Council's Black Caucus backs off plan to rename street after MLK

Friday, June 3, 2011 at 12:43am

The Metro Council’s Black Caucus withdrew a proposal Thursday to rename downtown’s Union Street to pay homage to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. after members were unable to reach a consensus on whether the name change is appropriate.

“I don’t think we go forward divided,” Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr. said. “If we’re not going to be together, we shouldn’t go forward.”

Already drafted was a piece of legislation –– carried largely by At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard –– that would honor the nation’s most famous civil rights leader by putting his name on one of Nashville’s most prominent streets.

To push forward to a full-council vote, all it lacked were signatures of the black caucus, who had agreed in principle last month to support such a bill. But members Thursday did not give their final stamp of approval. 

“It was clear from the discussion today that there was not unanimous support to move forward, so I withdrew the motion,” Maynard said afterward. “I’m going to respect the Black Caucus’ decision not to move forward.”

Not in attendance at last month’s meeting –– when the original agreement was reached –– were council members Erica Gilmore and Vivian Wilhoite, who Thursday both expressed concerns over the street name change.

Nashville is one of the only major Southern cities lacking a street named for King.

Gilmore, who represents a district that includes Union Street, said she hoped to have more discussion with Union Street business owners. Following the meeting, Maynard told The City Paper meetings had already taken place.

Wilhoite questioned whether naming a street after King is the best course of action, pointing out Nashville already has a bridge named for him. Moreover, she alluded to the push of original Freedom Riders’ to get Metro to install a monument or memorial that honors the civil rights movement. The caucus has already agreed to help in this effort.

“Freedom Riders, sit-in participants,” Wilhoite said with some Freedom Riders looking on. “How does the name Martin Luther King resonate with what they did? It does not resonate.

“When I see Martin Luther King, I see one man who was jailed, beat and was killed for what he believed in,” she said. “When I hear Freedom Riders, when I hear sit-in participants, I hear many people. And that’s a difference.”

Wilhoite, term-limited from her Antioch-area district seat, is running for council at-large. Maynard is one of her opponents.

Watching the discussion Thursday was Tom Turner, president of the Nashville Downtown Partnership. The City Paper could not reach Turner afterwards to get his take on the name-change proposal. 

22 Comments on this post:

By: zibianstein on 6/3/11 at 5:15

It's amazing we still live in a day where there are 'black caucuses'. Enough of this racist segregation. Let's move on together as a nation of 'americans'. I'm sick of this pro-black racism just as much as I am pro-white racism or any other kind. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

By: left on 6/3/11 at 5:28

I am left handed,so while I was in school,I had to sit in these one piece chair/table units that were for right handed people. I have been discriminated against cause I was forced to sit in them. All I want is a million dollars for my pain and suffering.

By: budlight on 6/3/11 at 6:08

I agree with zibianstein. There should be no "racial caucuses" but yet we continue to cower down to them. Race should not play a role in anything especially since Martin Luther King died to stop racism and the Freedom Riders fought for stopping racism. Oh, are we only supposed to stop discrimination against black people and everyone else gets to be discriminated against?

By: Nitzche on 6/3/11 at 7:52

you can't do that, because you will be breaking the rule of any street in america that is named after MLK, is in a bad part of town. union is not in a bad part of town.

By: Kosh III on 6/3/11 at 9:13

Why shouldn't there be a group of legislators committed to one(or more) particular goals?
Would you object to a caucus dedicated to lowering taxes? or promoting inequality, or allowing businesses to operate without restrictions or responsiblity?

O walt! That's the GOP. Silly me.

By: localboy on 6/3/11 at 9:54

Perhaps they might come to some agreement if they were to propose changing the name to a Nashville resident prominent during that movement. Dr. King already has a high school and a bridge named after him locally, and I don't recall a major march headed by him in the city. His contribution to the nation has been acknowledged by the majority of citizens; how about recognizing one of the local residents who laid it on the line during that time frame? I for one admit ignorance of many of the individuals involved.

By: iTiSi on 6/3/11 at 9:56

Kosh III seems to have a convoluted thought process. Would you be saying the same thing if there was a "White Caucus"? Maybe there should be one since in the last census it was revealed that due to Hispanic and Blacks increasing so much that Caucasians are the "New Minority". If one was started there would be an uproar. Hypocrisy is rampant these days.

By: Siobhanne on 6/3/11 at 9:57

If a unanimous vote is needed they should put it before the white caucus as well. Oh... there isn't a white caucus? Heavens why not?

By: fmltn on 6/3/11 at 10:46

Ah, the predictable tidal wave of "Why isn't there a White caucus" comments! So original!

And Nashville is the only major city in the south without a street after MLK. It seems to me the better question is, Why not? What's the point of the opposition? I mean, other than misgivings about the man himself?

By: slacker on 6/3/11 at 11:02

I suggest re-naming Jefferson St. MLK Blvd. After that, STOP re-naming streets after deceased people, Its expensive & confusing.

