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Councilwoman wants KCMO Parks & Rec Department to remove monuments, rename streets with racist ties

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. signs installed.
Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 18:55:12-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Black history month celebrates the attributions of African Americans.

Black leaders say there is still work to be done in Kansas City, work that stems from unfinished business in recent years.

For years, Kansas City has fought to rename its streets. To do so, hasn’t been easy.

City-appointed leaders often struggled to decide which streets and monuments should change.

That struggle showed itself in 2019 when the KCMO City Council voted to change the name of The Paseo to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

But then, voters overwhelmingly decided to change it.

In 2020, the city requested the commissioners of the Parks and Recreation Board to remove monuments and names of figures from boulevards and parkways that promoted racism.

Three years ago, a spokesperson for the KCMO Parks and Recreation Department told KSHB 41 that it would work to change hundreds of its street signs.

That plan, according to KCMO councilwoman Melissa Robinson, won’t move forward.

“That it’s not a priority — that’s the message I got from parks and recreation,” Robinson said. “But just to flat out say we are not doing it, it’s not a priority — is unacceptable in 2023.”

For two years, KSHB 41 has asked the KCMO Parks and Recreation where the plan for removal stands on its list of priorities. Every request, the department declined to comment.

“It is unfortunate that it has stagnated,” Robinson said. “People might say why is she talking about street names when we need potholes, trash remediated, all this blight, but people need to know that it’s all interconnected in our livability as a community.”

Chris Goode is the founder and CEO of Ruby Jean's Ruby Jean's Kitchen & Juicery. He wants to make sure the department's directive isn’t forgotten.

“It disappeared, it completely disappeared,” Goode said. “They should not, under any circumstance, honor people that own slaves, that committed atrocities.”

In the meantime, he continues to work to change the name of Troost Avenue.

“There’s been no since conversation until this ‘Truth over Troost’ conversation comes over, because I’m willing to say, ‘Hey, this should happen,'" Goode said.

Robinson says it comes down to making sure people feel welcomed.

“I’m hopeful now that we have new leadership, new governors that have been appointed to the parks board, that will have the will and the determination to make this a priority,” Robinson said.

In Goode’s effort to change Troost Avenue to Truth Avenue, he says mailers will be sent to homes along Troost in two weeks.

“Every single Troost address will be notified why this topic is raised, so they can understand why it’s important and have the opportunity to at least weigh in,” Goode said.

In 2021, the city officially changed parts of Blue Parkway, Swope Parkway and Volker Boulevard to what is now named Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.