Naming the new school: Crosstown vs Cumyow

With the naming of the new elementary school in North East False Creek, it seems the debate is still raging and petitions are being circulated after the interim appointed Vancouver School Board decided to go with Crosstown rather than honouring Chinese Vancouver pioneer Won Alexander Cumyow (pictured).

With all due respect to his legacy, I appreciate that most of the concerns stem from naming a school "Cumyow" and how that might be too ribald-sounding for elementary schoolkids. I also agree that "Crosstown" is an incredibly bland name and lost opportunity to recognize, redress, and reconcile Chinese Canadian History. Of course (unsurprisingly) there's also a whiff of partisan politics driving the debate too.

But why is this choice between one of only two names? Are we getting hung up on this one name when there might be other opportunities to honour our histories, without being the butt of juvenile school yard jokes?

Why not riff off some of the old Chinese names for the region like Fusang, Gam Sann (Gold Mountain) or Saltwater City? Or how about other Chinese Canadian pioneers: David Lam already has a park of course — but what about Yip San, or Lee Chong, or Wong Soon King, or Douglas Jung?

One of my personal favourites is this guy: Wee Hong Louie (pictured)...
Louie, born in 1889 was living near Shushwap when he enlisted in 1917 to fight in the First World War. Returning as a decorated veteran, he faced systemic racism and finally was denied a business license because he was Chinese. In protest, he packed up his uniform and medals and sent them off to then Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who apologized and directly intervened to grant Louie a business license. Mackenzie King, who has a conflicting history regarding race issues, was PM during some especially troubled and xenophobic times in our nation, but nonetheless went on to repeal the Chinese Immigration Act, and grant franchisement to Chinese Canadians and honour to Chinese Canadian veterans of WWI and WWII.

http://www.ccmms.ca/veteran-stories/army/wee-hong-louie/

http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/international-village-school-in-...