By: Melba Narberth on 6/3/11 at 11:22

"Ah, the predictable tidal wave of "Why isn't there a White caucus" comments! So original! "

I know. I HATE when they ask that question.

You know what would be fresh, exciting, new, innovative, forward-thinking, progressive, futuristic, revolutionary, and a complete surprise? An answer to that question that was logical and not bleeding with hypocrisy.

By: wasaw on 6/3/11 at 11:26

I feel so sorry for hiz honor, Karl. He already had his big red "Grand Opening" scissors sharpened, the yellow ribbon tied across the street, and had dated the celebration for the day before election day. Ain't no better way to get the black vote out than to mention the name of MLK.

Initially, the street to be renamed was 5th Ave. N. Those councilman can't even agree on a street. But why don't they spend their time attempting to make Nashville a better town to live in? How about reduceng the black-to-black murder rate? How about reducing the black-to-white rape rate? How about increasing the black student graduation rate? The Nashville "Black Caucus" is a joke. It's comprised of black politicians who only want to further their political careers. Hey, they're a lot like white politicians, aren't they?

By: frodo on 6/3/11 at 11:39

Jefferson Street is a great idea, slacker. It ties together Fisk, TSU and the maybe-someday black history museum. And it trades the name of our most revered civil rights leader for that of a slave owner.

I don't want to sound callous or insensitive...I respect Dr. King for what he accomplished, the way he went about it and for his vision of a society no longer painted in black and white. But his legacy is shaped and defined today by people who still want to keep the black and white lines in sharp contrast. I would be more receptive to naming the main thoroughfare of my city in MLK's honor if those promoting it were true to his vision rather than hangers-on to racial strife. They make MLK about them and about honoring themselves. MLK's vision was about all of us and honoring high character.

By: house_of_pain on 6/3/11 at 12:55

No more re-naming streets...for anyone...ever.
Like slacker said, it's expensive, confusing, and a pain in the a$$ for anyone living/doing business on said street. It accomplishes nothing.

By: frodo on 6/3/11 at 1:08

I hear ya house_of, but we spend plenty of money putting a new mayor or governor's name on the many public works projects signs...or County Clerk, or (who do these people think they are, royalty!?)....that replacing a few street signs and updating digital maps is a small price to pay in comparison.

By: Radix on 6/3/11 at 1:50

4th Ave,
5th Ave,
6th Ave,
7th Ave,
Rosa Parks,
9th Ave....

Parks and King are heroes but seriously!! Why aren't we naming streets after any of the great African-Americans from the Revolutionary War? That guy that rode with Paul Revere or someone like that? Nothing against MLK but every town has one... it starts to become meaningless after a while.

By: left on 6/3/11 at 3:41

But I want my million dollars, I want it now, help me JG Wentworth!

By: RevGeorge on 6/3/11 at 4:16

First let me say that someone called zibianstein, which sounds Jewish, has some nerve talking about black caucuses are no longer needed, which was agreed to by "budlight." Isn't there a Jewish caucus in the Congress? And all kind of other Jewish organizations all over this country, just as there are others that have their own groups, fraternities, and racial and religious organizations. But why is it everybody wants the black race to be divided, just as this group on the council did in this case, who need to be scolded for not staying solidly united. Which I will deal with them on, away from this blog site. Jews have been forever "bloodsucking" money and everything else out of black people, since their support and money-making acts during American slavery, in which they made a fortune with their ships and as slave owners. So no black should pay any attention to Jews, who ripped off Michael Jackson, and were also involved in his downfall and death. And because they are all anti-Jesus. A subject that I am always writing about in my various newsletters and press releases that go all over the country. Now, as for the MLK street, there certainly needs to be one in Nashville, and the black caucus needs to get their act together and get one. I prefer renaming Jefferson Street after Dr. King, and take that racist, slave owner president's name off. And keep in mind that racism is still alive folks, and how President Obama is being mocked and mistreated, as well as his wife, should tell even an ignorant fool that it's still going on. Unless the fool is deaf, dumb and blind. --- Rev. George Brooks

By: Melba Narberth on 6/3/11 at 4:25

Rev. Brooks:

I don't think anyone's saying black people shouldn't have their own identity movements.

Honestly, the only people who are absolutely forbidden to do so in modern America are non-Jewish Caucasians.

By: left on 6/3/11 at 8:13

There is history for all groups.Whether good or bad, it will be around forever. I believe anything the council does should benefit ALL Americans without making some group mad. Do you really care if they change the name,no,I don't think so. And for the comments against obama, what's pointed out for one president, whether good or bad, can be said(Bush haters), can be said about another president. Everyone has a opinion!

By: localboy on 6/6/11 at 9:13

Wow, Rev, swing for the fences.

By: Nitzche on 6/6/11 at 12:53

well, no disagreement that all MLK streets are in the bad part of town in the USA? Hey, Belle meade blvd. is now MLK blvd? bredesen and Al Gore live in Belle Meade, they will lead the charge?