A growing number of locals say it is shameful that Broward County uses public funds on Forrest Street when the man it was named for, Confederate Gen. Nathan “the Devil” Forrest, led the Ku Klux Klan, a group that lynched and terrorized thousands of black families.
The county only maintains the signs, however, because Hollywood commissioners have still not voted to change the street’s name. It has been more than a year since protests began to rename to road.
Since Forrest Street cuts through Liberia, a historically black community whose residents say they feel "oppressed" living under the Devil's shadow, many members of the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward (BLM) say it is important for city leaders to schedule a meeting — soon — to vote on a renaming.
Among the BLM activists is 33-year-old Carlos Valnera, who tells New Times that he believes instead of honoring Forrest, the city should name the road after a more inspiring figure, such as Harriet Tubman.
“At the end of the day... the outrage felt by folks over these symbols [referring to Forrest Street] is very real," he said. "These are communities of modest means that might not have a lot of power, but they have dignity, and every day those publicly funded symbols remain is ever more proof of commissioners' willful disregard for their concerns.”
Among the reasons city officials say they have not changed the street’s name is that a new name may cause confusion for postal workers delivering mail. Recently, however, activists have discovered Forrest Street's Hollywood Beach extension has been renamed "Forest," which is phonetically identical. According to the street-naming protocol of counties across Florida, roads with phonetically identical names are prohibited because it could lead to confusion.
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Raelin Storey, a city spokesperson, told New Times last week that commissioners do not currently have any plans to change "Forest" back to "Forrest."
Beyond possible confusion, Hollywood commissioners have declined to nix Forrest's name because it may not be offensive to "some" residents. Valnera's response: As a rule, a street should not be named after someone who, according to historical accounts, ordered the "awful" slaughter of hundreds of black men.
"Even if [Forrest] did have a change of heart, would Americans name a street after Bin Laden if he said sorry for September 11?" he inquired.