Marco Williams (who also made “Two Towns of Jasper”) was in Durham for a showing of his “MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream” at the Center for Documentary Studies last night. Tucker and I went over to see him. The MLK Blvd story is a familiar one to us as Sally had worked hard on the renaming one of Chapel Hill’s main roads to MLK Blvd. As Yogi would say, it was deja vu all over again as we watched the drama of road renaming play out in Eugene Oregon. The same arguments, the same substitutions offered, the same talk about process. Only Council person Bettman in Eugene stepped up and was strong enough to read King’s words on the subject to her fellows on Council as they claimed that the cost of stationary was too great to allow for renaming or claimed that they had a more “creative and unique idea” like naming the library or a park. The vote in Eugene was 6 against the naming and 2 for.
Marco visited MLK Blvds, Sts, Rds, and more around the country to see what was happening there. Great visits with interesting people including one dirt road that ends at a trailer house where a delightful and cranky admirer of MLK lives.
Back in Eugene, Marco visits the various business people who talk about the hardship of change in carefully coded language.
One more direct merchant, Ed of Ed’s Warehouse, says he will shutdown his appliance business if the road in front is renamed. During part of the discussion, Ed tells Marco that Marco is “thinking like a black person.” Ahem. . Camera pans to Marco. Marco has long long dreadlocks and is, well, a black person. Camera pans to Marco. Ed tries to say well I want you to see it my way, but he can’t quite express himself clearly on that.
After a period of aggitation and of editorial writing, the Council decided to revisit the renaming vote. This time the vote was 5 – 3 for the renaming.
Many other stories in this 54 minute film that was made for limitied cable release on the NYTimes/Discovery channel.