Nat Bates: The Politics of Renaming Macdonald Avenue

blogimage.jpgAlthough the City of Richmond election for mayor and four city council members is not until November of this year, the infamous Richmond Progressive Alliance is off and running to woo voters toward their slate of candidates.

It appears RPA will be supporting Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin for the four year term and Michael Parker, mouth piece of the RPA for Mayor. It is interesting to note Richmond Progressive Alliance seems to have abandoned their name in favor of “Team Richmond” and they have been reluctant in identifying themselves as RPA member when speaking during city council meetings.
An interesting thing occurred during the February 4, 2014 council meeting where McLaughlin, Beckles and Councilmember Jael Myrick placed on the agenda an item to rename Macdonald Avenue after the late Nelson Mandela. The mayor acknowledged she had spoken with a few African American citizen and they agreed it was a good idea. When Councilmember Butt, Booze and I pointed out the proper way was for the request to go before the Recreation Commission, the mayor became frustrated and irritated especially when I questioned if anyone knew who Mr. Macdonald was and his contributions to the City of Richmond. The mayor interrupted saying he was a “developer,” as if that was some sort of negative stigmatization to his profession. When I pointed out we all admired the work of Mr. Mandela and his world wide contributions but rather than renaming a street after someone who long ago made contributions to the city, perhaps it would be more appropriate to rename a street that has numbers like 10th, South 37th Street, etc or a building, school, park as an suitable recognition. I further stated some of us would like something later named in honor of President Obama or a more suitable site for Martin Luther King, etc.  The mayor obviously was not interested in what I had to say as she continued to interrupt me as I spoke and finally commented that she thought Mr. Mandela’s work far exceeded Mr. Macdonald's contributions and therefore justified the name change. I trust I am not being overly sensitive when I state, I respect all streets named in honor of individuals who in the past and present have made contributions and deserve their names in history regardless of who they may have been. However, I highly resent Mayor McLaughlin, Councilmembers Beckles and Myrick, and the RPA attempting to use renaming streets, etc for political purposes. If they think this plantation style politics of renaming Macdonald Avenue in honor of Mr. Mandela will generate African American votes for their RPA candidates this coming November, they do not know the African American community as I know them.
Nat Bates

Richmond City Councilmember

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