Monday, January 19, 2015

Rosa Parks Blvd

Unveiling of Street signage for Rose Parks Blvd

Friday evening Cathy and I watched the new movie "Selma" about the efforts to create a Federal Voting Rights Act, eliminating much of the discrimination that prevented individuals from being able to register to vote, particularly the poor and those of color.  It was a telling and sobering movie that has reminded us of how far we've come, yet what short sighted things we sometimes still do today.  If you haven't seen it, you should.  I don't know enough about what movie critics are looking for in picking Oscars, but this is a well done movie and worth the ticket price and will be a keeper when it comes out for personal use.

Friday evening reminded me of my own participation in the honorary street naming of 200 E in Salt Lake City to Rosa Parks Blvd.  I've always had a deep respect for the civil rights movement and certainly studied it extensively in my collegiate pursuits in history.  However I was pleasantly surprised, when I was approached by the Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP a few years ago and their chapter president, Jeanetta Williams, who asked me what it would take to have a street named for Rose Parks and if I would be willing to take the lead.  We did some research among council staff and I had conversations with my colleagues at the time.  I felt like it should be a street that actually had buses on it, and it was also important that at some point, it intersected with 600 S - Martin Luther King Blvd and 500 S - Cesar Chavez Blvd.  Our rules required that the petitioner (in this case me) would have to bare the full cost of changing the street signs in addition to the council action required.  In an effort to address some of that cost, and to keep the change at a reasonable level, we decided to do the segment between South Temple and 600 S. My initial plan was to see if I could get a corporate partner to challenge match and then I would proceed to begin my fund raising effort.  My first stop was with my employer at the time, Zions Bank and I approached Scott Anderson, its President.  Scott asked me how much the total cost would be, and then wrote me a personal check for the entire amount.  I dare say, it was the easiest effort in raising funds that I've experienced, but I was so grateful for his person support.
Robert Rendon - Zions Bank, Mayor Rocky Anderson, myself, Gloria Wilkinson - Zions Bank
Jeanetta Williams - NAACP, Nancy Saxton, SLC Council and a representative of Youth City
Unfortunately the day of the unveiling, Scott was unable to join us but sent two friends from Zions Bank and we unveiled the signs in the Urban Room of the Salt Lake City Library.  Salt Lake City has since extended signage beyond 600 S and it always brings a feeling of pride and gratitude when I pass one of them.  I actually still have the one on the easel for my own personal memories.

I'm also grateful for Rose Parks.  My girls and I did some studying of her story so that we could better understand her sacrifice and the significance of the event.  Not only did it change history for those of color, but for women too.  The combination of those two things, often get overlooked and it was important for my girls to understand it.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I express my gratitude for the blessings of individuals, including Dr King who sacrificed much so we would be more tolerable, kinder and hold ourselves to a better standard.

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