Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, reversed a January decision to change the name of a historic boulevard from “The Paseo” to “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.”
The Tuesday vote to change the name of a 10-mile stretch of road back to The Paseo was almost 70% in favor, but not everyone was happy, and some accused those who voted to reverse the name of racism.
“I think that only if you are a black child growing up in the inner city lacking the kind of resources, lacking the kinds of images and models for mentoring, modeling, vocation and career, can you actually understand what that name on that sign can mean to a child in this community,” Rev. Vernon Howard said about the decision according to the Associated Press.
The road runs along the mostly black east side of the city.
Supporters of the historic name hit back at the accusation of racism, saying it is important to the whole community.
“It means something to everyone in Kansas City,” Daine Euston, a leader with the Save The Paseo group, said. “It holds kind of a special place in so many people’s hearts and memories. It’s not just historical on paper, it’s historical in people’s memory. It’s very important to Kansas City.”
Save The Paseo organized a Sunday protest at a get-out-the-vote rally at a black church where they confronted some of the black Christian leaders who had accused them of racism, demanding they “say it to our faces.”
“I am standing here simply begging you to sit down. This is not appropriate in a church of Jesus Christ,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who is also a minister, told the protesters as emotions hit a peak in the battle over the street sign.
Tim Smith, who organized the protest, said that their presence was not “hostile, violent, or uncivil.”
“We didn’t say anything, we didn’t do anything, we just stood,” he said.
Those who voted to change the name said they still want to honor Martin Luther King Jr. but did not want to change a part of history that runs back to the 1800s. With the loss, some black leaders are upset over the decision.
“What people will wonder in their minds and hearts is why and how something so good, uplifting, and edifying, how can something like that be taken away?” Rev. Howard said.
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