“Martin Luther King stood for nonviolence,” says comedian Chris Rock in his live 1996 HBO special Bring the Pain. “Now what’s Martin Luther King? A street. And I don’t give a fuck where you are in America, if you on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there’s some violence going down.”
Later, Rock gives advice to anyone who finds themselves lost on an MLK-named street: “Run! Run! Run!”
Search any sizable town and there’s a good chance there’s a street named after King. Not all are awful, of course, but Rock’s generalization struck a national chord and made the street an emblem of everything gone wrong in America since the aspirational heights of the civil-rights era.
“The reality is that the street runs through some very damaged neighborhoods,” says Michael Allen, director of the St. Louis Preservation Research Office.
—Danny Wicentowski, in the Riverfront Times. Wicentowski profiled Melvin White, whose St. Louis-based nonprofit “Beloved Streets of America” aims to improve not just the Martin Luther King Drive of his native St. Louis, but also ailing Martin Luther King streets across America.
Photo of St. Louis’ Martin Luther King Drive via Flickr; Marjie