Rename Boston's Columbus Avenue after the Honorable Mel King Avenue

Rename Boston's Columbus Avenue after the Honorable Mel King Avenue

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I Grew Up In Roxbury started this petition to Mayor Kim Janey

Melvin Herbert King is a politician, community organizer, and educator born October 20, 1928, in the South End section of Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. King became the first Black person to make it to the general election when he ran for mayor of Boston in 1983.

King held the position of adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1973, he was elected as a Massachusetts state representative for the 9th Suffolk District, where he served until 1982.

King, a lifelong resident of South End neighborhood of Boston, has been active in creating community programs and institutions for low-income people in Boston and is the founder and current director of the South End Technology Center.

King's mother, Ursula, was born in Guyana, and his father, Watts King, in Barbados. They met and married in Nova Scotia and immigrated to Boston in the early 1920s.[2][3] King, born in 1928, in South End neighborhood, was one of eleven children, nine of whom survived past infancy. He graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1946 and from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1950 with a B.S. degree in mathematics. In 1951, he received his M.A. degree in education from Boston State College and then taught math, first at Boston Trade High School and at his alma mater, Boston Technical High School.

In 1953, King left the classroom to work with at risk youth, becoming Director of Boy's Work at Lincoln House, a settlement house in Boston's South End community. He continued his community work focusing on street corner gangs as Youth Director at United South End Settlements (USES). He also worked as a community activist and urban renewal and anti-poverty organizer. He was let go by USES when he promoted and supported neighborhood control versus USES and government control over the urban renewal and federal funds to assist poor people. (See the concept of community-driven development.) King was then rehired after protests from the community over his firing and was given the job as a community organizer. King then founded the Community Assembly for a United South End (C.A.U.S.E.), to give tenants and community residents a voice in their communities.

Mel King remains a voice in the Boston community, and we want to honor his work and legacy while he's still with us. The current street name, Columbus Avenue, is named after Christopher Columbus, who sailed from Spain in 1492 with three ships — the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria — in search of a new route to Asia. Landing on what is now the Bahamas, he was greeted by the Indigenous inhabitants and cautiously welcomed.

Columbus returned their hospitality by enslaving the villagers, looting their resources, and infecting them with devastating diseases like smallpox. Columbus was a ruthless leader, driven by greed and a pirate-like mentality.

Later in life, Columbus' idea of a slave economy helped powerful Europeans jumpstart the slave trade in America.

Later voyages to the Americas from Spain, Portugal, England, and other European countries would lead to the colonization of the Americas, the genocides of Indigenous peoples, and the devastation of much of their civilizations. In many ways, Christopher Columbus' voyage can be seen as the start of the early-modern era of slavery, which would include both Indigenous peoples in the Americas and people forcibly taken from Africa.

The exchange of diseases, vegetation, and animal life — previously separated by the ocean and by many thousands of years — also began with Columbus' voyages and transformed the civilizations of the separate hemispheres irrevocably. This process is now known as the Columbian Exchange.

The introduction of European diseases to the Americas was especially noteworthy since they were far more virulent than the diseases transmitted from the Americas to Europe. Diseases like smallpox and measles spread quickly throughout the Americas, wiping out many Indigenous people over the next couple of centuries.

This depopulation of the North and South American continents left the surviving Indigenous people unable to effectively defend themselves from the ruthless exploitation they would suffer at the hands of the European colonizers for centuries.

Columbus' legacy was always destined to be a controversial one. But Columbus was not a bystander to the exploitation of Indigenous people — he was an active participant. In a journal entry about his first interactions with the Native people of the Bahamas in 1492, he wrote:

"They willingly traded everything they owned ... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features ...They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron ... They would make fine servants ... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

We, the people of Boston, hereby demand that the street named Columbus Avenue, be renamed Mel King Avenue. Changing this name will honor the legacy of a man who dedicated his entire adult life to positive change in our community. To keep Christopher Columbus' namesake on our city streets is to say our elected officials and our community have bowed to accept the atrocities embedded in the history of Columbus and his settlers. Every year that we celebrate the holiday of this murderer, rapist, and pillaging pirate, we demean the legacy of the indigenous people of our communities.

#NoMoreColumbus #MelKingAvenue


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