KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City native and comedian Eddie Griffin returned home for a special honorary street dedication ceremony Friday.
A portion of 23rd Street, from Indiana Avenue to Interstate 435, is now named Eddie Griffin Way.
Born and raised in Kansas City’s inner city, Griffin has been privately working to give back through the years.
On Friday, he said he’s honored by the gesture of having an honorary street named after him.
“I used to live not too far from here and just to have it called Eddie Griffin Way, man, that’s huge,” Griffin said. “I hope it inspires kids to dream big because I am living proof that if you dream big, they do come true. My job is to keep having bigger and bigger dreams.”
Third District Councilman Brandon Ellington pitched and backed the initiative. He said the area needs a positive change.
He said the honorary street name is symbolic of the change he and Griffin plan to bring to Kansas City’s urban core.
“I talked to Eddie about not only doing the street name change, but creating a platform for kids to make their way out. That’s why the name of the street is not just Eddie Griffin Street or Eddie Griffin Avenue. It’s a subliminal message,” Ellington said.
But not everyone supports the change.
Rachel Riley, president of East 23rd Street Pac Neighborhoods Association, said she’s concerned because no one was contacted about the decision beforehand.
“No discussion whatsoever. We heard about it on Facebook,” Riley said. “You just don’t come in on someone’s community and do a name change without the OK of the community, organization or the people. That’s not protocol.”
Riley said the neighborhood association was already working to rename the street in honor of Ezrayel Hill, a 9-year-old who was killed during a fatal crash last year.
“We were in meetings and sitting down with his family,” Riley said. “The neighborhood organization approved of the name change from 23rd and Jackson to 23rd and Van Brunt. We were excited until the COVID-19 situation happened, and that slowed down the process.”
The group is demanding the name be removed.
But Ellington said that won’t happen. He addressed the people opposing the change during Friday night’s celebration.
“You always have detractors, but you have more people who support it than don’t,” Ellington said.
The councilman said speed bumps will be placed along 23rd Street in the 9-year-old boy’s honor.
The new name Eddie Griffin Way is just an honorary street name to recognize the comedian. The official name of 23rd Street will not be changed.
The ceremony was also a kick-off event for the future partnership between Ellington and Griffin for a youth program centered around the arts. The duo also plans to address crime and drugs in the area.