Nashville is the only major municipality in Tennessee which lacks an MLK memorial street of any kind. Bristol, Chattanooga, Jackson, Knoxville, and Memphis each include a boulevard, drive, or avenue memorializing Dr. King. Our city has a bridge, which we should be proud of, and keep, but we can do more. We have an opportunity to create such a roadway designation, in a way that solves a problematic naming scheme for two busy Nashville streets, while honoring King’s name through neighborhoods which run a full range of racial and economic diversity.
Download the Proposal
A PDF of the basic proposal I’ve put in front of city leaders can be found right here. Feel free to download, link to it, post about it, and spread the word.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you care about this?
We should all care about recognizing figures in history who helped our culture make as much progress as Dr. King did. However, as a young, white, middle-class male, I have less stake in this than others might claim. As a resident of the area this would pass through, I know that it would be vastly meaningful to my neighbors, and it would make me proud to see it adding to the cultural richness thereof.
How did this idea come about?
While leaving Chattanooga, on a trip with a close friend of mine who is both African-American and many years my senior, the discussion came up that Nashville was the only major TN city lacking such a street. We began to brainstorm locations and talk about the topic, and it stuck with me.
Has nobody ever tried this before?
They have, but it has not happened yet, has it? This concept should not be very hard to pull off, but for reasons that may be entirely valid, it just has not. One might even ask why it takes someone “like me” to push for this, and not the establishment of civic leaders. I feel that my urging on this topic can simply help them show more support for this, while doing something I already like to do: challenge silly things about our city. In this case, this great and lofty notion also happens to be able to fix a pairing of streets which is, frankly, laughable. It is a win-win for history and logical civic planning, while also doing something that other cities have been ahead of us in doing, through honoring Dr. King.
What's so great about your route idea?
Aside from the aforementioned fixing of a clumsy number pairing, the location I propose for this route places it in front of residents and commuters within some of Nashville’s least privileged and most privileged neighborhoods. Yes, it is quite purposeful that I’d like to see this street spanning from TSU to Vandy, in a display of diversity, history, and Civil Rights pride. Call it part of my “liberal agenda” if you like.
Most arguments against this proposal’s primary goal – an MLK Boulevard in Nashville, regardless of my route or some other – cannot conceivably be made without vast insensitivity to race topics, and in this time of high tension in our nation, while our own city wrestles with certain other memorializations, wouldn’t it be nice to honor a Civil Rights hero who has been left out of our streetscape nomenclature for far too long, at this time in our history?
Are you getting something out of this?
I would love to run for local office sometime, so yes. Being part of this effort, or being able to push our leaders toward making it a reality, would be a political accomplishment. Yes, I have asked the question why our leaders are not always the source for great ideas, proactively, but instead operate on a response basis. To challenge that, disrupt it, and show a better way, I am willing to make this proposal. One day, yes, it may come up in a list of accomplishments I’ve made in civics in Nashville. But outside of that, this is just “doing a good thing” – and we all should want to engage in our city and do more of that.
Thanks For Reading!
I hope you’ll join me – whether you’re a citizen, city leader, or just a casual observer – in the call for Nashville to make this a reality. Thanks for taking the time to explore the idea, and please feel free to use my contact form to start a discussion!