Well, I went to my first City Council meeting to provide my input on the above subject. The meeting room was packed, but thinned out after the first two agenda items finished, which concerned downtown development and appointing some people to terms on some community redevelopment board. While listening to that go on, and on, I came to realize that these meetings sometimes go late into the night. The term cruel and unusual punishment came to mind for having to sit there and listen to it, let alone report on it.
I did have a brush with greatness though, well, aside from speaking to the entire (except for Donovan) city council. I sat in the front row next to Mark O’Brien and not far from Sam Hall.
As I pointed out in my previous post on this subject entitled Pensacola Call To Action, I was not aware of any groundswell of public opinion to change the remaining portion of Alcaniz St. to MLK Drive. On that, I can report that the driving force behind it is an organization headed by Leroy Boyd called Movement for Change.
Being unfamiliar with the proceedings, I let several others offer their public input before I offered my two cents.
Mr. Boyd was the first to speak. I was interested to hear why Mr. Boyd wanted to revisit this issue and replace Alcaniz Street entirely, since this matter had already been decided eight years ago in a way that both honors Dr. King and preserves the historical aspect (Alcaniz is a city in Spain) of Alcaniz Street.
He couldn’t have made a worse case for wanting to change it. He told the city council that people on Alcaniz St. south of Cervantes are racist. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but that is the case he presented. He said it was all about race, and that that was the reason that the entire street didn’t get renamed eight years ago. The historical aspect of Alcaniz St. totally escaped him, and, he did not accept the others’ opinions from eight years ago that it was about history and not race.
When it was my turn, I was pretty nervous. I hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself while speaking to the Council. I attempted to make my case that the council ought to just leave the street where they left it eight years ago. That way, they won’t be erasing a part of Pensacola’s history from a few centuries ago for the sake of the civil rights movement of the last century. The way it is, everyone, except perhaps Mr. Boyd, can be satisfied by respecting history and Dr. King.
Then I stated that, although I did not know Mr. Boyd, that his making a street name change proposal all about race was not the best way to get anything done. I said something like pushing the race button on this issue is not the way to go. What happened next was kind of cool.
Mr. Boyd took to the floor again to address me and what I had said, as though he was going to carry on a debate with me or something. Mayor Fogg correctly told Mr. Boyd that he had his one chance for public input. When I heard that, since I hadn’t met Mr. Boyd yet, I felt that the time was right. So I got up, walked over to him, and motioned for him to follow me out of the room so we could meet each other, let the council resume their business, and discuss the issue further.
Mr. Boyd followed me into the open space where the elevators are and I introduced myself. A few other people followed too, I suppose to insure our mutual safety. ?? Our meeting was nothing but civil. My question to him was simple. ‘Why are you making the street name issue a racial one?’
Boyd: Because it is. It’s all about race.
ross: How can you say that? I don’t see any signs down there that say ‘whites only.’
Boyd: Because the prices of homes there are too expensive. The whites have priced blacks out of the neighborhood.
ross: Real estate values are not racist. They are what they are. Barack Obama could get a place down there if he wanted to.
Boyd: I probably could too, but Aragon Court was supposed to be affordable and it isn’t. You can’t name 10 black families that live down there.
ross: What’s Aragon Court got to do with renaming Alcaniz Street? So, because it is expensive, that makes it racist? Are people on Pensacola Beach racist also? It’s even more expensive there.
Boyd: Oh, you don’t want to go there. Many blacks have disappeared on the beach.
ross: What? I’ve been here for 26 years and I haven’t heard of anything like that.
Boyd: That was more long ago than that.
ross: So why Alcaniz Street, that has history in it for the city? Whats the matter with W or A street for example?
Boyd: You’re not going to tell me where I can name a street. It is about race, and making all of Alcaniz to be MLK is my goal, and that’s that.
By this point there wasn’t anything else to discuss. He made his point and I made mine. We shook hands and I left. He went back inside. I don’t know what else went on at the council meeting. But at least I found out first-hand who and what is behind the name change. For Leroy Boyd, it is unfinished business, part of a movement. History be dammed.
This video is Leroy Boyd making his case on why the remainder of Alcaniz Street, from Cervantes Street south to Main Street should be replaced with MLK Drive.
And this is my public input to the matter. At the very end of the video you can hear me accept Mr. Boyd’s wish to talk to me by inviting him to follow me outside, which he did. And the dialog from that discussion is what appears above.