Historically, this is the area where people established predominantly African American churches, hotels, businesses and bought homes. There was a drive by early settlers to create a community with a unique cultural identity.
But segregation also played a role in keeping African Americans from moving elsewhere.
“Most Arizonans didn’t really want racial segregation but folks in Phoenix did,” Whitaker said.
First introduced by the territorial government in 1909, school segregation was mandated by Arizona law until 1954. A series of informal property restrictions also prevented non-whites from purchasing or renting homes north of Van Buren Street.
Realtors wouldn’t sell to African Americans, banks refused loans, and by the late 1930s, the condition of homes and lack of affordable housing south of Van Buren Street was a serious issue.
According to a City of Phoenix historic property survey, most African Americans rented rather than owned homes by 1940, which was a major reversal from just a few decades earlier.
Despite separate and unequal housing opportunities, Goode said he received a decent education from Phoenix’s segregated high school.
“I’m a graduate of Carver High School, which is at 415 E. Grant St.,” he said, “and for many years, that was the only high school you could attend.”
After graduating in 1945, Goode received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Arizona State University. He served on the City Council for 22 years, the longest tenured council member in Phoenix history, and retired from the Phoenix Union High School District after 30 years.
As a civil servant and community activist, Goode played a pivotal role in securing many improvements for minorities, particularly in south Phoenix.
During his time on City Council from 1972 to 1994, he advocated for equal employment opportunities, job training, early childhood education, and introduced a program to ensure that small businesses owned by women and minorities would receive a proportionate share of city business.
“I know we’re the best country in the world,” he said. “But we’re also a country that still has problems in the way they treat certain minorities.”
Goode with his wife Georgie, who passed away in 2015, purchased a salmon-colored duplex on Jefferson Street across the street from Eastlake Park in 1955.
At 90 years old, he still helps run Calvin Goode & Associates, located in one-half of the duplex, and keeps the family home on the other.
“I don’t plan to move,” he said.
The Eastlake Park Neighborhood is fairly small, bounded by Van Buren Street to the north and the Union Pacific Railroad to the south, spanning from 12th to 16th streets.
With new apartments cropping up in the neighborhood and the ongoing development boom in nearby Downtown Phoenix, Goode worries about lower income minority families, and whether there will continue to be a place for them in Eastlake.
“I’m advocating from 12th to 16th street, that we provide more affordable housing,” he said. “There are no longer deed restrictions excluding African Americans, but certainly the pattern is that we still have problems in terms of where you can live — sometimes it’s economic and sometimes it’s just pure discrimination.”
Gallego echoed similar concerns for her district. While many of the changes to the area have been positive, including access to transportation and bringing in quality jobs, she stressed the need for economic balance.
“It’s a delicate balance that I can’t promise we’ll always get 100 percent right.” she said. “But I can promise to always work in good faith with neighbors and residents to make every Phoenix neighborhood the best it can possibly be.”
The demographics of the area have changed over the years, but the park itself continues to be a place where African American children, teens, adults and seniors from across the Valley can attend free community events, sports programs, low-cost athletic classes and more.
African Americans have always wanted to gather and create their own cultural spaces, according to Whitaker, and Eastlake is one of those sacred spaces that still exists.
“Every community has something like an Eastlake Park and I think that’s why it’s so critical,” he said. “Even when African Americans moved out of the city into the suburbs and other municipalities, we always went back. I can’t imagine African American history and life without Eastlake Park.”