Citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, have voted to remove Martin Luther KingJr’s name from a historic boulevard.
The Paseo is the most historic street in Kansas City, a 10-mile boulevard that is home to a predominately Black community. On Tuesday, voters approved removing Martin Luther King Jr.’s name less than a year after King replaced the historic boulevard, which was originally named The Paseo. Unofficial results showed the proposal to remove King’s name received nearly 70 percent of the vote, with just over 30 percent voting to retain King’s name, NBC News reports.
It was back in January when the debate over the name came about. The conversation was brought up mostly from the Black east side of the city, following the council’s decision to have the boulevard renamed. Some of the push for King’s name came from civil rights leaders, who claimed the city should have a street named after the late activist to end KC’s reputation of being one of the nation’s largest cities without a street named after him. But in April, residents successfully gathered enough signatures to petition to have name changed back to The Paseo.
In the meantime, the discussion leading up to the vote has been divided. Pro-King supporters have accused pro-Paseo residents of being racist, while opponents simply say The Paseo is a historical name that is sentimental. Supporters of the Martin Luther King name added that the “Save The Paseo” residents are mostly white who don’t even live on the street, which runs north and south through a Black area of the city. “Save The Paseo” members say changing the name would hurt the city financially in terms of tourism.
But, the ”Save The Paseo” supporters also deny racist claims, saying they would like King to be honored but mention that the City Council allegedly did not follow city charter procedures when making the change and didn’t notify most residents on the street about the proposal. They also said The Paseo is a well-known name for the city’s first boulevard, which was completed in 1899. The north end of the boulevard is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Kansas City chapter of the SCLU, told The Associated Press that the King street sign is a powerful symbol for everyone but particularly for black children. “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,” Howard said.
What do you #KCMO followers think?