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25 Years a Name

Anniversary is a reminder of challenges that remain

Donovan M. Smith | 4/25/2014, 11:07 a.m.
Portland will celebrate 25 years of having a Martin Luther King Boulevard at the Blazers Boys and Girls Club April ...
The community is invited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the naming of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard during a special ceremony on Saturday, April 26, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Blazers Boys and Girls Club. Photo by Donovan M. Smith

“I think every time we have an opportunity to invite folks into the same space who might not see eye-to-eye but who are living together in the same neighborhood, in the same community, and have them talk about what their experiences are, and their sense of what they want for their neighborhood to feel like, and what they want it to be, I think that’s great,” he says.

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative’s Maxine Fitzpatrick, an African American leader for affordable housing, says since opening their doors in 1993, having their headquarters on Martin Luther King Boulevard has been a priority.

The main offices for PCRI have moved several times since its inception, but every time maintained its presence on the throughway.

“This is where PCRI should be,” says Fitzpatrick.

As economic development projects continue to advance in the neighborhoods, Fitzpatrick joins a chorus of other activists calling attention to the need to insure that black people of varied income brackets are able to remain in the neighborhood.

Ahjamu Umi, head of the black advocacy group Occupy Northeast as well as the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party of Portland, accuses city government of being dominated by corporate interests, and said that creates a certain irony in naming the street after King.

“I’m not one to care about street names,” Umi says, “but I care if people are grasping the concepts that MLK was talking about, and I think the state of the neighborhood is a reflection that we’re not.”

He goes on to ask if people of African descent are “interested” in grasping the concepts the civil rights leader was talking about or simply using him as a figurehead to further individual agendas.

More information on Saturday’s 25 year commemoration celebration of Martin Luther King Boulevard’s renaming at the Blazers Boys and Girls Club can be found by visiting the event’s Facebook page by clicking here.

--Donovan M. Smith