“I would hope that this would bring about some healing,” Kenney says.
The proposal isn’t exactly new. Kenney originally proposed Ashe Boulevard in March 1993, but he withdrew the paper in favor of further study. Kenney left City Council in 1994 and the idea fizzled. But now that he’s back, Kenney says he expects a majority of Council will support the idea.
Some Council members have been positive, Kenney says, while others want to wait and see.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” says G. Manoli Loupassi, whose district intersects with the Boulevard. “I would like to hear from the citizens.”
At least one citizen, Christopher Small, the past president of the Boulevard Association, knows where he stands.
“Oh please!” Small yelped when reached at his office last week. “It needs to be shelved again. The Boulevard has enough identity problems as it is.”
In addition to the logistics of changing addresses and signs, Small says the Boulevard is a historic street that needs to be preserved. And the issue will likely attract more controversy than it’s worth, he says. The Boulevard intersects with Monument Avenue, and the Stonewall Jackson statue stands at the intersection. Much of the racial ruckus over Arthur Ashe’s statue on Monument Avenue, a tribute to fallen Confederate soldiers, may reemerge.
The proposed change, he says, is “only furthering that racial issue that he’s trying to solve,” Small says of Kenney. “He’s just pushing every button he can.”
Kenney says history isn’t a reason to pooh-pooh Ashe Boulevard. And, he points out, he didn’t support putting the Ashe statue on Monument Avenue. It should have been on Arthur R. Ashe Jr. Boulevard.
“The argument that history should be preserved in every circumstance — I don’t see why,” Kenney says. “History says to some that it’s best to maintain slavery, segregation, Jim Crowism. That argument just doesn’t hold water.”
The Boulevard is the most appropriate namesake for the late tennis player and human rights advocate, Kenney says. The athletic center named after Ashe sits on the northern end of the Boulevard. At the south end are the tennis courts from which Ashe was booted because of his skin color.
But Kenney says he won’t try to rush the proposal through Council. “Haste makes waste in a situation like this,” he says. - Scott Bass
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