Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Martin Luther King Day, January 18th

The creation of a national holiday to honor Dr. King had been controversial, because it was a signal that the US is becoming a more demographically diverse nation, from one that had been dominated by a White person-centric narrative ("Martin Luther King Day was not observed by all states until 2000," UPI).

In the years since, the Day has been fashioned as a "National Day of Service," and in most communities there are many volunteer activities going on.  (Although my one concern is that in colder climes, January 18th isn't the best day around which to organize such activities, especially outside.)

National Park Service free admission day.  MLK Day is one of the days on which the National Park Service provides free admission to parks which normally charge an admission free.

The controversy over renaming streets in honor of Dr. King.  Interestingly, the Austin American-Statesman has republished an article, "Austin’s battle over Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard," about the original controversy in the 1970s to change the name of 19th Street in Austin, Texas to honor Dr. King.  It's a great story because of how it gets in to the intricacies about social change more generally, about public space and monuments, who had traditionally been honored, why, and how that is changing.

It's the flip side of discussions about the original naming of streets in favor of Confederate personages, as a coded protest against civil rights activism and.

Changing street signs on 19th Street in Austin, Texas, when the street was renamed.  Austin American-Statesman photo.

Along these lines is comedian Chris Rock's joke about how you know you're in the 'hood when you're on Martin Luther King Avenue speaks to spatial organization and long time patterns of discrimination.

That is something we need to be thinking about on Martin Luther King Day, as the places that have been named to honor Dr. King tend to be areas of violence and poverty, not hope and positive change, and improved economic circumstances.

Repositioning the day as a National Day of Service is one step towards this.

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