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PRESS RELEASE: Victoria Manalo Draves Park Initiative

By Roy Recio

Name the old Bessie site after Victoria Manalo Draves.

Join the grassroots community effort to finally validate one of SoMa's unsung heroes by naming the new park scheduled to begin construction in September after native daughter Victoria Manalo Draves, who had to overcome many hurdles to showcase her athletic prowess at the 1948 London Olympics, where she two gold medals for platform diving, representing the United States.

Born and raised in the South of Market in 1925 and a student at Bessie Carmichael, Victoria Manalo was the daughter of a Filipino father and an English mother during a time when it wasn't cool to be of mixed race. She wasn't allowed to swim in some of the city's most prestigious sports clubs because of her heritage, and her father was not allowed watch his own daughter perform.

Making her way through the AAU ranks, she was encouraged to use her mother's maiden name   Taylor which the dominant society thought was more acceptable. But in true people power spirit, she declined.

Vicki later became a star attraction for Adolf Sutro at the Sutro Baths near the Cliff House before they were torn down. She advocated for the Filipino Education Center in the mid-1960s when the second wave of Filipino immigrants came to America and largely settled in the South of Market district. This was the period of the "brain drain," when America took the brightest from developing nations and allowed them to fill only secondary labor force jobs, while the corresponding U.S. generation of young adults were serving in Vietnam. Now 80 years old, she is retired and lives with with her coach-turned-husband.

Thus far, a resolution has been passed by the Board of Supervisors in support of Victoria Manalo Draves Park, as well as a resolution from the South of Market Project Area Committee and various other neighborhood groups. The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame continues to deny Vicki admission. Now is our time to trump all of the nonsense and recognize someone who carries and represents the true spirit of San Francisco.

To get your neighborhood group involved or to learn more about our petition drive, please feel free to contact me at the Manilatown Heritage Foundation at 953 Mission St. Suite 30. Join with the Friends of Victoria Manalo Draves Park Initiative and be part of history.

Victoria Manalo Draves has described childhood in San Francisco and her road to the Olympics in an oral history for the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.