KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Black History Month celebrates the attributions of African Americans.
Black leaders say there is still work to be done in Kansas City, work that comes from unfinished business in recent years.
For years, Kansas City has struggled to rename its streets. To do that, it wasn’t easy.
City-appointed leaders often struggled to decide which streets and monuments should change.
That struggle manifested itself in 2019 when the KCMO City Council voted to change The Paseo’s name to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
But then, voters overwhelmingly decided to change it.
In 2020, the city asked Parks and Recreation Board commissioners to remove monuments and character names from avenues and avenues that promoted racism.
Three years ago, a KCMO Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson told KSHB 41 that it would work to change hundreds of street signs.
That plan, according to KCMO adviser Melissa Robinson, will not go ahead.
“That’s not a priority — that’s the message I’ve gotten from parks and recreation,” Robinson said. “But just to say we’re not doing that, it’s not a priority, it’s unacceptable in 2023.”
For two years, KSHB 41 has asked KCMO Parks and Recreation where the plan for removal is on its priority list. Each request, the department declined to comment.
“It’s a shame it’s stuck,” said Robinson. “People might say why talk about street names when we need potholes, trash fixed, all this disrepair, but people need to know it’s all interconnected in our livability as a community.”
Chris Goode is the founder and CEO of Ruby Jean’s Ruby Jean’s Kitchen & Juicery. He wants to make sure the department directive isn’t forgotten.
“It’s disappeared, it’s completely disappeared,” Goode said. “They should not, under any circumstances, honor people who own slaves, who have committed atrocities.”
In the meantime, he continues to work on changing the name of Troost Avenue.
“There hasn’t been any conversation until this conversation about ‘Truth over Troost’ comes along, because I’m willing to say, ‘Hey, this should happen,'” Goode said.
Robinson says it’s about making sure people feel welcome.
“I’m confident now that we have new leadership, new governors who have been appointed to the parks board, who will have the will and determination to make this a priority,” Robinson said.
In Goode’s attempt to change Troost Avenue to Truth Avenue, he says letters will be sent to homes along Troost in two weeks.
“Every single Troost address will be told why this topic is being raised so they can understand why it matters and have the opportunity to at least evaluate,” Goode said.
In 2021, the city officially changed portions of Blue Parkway, Swope Parkway, and Volker Boulevard to what is now called Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.