By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
That’s what it will take for Hollywood City Commissioners to initiate a process that would correct a historic wrong: the stealth naming of three streets after Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate army; John Bell Hood, a division commander in that army; and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a lieutenantgeneral who, according to some sources, became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan – a claim he denied.
It is not only wrong for men who led a treasonous four-year campaign against the United States of America; it is especially egregious that the streets are located in Hollywood’s predominantly black neighborhood of Liberia.
No-one seems to know exactly how the streets came to be renamed. That was not the intention of Joseph Wesley Young, who laid the groundwork for Hollywood, which was incorporated on Nov. 28, 1925, originally covering one square mile of farmland and now encompassing 28.87 square miles.
The streets were originally named for American cities with large black populations, according to Hollywood historian Joan Mickelson. She told the Sun Sentinel that the name changes came about after city founder Young died in 1934.
“I have not the slightest knowledge of when or why these streets were renamed,”
A controversy over the names has been brewing for years and it came to a head at a commission meeting on June 21, when a number of groups and individuals forced it on commissioners even though the subject was not on the agenda.
Black Lives Matter, along with State Rep. Shevrin Jones, whose district includes part of Hollywood, led the demand. Black Lives Matter has been playing a key role in somewhat similar actions elsewhere, where Confederate statues and monuments are being taken down in a handful of cities, notably New Orleans.
And then there is Dylan Roof, who joined a Bible Studies session at Emanuel African to Black America Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015, then shot dead nine of the worshipers. Roof, then 21, was subsequently captured and said he intended to start a race war. He is under a death sentence, as well as being sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Photographs on a website showed Roof posing with white supremacist and neo-Nazi symbols. This gave further impetus to the outrage against Confederate symbols and increasingly loud demands for them to be removed from places of prominence, including official sites.
Hollywood does not have such monuments but the city does have Lee, Hood and Forrest streets. Activists want that to change.
Laurie Schecter, 68, a white resident whose beachfront home is a few blocks from Forrest Street, has set the process in motion by paying the $6,000 application fee to initiate the name changes – $2,000 per street, according to the Sun Sentinel.
“This is my hometown. It has always bugged me that these streets were named after these generals,” Schecter told the paper.
The plan is to rename Forrest Street as Savannah Street, Hood Street as Macon Street and Lee Street as Louisville Street. But there is no guarantee of success. The city earlier took steps to simplify what officials had insisted was a complicated process by agreeing to hold a referendum of residents on each street. The Sun Sentinel reported that more than $22,000 will be needed to mail ballots to property owners.
Schecter told the paper she may launch a campaign to raise the money. It is not clear whether the mayor and commissioners – six whites and one white Hispanic — do not have the authority to simply make the changes.
The ballot initiative could prove to be the biggest hurdle. Blacks comprise under 17 percent of Hollywood’s population. Whites (excluding Hispanic whites), are 58 percent and Latinos are about 23 percent. Much will depend on how blacks living on the three streets respond to the proposed referendum.
Opposition has already started among some residents who say they will resist any change not because they are offended by the current names but because they do not want the hassle of having to change addresses. But one person’s refusal to be bothered is another person’s racial pride.
Various supporters of the Confederacy – which lost the war more than 150 years ago – will do their best to defeat any ballot measure. They were very boisterous – and some were outright racist – during their appearance at the June 21 commission meeting.
The current street names perpetuate a mindset that some Americans – blacks – are inferior to others – whites – and this is at the heart of what is sometimes generously called “America’s race problem.” Hollywood residents must not allow the Civil War to be lost in their city. They must stand up and put an end to this “shameful episode in their history.”