“No you won’t be name’n no buildings after me
To go down dilapidated ooh
No you won’t be name’n no buildings after me
My name will be mistated, surely”
–Badu, “A.D. 2000”
The New York Times reports a local controversy happening in an Alaskan town. The topic of debate? The good ole’ MLK boulevard.
Folks in urban communities know it all too well. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. roads, much like Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey roads, are often down-trodden and crime-invested streets running through impoverished areas in Black America. But, according to the NY Times, a new MLK avenue in Anchorage, Alaska is a fine-looking road with scenic mountains in the background.
Seems like the Anchorage community would be happy—the prototypical homage to an American leader and hero. Instead, local Black and non-Black residents are split over the issue. Some Black members of the community think the road is too obscured, while some non-Black and Black residents find the road, well, kinda insignificant.
Rev. Alonzo B. Patterson of a predominately non-White Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church tells the Times, “It is on the periphery of the city. It was put there because it disturbed the minimal amount of people.”
A Black resident, Carol Jones says, “It’s nice, you know, but what’s the significant of a street?”
A White resident, Max Wilke shares his thoughts on the issue stating a new street in a town of Natives should have been more “Alaskan.”
And, alas, Wilke blurts out, “I guess every city has to name something for Martin Luther King these days.”
These days? Most urban communities have had MLK streets for decades. Anchorage is a bit late.
But, like Badu says, and Carol Jones hint at, are MLK streets really necessary? What’s the true significance of a street people will often ignore when driving or walking past? Does some random street truly represent the legacy of Dr. King? Or, like monuments of Washington, Lincoln, and other non-Black American leaders—do Black fallen leaders also deserve their concrete honors?
Or how about an even more critical question: Are MLK boulevards, and avenues named for other iconic Black leaders, only essential for communities of color?
Share your thoughts on the issue!
Photo Source: NY Times