KANSAS CITY, MO – Kansas City, Missouri, councilman Jermaine Reed proposed Thursday to rename a 10-mile stretch of Prospect Avenue after Martin Luther King Jr. Reed suggested the idea at a news conference at 26th and Prospect, near the site of a double homicide on Wednesday.
His goal is to begin to reverse the violence and blight in the neighborhood by creating more commercial opportunities on the street. He said businesses would be more likely to stay on the roadway if its name is changed to honor the civil rights leader. He also said it would create a sense of pride surrounding the neighborhood.
Reporters and residents were skeptical, though, that a name change would have much effect, especially given the notorious reputation that can surround Martin Luther King Jr. roadways in the Unites States.
There are now around 900 Martin Luther King Jr. streets throughout the country.Journalist Jonathan Tilove and photographer Michael Falco traveled to many of them for their 2003 book, Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street.
Tilove said that through no organized effort, cities named for the leader started sprouting in the 1970s and 1980s. The more cities that had them, Tilove said, the more other cities wondered why they didn't have a street named for Martin Luther King Jr.
Photos by Michael Falco
Tilove says the streets form interesting networks, connecting cities like Chicago to states like Mississippi. He says he thinks Dr. King would likely be proud to have so many streets named for him because it leads people to tell the truth about what's happening in the African American community.
"It does him honor because it tells you about what he cared about and what has and hasn't happened," Tilove said.