GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids city commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to officially change two street names to honor civil rights icons.
“This is truly historic. This is really about the past and even more so thinking about the future,” 2nd Ward City Commissioner Milinda Ysasi said.
The entirety of Grandville Avenue, which runs from Weston Street and Clyde Park Avenue, will become Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. All of Franklin Street SE, between Oakland Avenue and the city limit, will be renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
“I think the cross-section of Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar E. Chavez, right there where it’s currently Franklin and Grandville, sends a message that this is a community for not just for one community of people but for all because both of them stood for all and unity,” City Commissioner Senita Lenear, who represents the 3rd Ward, said.
Both Chavez and King already have their names on Grand Rapids street signs — but as designations only, not as the official names. With the change, the designation on S. Division Avenue honoring King will be removed. The former names of Grandville and Franklin will also remain as designations.
The movement to change the street names was initiated by Moving Ahead for Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes, or MARCH. MARCH was created in October 2019. Since then, the committee has held meetings about the changes and collected petitions from residents who were in favor of the changes.
“It means a lot because when Grand Rapids came to be, minorities were not put in blueprint for street names in dividing this city up,” said Robert S. Womack, a MARCH co-chairperson. “Here we are many generations later when they’re finally being recognized.”
The new names go into effect Feb. 22, 2022.
“Here we are, making history in the city of Grand Rapids,” Lupe Ramos-Montigny, a member of the Moving Ahead for the Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes Committee behind the renaming initiative, said during the Tuesday City Commission meeting. “These two civil rights heroes truly made an impact all over the world. Now that impact is going to flow into the streets of Grand Rapids.”
—News 8’s Ruben Juarez contributed to this report.