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Arkansas city renames a street in Martin Luther King’s honor

January 21, 2020 GMT

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Residents in the northeast Arkansas city of Jonesboro celebrated a street being renamed in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. after months of contentious debate.

About 100 people gathered Monday at the intersection of Commerce and Highland Drives to witness the new street sign’s unveiling on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The move followed a parade and program on Arkansas Sate University’s campus to commemorate King’s legacy.

“Today is a day of healing, a day of success,” Mayor Harold Perrin said.

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After a spirited battle, the City Council in December approved the ordinance to rename Commerce Drive for the civil rights leader.

“The question is asked occasionally, do we still need to celebrate Dr. King’s holiday? If you followed the efforts this year to get a street name in the honor of Dr. King in Jonesboro and some of the language used in the debate and editorials, you realize there still remains a need for programs like this,” said Rev. Ray Scales, who attended the unveiling.

Emma Agnew, president of Craighead County’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it was a historic day for the city and something many in the community sought for more than a decade. The lesson for future generations, she added, is to speak up when you truly believe in something.

“For a small town in the South to realize and recognize that this street renaming means so much to so many people and that it is important,” Agnew said.

While speaking during the program, Agnew encouraged the audience to register to vote. An NAACP representative was there to assist people with the registration process. She asked the crowd to consider those who died fighting for the right to vote and to take their legacy seriously.

“We need to register to vote and vote like your life depended on it,” Agnew said.