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February 7th, 2007 Isaac Kaplan-woolner | News Stories
 

Sign of the times

Here's a different Rosa Parks protest during Black History Month.

     
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WORD ON THE STREET is that Tracy Weber is rallying neighbors to reverse the naming of Portland Boulevard to Rosa Parks Way.
IMAGE: ISAAC KAPLAN-WOOLNER
What better time than Black History Month to start a neighborhood protest in the name of civil-rights heroine Rosa Parks?

Except there's a twist on this petition drive that began last weekend—it aims to reverse the City of Portland's decision last December to rename Northeast Portland Boulevard "Rosa Parks Way."

Tracy Weber, a 47-year-old white woman who's lived on Portland Boulevard since 2002, has gathered 23 signatures after first noticing the Rosa Parks Way signs posted on top of the old boulevard signs Jan. 22.

Weber says she's petitioning to change the name back because she loved living on a street named for her city, and feels residents weren't involved in the renaming process. She's also upset about the expense for residents to change their addresses on personal documents.

She thinks the city would better serve diversity by putting Rosa Parks Way in Southwest, or another predominantly white neighborhood. The city should have given various neighborhood associations the option of renaming a street after Rosa Parks, with the new name given to the street for which the most enthusiastic case was made, she says.

"This is tokenism," Weber says. "We don't need reminding of diversity here. You're not educating anyone; you're preaching to the choir."

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who led the council to change the name, says residents had ample opportunity at two council meetings and numerous neighborhood meetings to be heard before the switch last December. Saltzman says the name change received lots of support.

Weber says she doesn't see any irony about gathering petitions during Black History Month about Parks, who became a civil-rights icon after she refused to give up her bus seat for a white man in Montgomery, Ala., and touched off a citywide bus boycott in 1955 by that city's black residents. Weber sees her petition also as working for citizens' rights.

In fact, Weber's protest isn't the first against the renaming. At the dedication ceremony last December, a handful of folks showed up to say they wish they had been more involved in the process.

So, what are the chances the petition will force the city to change Rosa Parks Way back to Portland Boulevard?

"Zilch," says Saltzman. "But [Weber's] welcome to try."

 
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