The recent call to change the name of two streets in a metro Atlanta neighborhood, specifically Confederate and East Confederate Avenues, has led some residents to initiate a community conversation on the topic.
While much of the chatter about changing the street names has played out online, Grant Park resident Andrea Knight, decided to move the conversations from online to real life.
“After watching what happened in Charlottesville, I had a very immediate ‘let’s get the name off the street reaction,'” Knight said. “I think if people actually talk to one another they can come to common ground. When people talk online they calcify in their position,” she said.
Knight first reached out to council member Carla Smith and Joe Thomas, the neighborhood resident who launched a name change petition on Change.org. Both will be in attendance at the Aug. 25 meeting at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse, she said.
Conversations in the community about changing the street names were energized after the events in Charlottesville. Thomas launched a change.org petition that would be presented to Mayor Kasim Reed.
The name change of Confederate and East Confederate Avenues, two streets that run through the communities of Grant Park and Ormewood Park, is part of a larger effort to “remove symbols of hate from our city,” wrote Thomas.
“In response to the increasingly vocal population of white supremacists in this country, Atlanta must stand up and declare that neo-Confederates, Nazis, white nationalists, and their allies are not welcome here, and neither are their symbols,” he said.
By Aug. 16, the petition had surpassed 7,500 signatures. Mayor Reed said he would make a decision soon on whether to rename streets like Confederate Avenue. Links to the petition were shared on social media prompting exchanges between neighbors who didn’t always share the same point of view.
There were questions of history — would changing the street names be detrimental to history and what exactly is the history of Confederate Ave. anyway? There were also questions of economics — how much of an expense or hassle would residents who live on the streets have to incur if the street names were changed?
But these “conversations” were being carried out online and often they devolved into baiting and insults.
On the surface, it wasn’t unlike the last time the topic came up in 2015, just after the mass shooting of nine African-Americans at a church in Charleston by a 21-year-old white supremacist.
But after Charlottesville, there seemed to be a shift. Some neighbors who opposed the name change two-years-ago had changed their opinion.
Knight decided residents who actually live on Confederate and East Confederate Avenues needed a place to talk about how such a change might impact their lives and what practical measures needed to be taken.
She formed a separate Facebook group and invited them and other interested residents of Grant Park and Ormewood Park to talk about the issues face-to-face.
“I think it is important that people hear from people they might not have heard from otherwise. I definitely don’t want people to feel like anything is being done to them especially if they live on the street,” Knight said.
The conversations may not be easy to have, but there have been a few moments of levity — mainly from those offering up a potential new names for the street.
Something with “peach” and “Strange State Facility Lane,” have been tossed out.
And then there is Knight’s personal favorite, Considerate Ave.