Bernal E. Smith II
The agenda for the Land Use Control Board meeting of Jan. 12 includes a proposal to rename Linden Ave. from Front Street to Danny Thomas after civil and human rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who met with his untimely death here in the city of Memphis.
Memphis stands as one of the few urban cities in the country without a significant street, boulevard, avenue or parkway named for King, who was arguably the most significant agent of change in the struggle for equality and justice for the oppressed – and particularly African Americans – in the history of United States. He has certainly become a global figure for nonviolent protest and peaceful demonstration towards changing severe injustice and inequity.
Given King’s lofty position as a global leader for change, one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived and certainly a significant part of the history of Memphis, the proposed stretch of road is at best inadequate to his legacy. It falls shamefully short of honoring and recognizing the comprehensive contributions made by Dr. King to the world, but more importantly the ultimate sacrifice that was paid here in this city on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.
My fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., (Alpha Delta Lambda Alumni Chapter), the first African American Greek Letter College Fraternity in the world (founded Dec. 4, 1906 at Cornell University) is offering a significant alternative proposal to the Linden proposal. The Alpha initiative is to rename South Parkway from Riverside Drive to South Cooper, Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Parkway. The expanse of South Parkway, its historical significance dating back to the early days of incorporated Memphis, the cultural heritage it represents and the current make-up of its residents and businesses makes it the most fitting location for such a proposed renaming. It certainly is a distantly better option than the Linden proposal.
I admonish the Land Use Control Board and all the members of the City Council to strongly consider the proposal by the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Do not add tarnish to the image of our City in its handling of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As we approach the celebration of his life and legacy on Monday (Jan. 16), we should take the opportunity before us to ensure his contributions to and sacrifices in Memphis receive the highest recognition available.
Certainly the truest recognition and honor to Dr. King’s legacy is our continued and demonstrated commitment of service to one another and in ensuring social, economic and educational justice and equity for all of this community’s residents. But if we must establish a marker, a gesture of honor and remembrance, let it be grand and worthy of the sacrifice that was made in Memphis on that fateful day in 1968.
(Bernal E. Smith II is President/ Publisher of The New Tri-State Defender.)