Richmond street renamed after international religious leader
on October 2, 2019
Richmond is now home to “Dalai Lama Avenue,” a block-long stretch of Huntington Avenue the City Council renamed on Tuesday to honor Richmond’s Tibetan community and the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists worldwide.
The newly-renamed avenue will guide visitors searching for the Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC), which is located on Huntington between Columbia Avenue and San Joaquin Street.
“A lot of times when people come looking for the cultural center, they end up on the wrong side of the freeway,” Councilmember Eduardo Martinez said. “Changing that one block in the name of the Dalai Lama, who is one of the most revered individuals today, is the best solution for solving this problem.”
The council voted unanimously that the block should carry the name of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and onetime political leader of the Tibetan diaspora. The TANC formally asked the City Council to pursue the change on July 6, the Dalai Lama’s birthday, former association president Tenzin Rangdol told Richmond Confidential by phone.
Rangdol says he was inspired by other American streets renamed for renowned leaders, including Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The Recreation and Parks Commission passed the renaming resolution in August before recommending its passage to the City Council.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Tibetan Association leaders highlighted councilmembers’ support for the idea.
“I would like to thank Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmember Martinez for doing this. We are so grateful for [you] doing this,” said Jamyang Dhondup, the association’s vice president.
Richmond will pay for a new sign for Dalai Lama Avenue. Councilmember Martinez says he hopes it will be up by October 11.
“The [Tibetan] community is a fantastic group of people within the city of Richmond. They have contributed much to our culture,” Martinez said. Martinez left the meeting in a khata, a white Tibetan Buddhist scarf he received as a gift from the TANC. It represents best wishes, friendship, purity and compassion, Rangdol told Richmond Confidential.
The East Bay’s Tibetan community is the fourth largest in North America after those in Toronto, New York and Minneapolis, with about 3,000 members as of 2016, according to Oakland Magazine. Rangdol says the community the Tibetan Association serves is spread across Albany, El Cerrito, Berkeley and Oakland. The Dalai Lama visited Richmond to bless the association in 2014.
Like many Tibetans, Rangdol’s parents fled Tibet after a 1959 rebellion against China. Rangdol grew up “stateless,” as he says, in India. He received political asylum in the United States after studying in the United Kingdom, and became a U.S. citizen in 2018.
Rangdol said he’d like fellow Richmond residents to know that “the Tibetan community is a peaceful community [that] embraces the idea of nonviolence and interconnectedness and interdependence.”
“It’s really important that Richmond residents understand the plight of Tibetan people, inside Tibet and outside of Tibet, [and] what they have gone through under the brutal regime of the Chinese Communist Party,” Rangdol said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the city’s legal counsel also announced that Richmond will submit to the Supreme Court a brief supporting the University of California in its lawsuit challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.
Featured image: Tenzin Rangdol stands in front of a throne the Dalai Lama used during a visit to the TANC in 2014.
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