Memphis City Council sends Black Live Matter Ave. proposal to newly formed renaming committee

'Black Lives Matter Avenue" proposal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis City Council discussed a resolution to rename a busy section of Poplar Avenue to Black Lives Matter Avenue for the first time Tuesday.

The big topic of the day in Memphis City Council was a resolution proposed by Council Member Michalyn Easter Thomas to rename a 4-block stretch of Poplar Avenue between Front Street and Danny Thomas Boulevard to Black Lives Matter Avenue.

The resolution had seven co-sponsors.

“It is due time for the lives of black people to be fully protected, valued and seen,” said Michalyn Easter-Thomas, Memphis City Council Member District 7. 

Black Lives Matter Avenue proposal

That stretch of Poplar includes the Shelby County Justice Center and the Shelby County Jail.

During the meeting, Councilmember Patrice Robinson proposed an amendment to rename the section of Poplar to John Lewis Avenue and instead rename a 1-block section of South Manassas Street between Union Avenue and Madison Avenue to Black Lives Matter Plaza.

That block is right next to where the statue of former KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest used to sit.

“What I feel would be an even more symbolic location, a location that once paid homage to a Confederate General,” said Patrice Robinson, City Council Member. 

Not long after, City Council Member Cheyenne Johnson proposed another amendment to send the resolution to a new committee created Tuesday by the council called the Renaming Committee. 

The new committee will review the names of public spaces, roads and buildings as they relate to racism and history.

City council members disagreed over that amendment.

“Sending it to a committee, delay it. This is telling black people to wait. Justice is not coming today,” said JB Smiley, Memphis City Council Member Super District 8-1. 

“I think that amendment gives everyone the opportunity, those that oppose it as well as those that are for it, and gives us all an opportunity to buy into it,” said Rhonda Logan, Memphis City Council Member District 1. 

The amendment to send the resolution renaming Poplar and Manassas to the new committee passed.

That means there will be more discussion of renaming Poplar.

Easter-Thomas, who proposed the original resolution, disapproved of both amendments.

“If it’s this hard to agree on a street placement then the institutions that lay on that stretch of the street are in dire trouble,” said Easter-Thomas. 

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