KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After years of debate, the Kansas City Parks Board is set to vote on a resolution that would rename a street after Martin Luther King Jr.
The resolution would rename parts of Blue Parkway from Elmwood Avenue to Swope Parkway, Swope Parkway from Blue Parkway to Volker and Volker from Swope Parkway to Brookside Boulevard as “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.”
If the board votes in favor of the resolution, it would be the latest chapter in a years-long back and forth between city leaders and residents on how to honor the late civil rights leader. Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the U.S. without a street to honor MLK Jr.
KC Parks Commissioner Chris Goode is behind the city’s most recent push to dedicate a street in King’s honor. He said the time is right, especially in the wake of police killings of unarmed Black men and women and social unrest.
“Dr. King is somebody who stood against behavior, this type of oppression, this type of racism, this type of hatred. And so to be able to honor Dr. King in one of the few remaining cities in this country, I’m very hopeful that this will take place,” Goode said.
In 2018, then-Mayor Sly James formed a committee that would explore renaming a street in honor of MLK. Then, in 2019, the Kansas City Council voted to rename The Paseo “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.”
The new street signs went up in February 2019, but they wouldn’t stay for long. The issue was put on the November ballot and voters handily voted to change the name back to “The Paseo.”
The effort to change the name back was spearheaded by a group called “Save The Paseo.”
The group’s organizer, Diane Euston, said people felt they didn’t get a say in the process.
“The whole idea is to give everyone in the city a chance to decide,” Euston said. “That’s how it should be especially when you are changing something that has so many memories and tangible history attached to it. That’s how it should be done.”
The decision wasn’t without criticism. After the vote, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver criticized the tactics of the “Save The Paseo” group and their silent protest at Paseo Baptist Church.
“Even the Klan never marched into a church where the (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), which I was involved with, was holding a rally,” Cleaver told PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton on MSNBC.
After the vote, Mayor Quinton Lucas announced that the KC Parks Board would hold a series of public meetings and come up with a recommendation for how to best honor Dr. King.
“I learned from my mistakes,” Lucas said in 2019. “The process was one that was less than ideal. It didn’t reflect enough public engagement. I have regret, I know a lot of people did. I recall some of my friends who supported the MLK name said they would meet with people up and down the street, that never happened… what we make sure happens is that we have that level of engagement instead of just saying it’ll be this or that.”
The parks board is set to consider the resolution at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Kansas City Parks Administration building, 4600 East 63rd Street Trafficway.