Kansas City Says No To MLK Boulevard

Street signs at intersection
Abeni Jones
January 8, 2020

“I’m good on any MLK Boulevard,” rapped Jay-Z on 2018’s “Black Effect.” 

He’ll have to be good elsewhere in Kansas City. Less than a year after renaming a major thoroughfare after Martin Luther King, Jr., residents voted to change it back.

Black activists worked for decades to get The Paseo, which runs through a majority-Black neighborhood, renamed.

The city was one of only a few major cities in America without an MLK Boulevard.

The change is “the epitome of White privilege and… structural racism,” said Reverend Vernon Howard Jr., a local Black church leader.

An activist group called “Save The Paseo,” the majority of whom are seemingly privileged white people, successfully organized to put the renaming to a city-wide vote. They point to The Paseo’s historical significance and the fact that Kansas City already has a park named after King.

But some are skeptical. Noting that MLK Boulevards are often in poor neighborhoods, “the underlying argument… is that Paseo's too good to be named after MLK,” explains Michelle Tyrene Johnson.

“For the African American activist, place naming [is about the] right to stake a claim to urban space,” argue scholars that have studied street naming.

Once again we’re reminded that we have to fight for self-determination! “Democracy” has time and time again favored the majority - which in much of America is white.

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