Marina Park in Richmond

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Past a forest of white masts, a harbor bell rings in the distance.

But the days of riveters and warships, smoky jazz clubs and worker’s unions, are long gone. Now, yachts and skiffs and sailboats bob up and down, tightly packed together, under a clear blue sky.

This used to be one of the spots where tens of thousands of African Americans and immigrants came to make their wages during the second world war, turning generations of oppression and hardship into a second chance. But today, there seem to be more seagulls than people in Richmond’s Marina Park.

There’s just enough wind to carry the yelling of schoolchildren down the boardwalk, mixed in with the sound of gentle waves and someone, somewhere, practicing piano.

Perhaps it’s fitting that a place once dedicated to war and destruction has become so serene. Sharp steel and the smell of smoke have been replaced with tidy rows of white houses and the smell of a grill, likely coming from the red-roofed restaurant sitting at the water’s edge.

Yet there are still remnants: an old bronzed plaque, cracked slabs of concrete and a red sign that says “Caution! Hazardous Waste Area.” A group of laughing students walk past, seemingly unaware of the fenced off area and the dangers resting behind it.

More people are arriving, but the gulls still have an advantage. A trio of young women push strollers down the wooden walkway, talking and chuckling among themselves as a cyclist wearing vibrant colors speeds past to the sound of gears going click, click, click.

Across the water and through the haze, the silhouette of a city sharpens: San Francisco, with its tall spires and elegant bridges, in all its menace and glory. How much has that skyline changed since the days of Henry Kaiser? Did it seem as far away then as it does now?

There’s a sailboat in the parking lot, unattended and out of place like a forgotten vessel on the shore that escaped the wrath of Cortez.

Two horns honk angrily from the main road, a reminder that we’re a far cry from the days when this was untouched native land, or a troubled beacon of social mobility for those who needed it the most.

Now, it’s developed, without much reminder of who or what came before. Tomorrow may be different, but today the park is a quiet case study in the modus operandi of history.

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