In the midst of three weeks of world-wide protests against systemic racism in America and throughout the world fueled by the brutal police murder on Labor Day weekend of an unarmed black man, George Floyd by a white Minneapolis, Minn. police officer, a suggestion has been made locally to rename a parkway located in Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza an area of the city (once off-limits to blacks) called J.C. Nichols Parkway, in honor of the late civil rights icon, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
However, the SCLC-KC this week issued a statement on this latest suggestion to honor Dr. King saying it “would not be appropriate.” Below is the full text of the statement issued by the Reverend Dr. Vernon P. Howard, Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC-KC:
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City continues to support the renaming of a major boulevard or thoroughfare in Kansas City, MO, which would carry the name of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our national founder and visionary. J.C. Nichols Parkway would not be appropriate.Our organization was asked by Kansas Citians, including some Paseo residents and community leaders, to lead the previous effort to rename The Paseo. We are honored to have worked with a broad base of coalition partners across race, class, geography, and political spectrum to successfully advocate for that historic victory in January of 2019. Unfortunately, it was overturned.The principles upon which we were asked to forge a name change centered upon connecting that name change to real impact upon Black life, a cause which Dr. King and our work here at SCLC-GKC has been wed for almost half a century. The principles were, and remain, that a name change should include:· Economic everaging and investment for Black urban business and residential areas· Cultural and educational empowerment for Black children whose lives and aspirations matter· A “major” thoroughfare honoring the unmatched global, national, and local impact of Dr. KingWhile renaming J.C. Nichols Parkway could make a statement about this generation’s regret of the society’s past wrongs, naming it after Dr. King is not appropriate.
The potential renaming of this miniscule Parkway does not arise to such principled standards of freedom and justice for Black life.The renaming of the fountain to “Dream Fountain” is rather obscure. Dr. King’s dream was of “justice” which seems a far better option. J.C. Nichols Parkway has not been an enrichment to Black business and entrepreneurship in any significant way. Simultaneously, mainly white businesses on the Plaza have profited from Black consumer spending while Black businesses in the urban core and elsewhere suffer from a lack of white consumer dollars contributing entrepreneurial inequity, stagnant Black business growth, and Black business failure. Most Black children would never see and be inspired by Dr. King’s name in that location as young Blacks are socially unwelcome on the Country Club Plaza, as attested to by historical curfews banning their presence.In 1972 it was SCLC-GKC which inaugurated and set into motion assembly for protest and justice at the Mill Creek Park and Country Club Plaza. Then we launched Resurrection City, a Poor People’s Campaign action highlighting the systemic racism which produced and still produce such grave economic disparities remaining today. Having been a part of so much of Kansas City’s history and present on issues of racial justice, we welcome inclusion in the conversation.However, may we all remember, it is the victims of racism who own the right to speak with authority and educate the world regarding how racism works, how racism injures and destroys us, how it works within white privilege and power, and what is needed to solve it.