On Tuesday (November 5), Kansas City, Missouri, residents overwhelmingly voted to change the name of a historic 10-mile boulevard from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back to The Paseo, reports BBC News. As Colorlines previously reported, the reversal came less than a year after the name change was approved. Now, Kansas City is one of the few major cities in the country that doesn’t honor King’s legacy in a public way. The contested boulevard runs through a predominantly Black neighborhood.
“For 51 years since Dr. King’s assassination, no one in this town moved forward to advance or develop any kind of plan or program to honor Dr. King in a major way,” Reverend Vernon Howard Jr., president of the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, told CNN after the vote. “There is a park that is embarrassing in the central core of Kansas City that’s not well kept and very small and insignificant with respect to any of its beauty, its architecture, its land space, its footprint and all of that.”
Not shying away from just how shocked he was by the push back, Howard said, “It is the epitome of White privilege and systemic and structural racism that a predominantly White group would actually have the audacity to determine or dictate in a predominantly [Black] community who, or what they should honor, and where and how.”
For now, Kansas City has resumed its minority position by being one of only three cities, out of the top 50 most populated cities, to not have a street named for King, University of Tennessee geography professor Derek Alderman told CNN. Alderman and his research team have been building a database of streets named after King for more than 20 years. “The other two cities,” said Alderman, “are San Jose, California, and Omaha, Nebraska.”