Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Resurrecting Community Pride

August 23, 2012
BH 423  

During the modern day civil rights movement African Americans were proud and energized. We encouraged our family and friends to pick up trash while walking in their neighborhood.  We were also asked to report any suspicious activity along their route, sidewalk problems that would affect pedestrians, missing or damaged street signs, pot holes in streets, and any other issues that made our streets unsafe and unattractive.

We were full of pride.

We were especially uplifted walking or driving on streets, boulevards and avenues that reflected the names of our heroes and heroines. It was a movement that produced a new black cultural identity and were strutted black and proud.  After 1968 we were particularly pleased with thoroughfares bearing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But that was then.

It is hard to believe that on April 4, 2012, forty-four years after Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, the city finally dedicated a street named in his honor.

More than 900 U.S. cities have streets named after King. The largest concentration is in the South, led by Georgia which, according to an article by Derek H. Alderman of East Carolina University in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, has more than 70 roads named after the Atlanta native. History is often bound up in street names and when the majority of these dedications were made the streets and neighborhoods had a vision of perpetual care with immaculate interest. But what happened? How did the dream of honoring the civil rights idol deteriorate? What happened to the pride of honoring Dr. King? How did these places in so many communities decline to conditions that have become the foundation of jokes and disrespect?

The comedian Chris Rock famously advised, 'If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they're lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is ‘Run!’. Is that funny or pathetic?

One magazine defined streets named for the martyr as: ‘A street in every major American city, commonly inhabited with large amounts of unemployed African Americans. In most cities among the top ten streets involved in gang shootings, drug busts, car thefts, and older white women and blacks of all ages’. How dismal is that?

But there is a movement to restore the streets and roads bearing Dr. King’s name. It is called ‘Beloved Streets of America’.

Headed locally by Melvin White, Kawana Williams and Barry Jarmon, the organizations missions is “bound by a united vision, Beloved Streets of America fosters collaboration among individuals, groups, and organizations and generates resources to revitalize and conserve streets bearing the honorable name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”.

White said ‘we envision a future wherein every street within the United States of America bearing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is vibrant, beautiful, and prosperous.”.

Melvin White in a guest column in the American wrote : ‘A fight in the parking lot on 3100 MLK ends in the shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio. Police in Oakland, CA are looking for suspects as shots were fired in the 2900 block of MLK; one person wounded and taken to the hospital. In Milwaukee, WI, at the corner of MLK and North Avenue, a victim, 28, is killed in apparent robbery attempt'.

These are so familiar stories of violence and poverty that echo across St. Louis and across America. Another familiar story is that these crimes all happened on streets named after our hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Why is it that a legendary figure like Dr. King is associated with so many crime-ridden, poverty-stricken areas that plague our nation? This is not fitting for a man who devoted his life to uplifting people and building community partnerships

Beloved Streets of America is out to change the perception of these MLK streets from being unsafe and dilapidated to beautiful and prosperous.

Beloved streets of America is a St. Louis-based non-profit organization that fosters collaborations among individuals, groups and organizations and generates resources to revitalize and conserve streets bearing the honorable name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is sponsoring Race to Revitalize: The National MLK Street Initiative. We aim to bring investors back to the community, start educational programs for youth, promote safety on the streets, bring culture back to these neighborhoods, create jobs, educate about the importance of green technology and more.

That’s why August 25 is so important. That’s when the inaugural MLK Legacy Walk will take place. We will meet at the St. Charles Rock Road Metrolink station at 8 a.m. this Saturday. The intention of the event is to bring city, county and all races together to bring these streets and King’s legacy the respect and honor they deserve. Help support this very important National movement. Let us all join the race!’

There is hope and perhaps again when we venture in any city or village or town that has a road, street or any path bearing the name MLK or Martin Luther King, we will feel good and swell up with glee and delight.

Let’s make it happen.

Please listen the Bernie Hayes radio program Monday through Friday at 7am and 4 pm on WGNU-920 AM, or live on the Web @

And please watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday Night at 10pm and Friday Morning at 9 am and Sunday Evenings at 5:30 pm on KNLC-TV Ch. 24.

I can be reached by fax at (314) 837-3369 or e-mail at:

Be Ever Wonderful!

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