By Raven Jordan
A group of Dallas activists are working to rename College Park after a late Black Panther member and community organizer.
Friends and Family of Fahim J. Minkah filed an application with the City of Dallas to rename the Oak Cliff park after Fahim J. Minkah, who died in 2018. Yafeuh Balogun, one of the organizers pushing for the name change, also helped get South Lamar renamed as Botham Jean Blvd.
“College Park was chosen because he [Minkah] lived, worked and did his community service in that particular area,” Balogun said.
Southern Skates, a roller rink that Minkah opened not too far from College Park, was another reason why that area was chosen. He was a seasoned skater and wanted to build the rink on the “wasteland drug dealers sold their wares,” according to the Dallas Observer.
“There’s a skating rink that he founded that he actually built from the ground up that opened about 1997, 1998 and still, to this day, is serving the community,” Balogun said.
For those unfamiliar, Minkah was head of the Texas chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968, 20 years prior to when he founded the African American Men Against Narcotics (AAMAN) in 1987.
The organization was created to fight the spread of drugs and violence in the Oak Cliff and South Dallas neighborhoods during the crack epidemic. Members of the organization would patrol neighborhoods and intimidate dealers.
Minkah was also a mentor to the youth in his community as a track coach, including Balogun and Erick Khafre, another activist advocating the name change.
At the time, most of the city’s white residents stayed in the north while most Black residents lived in the south with about 100,000 residents. More than half of teens in South Dallas were living below the poverty line and many resorted to selling drugs, according to Frontline’s “The Dallas Drug War.”
“I fought for freedom of African-American people, freedom and justice for all people. I didn’t fight to look around at the same neighborhoods where I waged battle to be taken over by crooks and hoodlums,” Minkah said in the documentary.
Out of a number of older activists and organizers in the community, Minkah was one of the people who left an impact on his life as a young adult, according to Khafre.
“It’s just the fact that him being an elder and being willing to support mentorship and solidarity, with some of the efforts I’ve been a part of in my life, that you didn’t have to beg him,” Khafre said. “With him, as long as you came in with respect and were doing something that he felt was worthwhile, he would make a contribution to it. I find it very respectful of an elder of his background to take the extra step to deal with the next generation and show concern.”
As for the process of getting a park renamed compared to getting a street name changed, Balogun says it’s actually easier. They’ve been gathering signatures,(it only takes 600 signatures from residents within a two-square-mile radius), and have a community event planned for next month.
Across the bridge, the University of Texas at Arlington also has a similar effort going, though they aren’t affiliated with Friends and Family of Fahim J. Minkah. The campus’ Progressive Student Union has protested the college honoring racist figures with building names and statues.
The student organization, since October, has been pushing to have Woolf Hall renamed after Minkah.
“Honestly, having a park named in his honor was not something he was seeking, and that’s what makes it unique,“ Balogun says. “It’s someone that’s actually from the community that myself and Eric Khafre knew as young adults.”
The group is currently collecting signatures and has a survey that’s open until March 1.