PORTSMOUTH — It’s been a work in progress for nearly two years, but Portsmouth City Council took care of the business of renaming a portion of a city street on Tuesday.
Between the Scioto County Sheriff’s Department and Route 52, that portion of Findlay Street will be renamed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Just across the street where the new sign was placed is the McKinley Pool, which has its namesake from Eugene McKinley who drowned in 1961. The 14-year-old went swimming with a group of other African American schoolboys in a flooded sand and gravel pit as the Dreamland Pool, the city’s only pool that followed Jim Crow regulations.
The significance of that moment was not lost on the audience, including four Council members and City Manager Sam Sutherland, as the road was dedicated to the Civil Rights icon.
“The McKinley Pool was built for the death of an innocent kid,” said 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne in front of a masked and socially-distant crowd of around 10. “Now here we are today celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon, joined by the recently appointed 4th and 6th Ward Councilpersons Lyvette Mosley and Dennis Packard, was hoping this action would prevent the racial unrest that has circulated in larger cities from making its way to Portsmouth.
“We’re all in this together and we all have to move forward together,” she said, calling for camaraderie and understanding.
Also in attendance was Portsmouth Unity Project Organizer and Shawnee State University Swimming Coach Gerald Cadogan, who thanked council for encouraging a message of inclusiveness.
“I think this is what the future of this nation will look like- diversity, coming together for projects even as small as this,” he said. “This is the standard for other communities to follow.”
Dunne, a sociology professor at Shawnee State University, said the idea came after conversations with a student in one of his courses. That student, Jacklyn Hockenberry, President of the Shawnee State Sociology Club at the time, did research on cities that co-named or renamed streets after King.
She wrote a research paper about the topic and presented her research in Cleveland at the annual conference of the North Central Sociological Association with funding from SSU’s Alpha Kappa Delta. During her research, Dunne and Hockenberry identified Findlay Street as a suitable option for Portsmouth.
“There is added significance to this location, as it reminds me of the folk story of death flowers, or mandragoras,” said Dunne in a released message. “It was said they grew where innocent men had been hung, and they possessed incredible powers.”
“Following the tragic death of a teenager living under the oppressive conditions of systemic racism, we are now celebrating those that fought for racial, social and economic justice,” he said. “Hopefully, this inspires others to continue that fight.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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