DeKalb County now has a street named after the late civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Elected officials, the DeKalb NAACP, members of the local DeKalb County chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, DeKalb County school district officials, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. High School students and faculty unveiled the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway sign at a designation ceremony Oct. 18 at the Coretta Scott King Auditorium at the high school.
The process to change the name of the five-mile road, which starts at Wesley Chapel Road and ends at the Henry County line, began two years ago. Alpha Phi Alpha member and Lithonia resident Freddie West came up with the idea to change the name from Snapfringer Road to Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway. West, who participated in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, said he was inspired to do it prior to the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall last year.
“Snapfinger Road was selected primarily because [Martin Luther King Jr. High School] is on this street,” he said. “We kind of felt that it would be appropriate for the school to have a postal address that is Martin Luther King.”
At the commencement of the General Assembly in January 2011, West worked closely with Georgia State Senator Ronald Ramsey (D-43) to put forth a resolution that would rename Snapfinger Road or designate it.
“The signs that will designate this street to honor our native hero will not only speak volumes of gratitude, but it will serve as a constant reminder of our responsibility of humanity and to constantly strive for excellence, justice and honor,” Ramsey said.
Elected officials who were a part of the ceremony include Congressman Hank Johnson, state Senator Emanuel Jones (D-10), DeKalb County Commissioners Larry Johnson, Lee May and Stan Watson, DeKalb County school board member Jay Cunningham and Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. DeKalb NAACP president John Evans also spoke at the ceremony.
Atkinson said the school district was excited to be a part of the dedication.
“This dedication of this parkway is so significant in furthering the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said. “A parkway that leads to a place of learning, named after a role model for humanity.”
Lance Hammonds, first vice president of the DeKalb County NAACP, said the street will be more than just another street named after King.
“We need another area and rallying point to solve some of the issues in our community,” he said. “The next steps are to put together an advisory committee here in DeKalb County made of residents, elected officials and students. And the first project would be to get the whole five miles adopted by various groups to put together a project to keep it clean and enhance the parkway.”
The ceremony concluded with a march on school property led by the Martin Luther King Jr. High School marching band playing “We Shall Overcome.”