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NAJEE’S NOTES: Renaming a street in honor of Malcolm X

May 19 marked what would have been Malcolm X’s 95th birthday.

The legendary human rights activist became a champion for social and economic justice and was the voice of resistance against a racist and unjust system in America.

Malcolm X’s legacy as one of our nation’s greatest orators lives on in speeches.

To ensure his legacy will live on in South Los Angeles, a coalition of friends of his children and other family members and community leaders have announced a petition campaign to have a portion of Vernon Avenue renamed Malcolm X Boulevard.

The group has approached Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson to have Vernon Avenue between Crenshaw Boulevard and Arlington Avenue be named after Malcolm X.

The group already has garnered the support of members of Malcolm X’s family, political leaders and a broad based coalition of leaders ranging from Pastor K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference, Project Islamic Hope, the Council on American and Islamic Relations and the ILM Foundation.

This is not a new effort to honor Malcolm X. More than 20 years ago Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Muneerah Karim, Donald Bakeer, myself and a broad based coalition of activists announced a petition campaign to name Degnan Boulevard, a street in Leimert Park, in Malcolm X’s memory. Our coalition ended the campaign after deciding Malcolm X deserved a longer street.

I later approached then L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry and asked for her support to have a South L.A. intersection named after Malcolm X. I explained to her I had the full support of Malcolm X’s family members and community leaders in her council district.

Perry agreed to our proposal and on Sept. 17, 2003, the Los Angeles City Council, with Atallah Shabazz, the oldest daughter of Malcolm X, in attendance voted unanimously to name the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Central Avenue Malcolm X Way. The intersection is adjacent to the Bilal Islamic Center.

That was the perfect location for such an honor. Malcolm X helped raise funds for the largely African American Muslim community located there. He was a devout Muslim and responsible for helping spread Islam in the African American community.

It’s in that spirit that we decided to make the announcement this week during the holy month of Ramadan, a sacred month for more than one billion Muslims worldwide, that our coalition announces our full support for a Malcolm X Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Malcolm X is one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Malcolm X was a staunch advocate for self-defense and against racism.

We feel that such an honor for the slain civil rights leader is long overdue in Los Angeles. Malcolm X was a powerful advocate of African American pride, economic self-sufficiency, political action and human rights. His life was one of change, growth, and personal inspiration.

There are compelling reasons to now have a Malcolm X Boulevard. It would recognize his towering accomplishments and the deep impact he made on America. It would make Los Angeles one of at least 11 other cities in America to have a street that bears his name.

It would tie into Destination Crenshaw and indelibly mark the Crenshaw and Leimert Park area as one of the meccas of African-American culture, art and politics in Los Angeles and the nation. It also would boost national and international tourism, business and promotional opportunities for Crenshaw-area merchants.

It would help erase Leimert Park and the Crenshaw District’s disgraceful past as an area marred by “whites only” racial covenants on apartments and homes that barred African Americans and other minorities from living, working and even traveling through the area.

It would be an eternal reminder to young people of the powerful heritage, history and tradition of the black struggle in America.

In February 1998 the U.S. Postal Service issued the commemorative Malcolm X stamp. This literally and justifiably places the stamp of approval on Malcolm X as a true American hero.

Malcolm X, like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other great champions for freedom in America, is a man for the ages. And the best way to ensure that we and future generations emblazon his deeds and legacy permanently in our hearts and minds is to designate a section of Vernon Boulevard in his honor.

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