Will 16th Street be renamed Black Lives Matter… here are mixed reactions.

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Shirley Ferrill, owner of African Wear on 16th Street. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Shirley Ferrill, owner of Ferrill African Wear has an alternative to a Birmingham City Council  resolution (details –HERE) to rename 16th Street North to Black Lives Matter Boulevard.

First, she wants the council to vote down the proposed name change at their Tuesday, June 22nd meeting.

Local Merchants and 16th Street Baptist Church Opposition

Ferrill and local 16th Street retail businesses told us they were not consulted about the street name change.

“We, the merchants on this street (Ferrill’s business is at 320 16th Street North) are not in favor of the proposal,” said Ferrill. “This street is historic, internationally known. It would not be a good idea to change it to Black Lives Matter Blvd.”

In a Facebook post on Saturday morning historic 16th Street Baptist expressed opposition to the resolution.

An Alternative

Ferrill has been a proponent of the Black Lives Matters movement since she first heard of it 4-5 years ago.  She has  participated in gatherings of the group held at various parks around the city, including Kelly Ingram, Linn and Railroad.

In lieu of naming 16th Street Black Lives Matter Boulevard, she proposes renaming portions of 5th Avenue and 19th Street in Birmingham’s financial district – Black Lives Matter.

“If you want to change it (a street) to something to draw attention, put it over there on 5th Avenue – the “banking district” proposes Ferrill. “The banks still act as our lives don’t matter -our business lives and personal lives. As a black business owner I’ve made attempts to get loans, I know other people who have. If you do get loans it is at unreasonable rates. They need a reminder.

Shirley Ferrill, owner of African Wear on 16th Street. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

On this street which includes 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park we don’t need a reminder. We know Black Lives Matter.”

City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who represents 16th Street  and downtown wholeheartedly supports Ferrill’s idea after meeting with her and local 16th Street businesses Saturday afternoon. 

“One of the biggest challenges for the African American community is access to capital,” O’Quinn added. “Perhaps we ought to have a Black Lives Matter mural or street outside our banks to remind them they need to be investing in the African American community and giving them access to capital to grow their wealth.”

Decision on Tuesday

Birmingham City Hall. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

According to the city council’s public information office the street name change resolution will be taken up at Tuesday’s Council meeting.  Will 16th Street become Black Lives Matter Blvd? Or will the council support an alternative?

Stay tuned.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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