Push to rename street, airport after Martin Luther King Jr. continues in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is honored on what would be his 92nd birthday, there’s a continued push for the Civil Rights icon to be remembered in Kansas City.

This comes after the city council voted to rename the Paseo after King. But voters reversed the change a few months later, with many angry that leaders changed one of the city’s most historic streets without following proper procedures, they said.

“We have this conversation on the celebration of his life today, just passing his birthday,” said Chris Good, a KC Parks and Recreation board commissioner. “I think that the time is now. This climate that we’re in, it really begs the question of, ‘Why has it been so difficult to honor Dr. King here?'”

Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the U.S. without a street to honor MLK, and the push to change that is still alive.

The parks department said they will be launching a new round of public hearings to get feedback on a proposal to rename parts of Blue Parkway, a conglomerate with Swope Parkway and Volker Boulevard in King’s honor.

“It’s well overdue, and I’m excited to be a part in bringing it into fruition and making it just an honoring that lasts forever to someone that is so distinguished,” Goode said.

The new proposal is supported by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City who has pushed to rename a street after King for years.

While the city still focuses of streets, some community members have a different idea. One group is leading an effort to rename Kansas City International Airport after King.

“You’re going to see us all over the place with petitions because, again, Martin Luther King was more than a street. He was more than a dream,” organizer Pat Clarke said.

This push to rename the airport is more than a year old. The petition already has hundreds of signatures.

“When I say he was more than a street — if you look at statistically in America, when there’s a Martin Luther King Drive, there’s death, drugs, and destruction,” Clarke said. “We don’t want that. We are picking up where we left off last year. Dr. King didn’t stand for that.”

Halted because of the pandemic, Clarke said the group will begin collecting more signatures Jan. 25.

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