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Charlottesville considering honorary street designation for Black Lives Matter

Charlottesville is considering an honorary street name downtown to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement.

During its meeting last week, the City Council discussed three proposed honorary designations.

Don Gathers submitted an application to designate Market Street between 1st Street Northeast and 9th Street Northeast as Black Lives Matter Boulevard.

Myra Anderson asked the city to designate 7th Street Northeast between Market and Jefferson streets as Black Lives Matter Avenue.

Tanesha Hudson also submitted a request to call Main Street between the Ridge Street/McIntire Road intersection and 10th Street/Roosevelt Brown Boulevard as Black Excellence Way.

The most recent honorary name went to 6 ½ Street Southwest, which was called Winneba Way to recognize Charlottesville’s sister city in Ghana.

In 2019, the council also voted to change the namesake of Preston Avenue to educator Asalie Minor Preston rather than Thomas Lewis Preston, a former Confederate officer and slave owner.

Localities across the country are taking measures to elevate Black history in the months following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

“This is coming because of George Floyd’s execution and really it’s a question of who do Black lives matter to?” Mayor Nikuyah Walker said.

Neighborhood Development Services recommended combining Gathers’ and Anderson’s requests into one honorific related to Black Lives Matter.

The department said that Hudson’s request didn’t meet the requirements of the city’s street naming policy. The policy requires a designation focused on people or events “that have made an important and lasting contribution” to the city or represent a key part of its history.

City Attorney John Blair said the council could still support Hudson’s request and change the policy because it has unilateral authority on street naming.

City engineer Brennen Duncan said that Black Lives Matter could fit the policy, although there is some gray area. He said “It’s not just a phrase, it’s a whole movement” and argued that it could be considered a collection of people. Duncan said Hudson’s suggestion was more of a concept.

At the end of the meeting, Hudson spoke in public comment and was frustrated that the council did not ask questions about her request. She said she will submit another application that fits the policy.

City staff estimated that the designation on 7th Street would cost $374 while Market and Main streets would cost $748.

The council supported the designation for 7th Street and will consider a resolution at its Aug. 3 meeting.

The council also requested an update on a measure introduced by former Councilors Wes Bellamy and Mike Signer in 2019 to examine unnamed city properties and come up with 12 properties to name in honor of those who fought for social justice.

“We never want to get in a situation where we do these symbolic gestures and think that something substantive changed because I know that’s just a trick in politics all the time,” Councilor Michael Payne said.

City spokesman Brian Wheeler said he was in meetings with former Deputy City Manager Mike Murphy and Charlene Green, manager of the Office of Human Rights, about the process last year and next steps weren’t finalized. Murphy and Green have since resigned and Bellamy and Signer didn’t seek re-election so Wheeler is the only remaining official who was involved in the process.

Wheeler said he will provide paperwork from the meetings to City Manager Tarron Richardson and the council will receive an update on the process.


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