Recognition for a rock icon: a park named for Hendrix?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle's only official memorial to Jimi Hendrix, one of the city's most famous citizens and one of the world's most revered musicians, is a rock in the African Savanna section of Woodland Park Zoo.
"I find that rather demeaning," said City Councilwoman Jean Godden, who wants to name a new park in the Central Area after Hendrix. Godden plans to present her proposal to the council's parks committee today.
It's about time, say African-American activists and a leading expert on Hendrix.
"It's long overdue for the city to recognize him in this manner," said Carver Gayton, executive director of the Northwest African American Museum, which plans to break ground next month on a $20 million project in the old Colman School near I-90. The school is next to a 5-acre area scheduled to open this fall as a new city park.
Gayton says a Hendrix park would complement the museum's mission to celebrate the lives and contributions of local African Americans.
Godden's plan also calls for moving a privately owned statue of Hendrix that now stands on Broadway, near Pine Street, to the new park. Statue owner Michael Malone, founder of AEI Music Network, is willing to donate the statue to the park, Godden said.
Charles R. Cross, author of a bestselling Hendrix biography, "Room Full of Mirrors," sees no reason anyone would object to moving the statue. Its spot on Capitol Hill has no particular relevance to Hendrix, who died in 1970 from a mix of alcohol and sleeping pills.
It's true that the new park doesn't have a direct connection to Hendrix, either, Cross added. But it is near the site of the old Sicks' Stadium, where Hendrix played his last Seattle concert. It's also in the Central Area where Hendrix grew up.
Cross says Hendrix deserves his own park, if not a bridge or a boulevard.
"Jimi Hendrix, along with Bill Gates and a few others, are the people Seattle is remembered for worldwide," he said.
A new Hendrix park might erase any stigma associated with the zoo rock, which has a controversial history. Cross said it started around 1980 when a local radio station began a campaign to honor Hendrix. That sparked a backlash, led by TV commentator Lou Guzzo, who complained that Seattle should not pay tribute to someone who used illegal drugs.
"The compromise was to do the rock at the zoo, which horrified many people, particularly African Americans," Cross said.
Once a parking lot for the Colman School, the new park site has been covered with topsoil and recently planted with grass seed, said project manager Patrick Donahoe. The project was funded with $309,000 from the $198 million parks levy Seattle voters approved in 2000.
Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds, with advice from the Parks Board of Commissioners, will have the final say in naming the park.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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