After the Charleston church shooting this summer, there has been a push around the nation to remove racist symbols like the Confederate flag and monuments of Confederate soldiers. South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds, but locally, as New Times pointed out, Hollywood streets are named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood, and Nathaniel Forrest (also a member of the Ku Klux Klan).
In July, anonymous members of a group calling itself BlackOutWhiteSupremacy took credit for spray-painting over the names on Lee, Forrest, and Hood streets. Hollywood Police then announced that they are looking to crack down on the group responsible for the vandalism. But no arrests were made.
On Wednesday evening, activists from the Green Party and Dream Defenders (who did not take credit for the street sign vandalism) addressed City of Hollywood commissioners and demanded the removal of Confederate street names and suggested the streets be renamed Truth, Tubman, and Douglass streets, after abolitionist leaders Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass.
“While the names Hood, Lee, and Forrest may comfort white Southerners who were dishonored by defeat in the Civil War, we can not deny that they symbolize the brutal oppression still being inflicted upon communities of color,” a letter to commissioners stated. “We call for the City of Hollywood to end official support for these symbols of slavery by renaming those streets in honor of African-American abolitionist leaders.”
Four members of the Broward Green Party, two community activists, one Dream Defender, and a mother and her child from the neighborhood came to the commission meeting. Everyone took turns giving comments, but the most memorable was when African-American activist Valsin St. James took to the podium and quoted William Thompson, designer of the Confederate flag.
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"As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race," St. James said, catching the attention of nearly every person in the room.
Broward Green Party cochair Silvie Suri says the meeting went well. She said Mayor Peter Bober will bring the issue to the attention of the city manager and figure out what needs to be done. Commissioner Traci Callari also agreed to meet with activists. Commissioner Richard Blattner asked that a petition be circulated among residents living on the streets named after Confederate generals.
The African-American Disapora Think Tank has already been gathering signatures. Suri says the Broward Green Party will partner with them to get more. They hope to turn them in to the commissioners in October.
“It went pretty well, or as well as expected,” Suri says after the meeting. “Everyone seems to have an open mind.”