Meet the Alcatraz park ranger sparking new conversations on the island


A park ranger smiling during a program on Alcatraz Island.

National Park Ranger Oliver Goodman had never been to Alcatraz Island until his second day of work doing community outreach there in July 2022. Ranger Oliver was raised in Philadelphia in a family where "nobody hiked, nobody camped," but attending protests and participating in community events were a part of everyday family life. Alcatraz immediately struck him: From the greens of the gardens to growing community connections, Alcatraz was alive.  

Many people are familiar with Alcatraz through just one lens. How do you build on that? 

National parks are platforms for dialogue. The parks are places where we can discuss complicated issues and have wide-ranging conversations together. On Alcatraz, you can see where Al Capone slept, you can walk through an exhibit on modern mass incarceration in the United States, and you can attend programs featuring formerly incarcerated people. 

What is the Formerly Incarcerated Speaker Series? 

It's a bimonthly event on the island exploring the ideas of freedom, justice, and common humanity. Formerly incarcerated people share their stories and answer questions from the audience. We try to create a space that is respectful and where people can ask sometimes difficult questions and learn from each other. 

Are there any discussions that stand out to you from the series? 

People of all ages ask interesting questions. Once, a woman raised her hand and asked: 'What do we do about poverty?' Troy (Williams, formerly incarcerated speaker and founder of Restorative Media Inc.) took a beat before leaning into the microphone. All he said was 'You know what to do.' 

It was a beautiful answer because I really believe that the more you listen, learn, and look into these different and interconnected issues, the more you find how intersectional they are and the more you can find your way to help solve these problems in your own community. Everyone individually can't take on racism, poverty, and injustice, but we can work towards solutions together.

A woman stands in front of a tree in the southern hemisphere.

Beatrice Kilat is the Media & Public Affairs Manager for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's Marketing and Communications Team.

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