The Carrollton area neighbors of Palmer Park agreed on “Marsalis Unity Park” as a new name for the park at a meeting hosted by Carrollton United.
Palmer Park, which sits at the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne avenues, is currently named after the Rev. Benjamin Palmer, a 19th century minister who was a staunch vocal supporter of both slavery and the Confederacy.
Originally called Hamilton Park, it was renamed in 1902, during the Lost Cause movement, for the New Orleans minister who preached to Confederate soldiers and was best known for a speech given after the election of Abraham Lincoln defending slavery and endorsing secession, according to New Orleans Historical.
Marsalis, who died April 1, 2020, was a jazz musician, educator and lifelong New Orleanian who lived near Palmer Park for many years. Members of his family still live in the neighborhood.
In a poll of residents conducted by Elaine Leyda, president of the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association, Marsalis’ name was by far the most popular response, receiving 95 votes. Drummer Earl Palmer came in second with 22 votes.
Judge Wisdom, the name recommended by the City Council Street Renaming Commission, came in third with 13 votes. “Unity” and “Friendship” received five votes each, and “Dream” received one.
District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso asked all of the neighborhood associations in the area to come together to meet with him to decide on a name. The meeting was held Thursday (June 3) on Zoom.
At the meeting, most residents were only interested in naming it after Marsalis or after one of the values suggested, such as unity or friendship. The Renaming Commission’s suggestion, for a judicial champion of civil rights, was quickly dismissed both by neighbors and by Giarrusso.
“While I appreciate the work that the commission has done, I do not in any way consider that binding on me, or on us,” Giarrusso said.
Carrollton resident Julianna Padgett said that she initially voted to name the park after Marsalis, but has since reconsidered.
“I think it’s because I am experiencing the incredible division and pain that we’re living with right now,” Padgett said, “that I really strongly feel like I would like Carrollton to take a stand right now and name it after a value.”
Another resident, Mary Green, said that she agreed that naming the park “Unity” would be a positive gesture in times of division.
Other residents, however, spoke up in favor of moving ahead with “Marsalis.”
Nicole Bouie said that she likes the idea of naming it after not just Ellis Marsalis but the whole Marsalis family because of the way they have represented New Orleans for many years. “I’m hoping that their family gets what they deserve, an accolade,” she said.
After hearing several more neighbors share their thoughts, Padgett suggested combining both ideas and naming it “Marsalis Unity Park.”
Most of the residents at the meeting voiced support for the idea, and Giarrusso said he was happy they were able to reach a consensus.
Giarrusso said that he would move the street-renaming process to a City Council vote after speaking to the Marsalis family to make sure they supported the change.
The name change for the 5.6-acre city-owned park must be approved by the City Council.
Daniel Schwalm is a journalism student at Loyola University and a reporting intern at Uptown Messenger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.