MARCH looks to change street names in GR to honor civil rights leaders

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local committee honoring civil rights leaders is seeking to have to a pair of streets in Grand Rapids renamed after two civil rights leaders. 

The committee, Moving Ahead for Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes, is looking to have Franklin Street officially changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Street between Oakland Avenue and the boundary with the city of East Grand Rapids. 

The other proposed change would see Grandville Avenue become Cesar E. Chavez Avenue between Clyde Park Avenue and Weston Street. 

“Really important because we want to show the city this time how much community support we have for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar E. Chavez,” said Robert S. Womack, a MARCH co-chairperson. 

There are currently street signs commemorating Chavez on Grandville, but MARCH leaders want to see an official change. 

His impact in the in area is evident: There’s an elementary school on Grandville named after the labor rights leader. 

“I know for people its emotional,” said MARCH co-chairperson Lupe Ramos-Montigny. “Something they identify with.”

Previously, there were commemorative street signs honoring King on Division Avenue, but those signs are no longer there. Womack says community members would like to see Franklin renamed after the civil rights leader.

“I can tell you 98% of the people I talked to are all for it,” Womack said. 

The group held a petition rally on Saturday afternoon looking for people to sign and show their approval for the proposed street changes. MARCH members informed residents about the plan and talked to them — in English and Spanish — about Chavez and King’s legacies.

“We were able to get a few hundred signatures, which is good,” Ramos-Montigny said. 

A public hearing regarding the name changes is set for September. The Grand Rapids City Commission would then have to vote on the proposed change. In the meantime, MARCH members will continue to hit the streets to gather more signatures. 

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