Grand Rapids Streets Renamed to Honor Civil Rights Leaders
Civil rights heroes César E. Chávez and Martin Luther King, Jr. are now memorialized along two main roads in Grand Rapids.
The Intersection of César E. Chávez Ave. and Martin Luther King, Jr. St.
Last fall the Moving Ahead for Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes (M.A.R.C.H.) Committee submitted a proposal to the GR City Commission to formally change the name of Grandville Avenue to César E. Chávez Avenue between Clyde Park Avenue SW and Weston Street SW, and Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street between Oakland Avenue SW and the boundary with the city of East Grand Rapids.
The City Commission unanimously approved the the name changes Oct. 12, 2021.
Grand Rapids is now the first city in the state of Michigan to have an intersection dedicated to César E. Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr.
Grand Rapids Street Renaming Ceremony
Tuesday, February 22, 2022, City leaders and M.A.R.C.H. Committee members joined together with family members of the honorees - Paul Chavez, son of César E. Chávez, and Reverend Dr. Derek King, nephew of Martin Luther King Jr. - at the intersection for a sign installation ceremony.
Paul Chavez told Wood TV 8 the intersection is representative of the connection between his father’s and Martin Luther King’s work,
My father learned much about boycotts from closely following Dr. King’s career, beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott in the mid-’50s. He was impacted by the strength of nonviolent social justice action. In 1966, Dr. King wrote my father, and he talked about our struggle, and he said, ‘Our separate struggles are really one: the struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.
The Honorable Lupe Ramos-Montigny, M.A.R.C.H. co-chair, said in a release,
We are making history in the City of Grand Rapids. We had everyone in mind when we proposed the renaming of these two streets. These two civil rights heroes truly made an impact all over the world and now that impact flows into the streets of Grand Rapids.
City of Grand Rapids Third Ward Commissioner and M.A.R.C.H. committee member Senita Lenear said,
This is really about community, unity, dedication and representation that are all things that matter. This joint effort is intentional because we know our coming together symbolizes our local unity. César Chávez once said, ‘Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.’ This new cross-section of César Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr. streets sends a message that this is a community not for just one community of people, but for all, as both leaders stood for all and unity.
Signs are powerful and without a spoken word send messages. Sometime those messages send direction – like traffic signs – and other times of oppression – think Jim Crowe. The M.A.R.C.H. Committee sought to change the names of these streets for a sign of unity, peace and power. Something these two civil rights heroes, who never met, boldly represent. For we know representation matters.
Will Franklin Ave. and Grandville Ave. Still Work for Mail, etc.?
Prior to the formal name change, residents and property owners on the two streets were sent letters informing them that the the City of Grand had coordinated updates to address records for city services, voter records, and navigation services like Google and Apple Maps.
Mail and shipping services like UPS and USPS will deliver to addresses listing either Franklin Street or Martin Luther King Jr. Street and Grandville Avenue or César E. Chávez Avenue.
East Grand Rapids Changing Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street
On Tuesday, the East Grand Rapids City Commission yesterday also approved the renaming of Franklin Street SE to Martin Luther King Jr. Street from west city limits to Plymouth Avenue.
Mayor Katie Favale said in a release.
The renaming of Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street is a significant and intentional way we can honor Dr. King’s life and legacy – and celebrate our community’s commitment to equity and inclusion. These signs will offer a daily reminder of what Dr. King stood for, why we need to continue to push for civil rights and how we can be a welcoming community for everyone.
The change will take effect May 2, 2022.