England to meet the king of England. His reward for his diligence with the new arrivals was: They took his land and his people are still on reservations.”