Petition to rename KC street for MLK begins as a generation rises up at peace march

Hundreds marched in Kansas City on Friday, walking along one street in particular that many want renamed in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The march for peace, followed by a rally inside Morning Star Baptist Church on 27th Street, began on The Paseo. Leaders hope to garner 1,700 signatures in order to ask Kansas City voters in August if the street should be rechristened Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The signature drive began Friday at the march and rally.

The assembly also served to honor the 50 years that have passed since King was killed.

"We are marching for peace," said Vernon Howard, a pastor and one of the organizers of the march, from the pulpit inside Morning Star. "When we step up to voice and empower those who are on the margins and those who do not have a voice, it takes more than one organization, one side of town. More than one race, one religion, one generation.

"It does not take one, it takes us."

Howard said renaming The Paseo would set it apart from other streets, resulting in beautification of infrastructure and new capital investment. His hope is that more economic opportunities in the area would reduce violent crime rates.

James Tindall, a bishop at another church in the city, lamented that 50 years have passed and the only nod to King in Kansas City is a small park.

About 900 streets in 42 states carry King's name. Kansas City is believed to be one of the larger metropolitan areas without one.

Not everyone assembled agreed with the aim of renaming The Paseo.

Monique Campbell, whose daughter sang in the choir, said she felt advocacy efforts would be better spent on educational opportunities. The volunteer with Indivisible Kansas City said encouraging more political engagement would better mend racial inequality.

She and other volunteers are planning an educational workshop on May 12 at the YMCA on Linwood Boulevard.

As the rally hit its midway point in the church, various young people took the stage and electrified the audience with passionate and sensible words.

Two teens from Olathe South High School asked how a black man could be killed by police while holding nothing but a cell phone, while a mass murderer who killed students in Florida could walk away unscathed in handcuffs.

Another teen delivered a poem that mentioned the history of oppression of African Americans in the U.S.

"I am angry, but don’t I have a right to be?" she asked.

Megan Dorantes, a junior at Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences, defined peace as wearing a hoodie and not being stopped by police, or a hijab without being suspected of terrorism, or "being able to sit down and eat your food while speaking a different language other than English and not being told 'go back to your country.'"

Later, she implored those assembled to seek peace with by electing representatives "who speak for us, understand us and are willing to fight for us.

"You have a voice. Your votes matter," Megan said.

And a rousing rendition of "A Change is Gonna Come" by 8-year-old Troy Sanders inspired several people to leap out of their seats.

"There is a generation rising up," Howard said, to even more applause amid dreams of peace.