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Iconic Los Angeles street renamed Obama Boulevard, institutes ‘President’s Row’

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Los Angeles City Council held a ceremony for the city’s official renaming of Rodeo Road to Barack Obama Boulevard.

Local officials, including the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, unveiled new street signs for Obama Boulevard. The event was held where the formally named, Rodeo Road, intersects with Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, marking a site that acknowledges two prominent African-Americans in the world.

“This is an unbelievably historic event,” said Councilman Herb Wesson who introduced the legislation to change the name upon the suggestion of one of his constituents, Joel Schroeder.

“There are some young ones with us right now, who have been born since President Obama has served … in this city that delivered the presidency of the first African American in the country,” exclaimed Garcetti at the celebration.

“Now we will have a president that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” he included.

Presidential Row

Barack Obama Boulevard is an addition to the famed succession of LA streets named after some of the first presidents in the country—Washington Boulevard, Adams Boulevard and Jefferson Boulevard. Ironically, all of whom were slave owners. Nevertheless, the City says that implementing Obama Boulevard establishes a president’s row.

Said Wesson. “[Now] we had the first president of this country and the first African American president of this country.”

Not to be confused with the popular Beverly Hills strip, Rodeo Drive, Rodeo Road, is a 3 ½ mile street cutting through famed Crenshaw District, Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills district in South Los Angeles and ending at the Culver City border.

To give film buffs a perspective, the new Obama Boulevard runs just north of Baldwin Village, an enclave in the city known as “The Jungles,” an area made famous in the movie “Training Day” which garnered an Academy Award for Denzel Washington.

At the naming ceremony, Wesson also announced that the park where the celebration was held, would also undergo a name change: from Rancho Cienega Sports Center and Park to Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex at La Cienega Park.

Once the site of the month-long, African Marketplace, and where Barack Obama rallied in 2007 for his presidential campaign, the park is scheduled to be renamed after the completion of a $60 million upgrade.

“So you can travel down Barack Obama Boulevard and go to the complex,” Wesson added.

The day’s events were carried by performances from Los Angeles native, Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Whitaker, and hip hop legend, Doug E Fresh. Other artists included BJ the Chicago Kid, DJ Battlecat, Kurrupt, singer Jon B and a host of local acts. Obama was not in attendance.

Reviving Crenshaw

Wesson has been gradually putting together initiatives that keep the history and cultural contributions of Black Los Angeles visible in a rapidly changing metro area. In February, he announced plans to expand an initiative called, Destination Crenshaw Project, to Obama Boulevard once the renaming occurred.

“It is only fitting to expand Destination Crenshaw, a project chronicling this rich history and culture, north to Obama Boulevard in honor of our first African-American President,” explained Wesson about his plans.

Much like Harlem in New York, the Destination Crenshaw Project works to establish a sector of the city as a cultural hub based on the Black experience and contributions. Using the famous Crenshaw Boulevard corridor, 1.3 miles will mark public sites as gathering spaces, art installations and street-scape design.

Rapper and philanthropist Nipsey Hussle is one of the founders of Destination Crenshaw. The expansion plans will assist in working to maintain the largest concentration of Blacks west of the Mississippi River.

EL dot A dot

A little over a month after the tragic killing of Hussle, an Angeleno who headquartered his main business, The Marathon Clothing, just off of Crenshaw Boulevard on Slauson Avenue, the day of festivities was a welcomed reprieve from ongoing public mourning in the city.

Ramping up the renaming efforts, LA DOT, the city’s public transportation system, offered Transit Access Pass cards with the image of Barack Obama.

Similar to Atlanta’s MARTA card and London’s Oyster card, TAP cards are used as electronic payments to travel the city’s extensive bus and rail lines. The limited Obama TAP card was sold at four locations in the city and makes a nice addition to TAP card collectors who archive the creative images used by LA DOT.

Ι WATCH ‘Only in LA’ explores extensive public transportation system in Los Angeles Ι

Etching Obama’s legacy

For Los Angeles, titling an important part of city using Obama’s name occurred before.

Last year, a section of 134 Freeway was renamed President Barack H. Obama Highway to honor the 44th president, as well as, situate his journey as taking a road stop in the area. Before attending Columbia in New York, Obama went to Occidental College, a small Liberal Arts college in Los Angeles off of the 134 Freeway. After two years, he transferred to complete his undergraduate studies.

View from Mount Obama formerly Boggy Peak in Antigua and Barbuda

Obama Boulevard continues the growing list of designating a public site or institute to the first Black US president. In St. Louis, Missouri as well as, Pahokee, Florida and West Park, Florida, there exists already, a Barack Obama Boulevard. Also, there’s an Obama Holiday in Kenya, and a Mount Obama in Antigua and Barbuda. Even in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, sits a Barack Obama Drive and in Valencia, Spain, an Avinguda Barack Obama.

From naming fungi to charter academies, Obama’s star power is long-lasting.

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