Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Commentary: Obama Boulevard is coming to Los Angeles, and the location couldn't be better

By Jessica Sutherland

It took a year for the proposal to pass, but Barack Obama Boulevard is finally coming to Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this week. The LA City Council voted Tuesday to rename Rodeo Road, located in southwestern Los Angeles, for the beloved former American president. The 3.5 mile thoroughfare, pronounced Ro-DEE-oh, and not to be confused with the fancypants Ro-DAY-oh Drive in Beverly Hills, is a major east-west street, connecting the west side to Mid-City. 
While little to no opposition rose up about naming a street after Obama, there was some pushback from Angelenos who felt Rodeo Road wasn’t significant enough a street for a tribute to the first black American president.
"Change La Brea, change Sepulveda," said Taylor Strong. "Sepulveda is the longest street in California. Change a major, major street. I think he deserves more than Rodeo."
"Obama is something we've never had, and in my lifetime we thought we would never see it," said Walter, who declined to give his last name. "He deserves more than a little bitty street."
"Changing the name here won't change anything because it's already a black neighborhood," agreed Shawn Rahman. "Why not take it to Beverly Hills? Why not change Rodeo Drive to Obama Drive? Because it's a white neighborhood? You're changing the street, you're spending the money, might as well change it there."
But the location was not chosen by accident; Rodeo Road winds through predominantly African American enclaves like Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, and Leimert Park, and is home to the Rancho Cienega Sports Center and Park, where the 44th president held a campaign rally in 2007. The area, known as an “iconic black community,” also has numerous major streets named after other presidents. 
As such, City Council President Herb Wesson, who proposed the name change, was quick to deflect such criticism.
"People wanted a longer street, but what I have said to the people, it's not about the length of the street, it's about the significance of the street, it is about what happened on that street," he said.
There’s also significance to the day that the renaming was announced.
The name change is set to be implemented and unveiled on Presidents’ Day 2019,the Los Angeles Times reports. Will everyone’s favorite mic-dropping president and First Lady make an appearance? Wait and see. Wesson will only say that he is in “preliminary talks” with the Obamas with regards to that invitation. 
While Obama Boulevard is not the first move to pay permanent tribute to the former president in the Golden State, it does have a very specific placement that will allow folks in Los Angeles (including this writer) to have a uniquely symbolic and surreal moment, beautifully described by state senator Holly J, Mitchell.
“I look forward to standing at the intersection of MLK Boulevard (formerly Santa Barbara Boulevard) and the newly minted Barack Obama Boulevard and raising my fist in cultural pride.”
That’s right, folks—Rodeo Road intersects King Blvd. And in less than six months, the intersection of American hope and dreams will be the most significant (and beloved) intersection in Los Angeles.

Editor's note: This article was originally published at the Daily Kos, which stipulates that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified."

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