City of Dover and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Dover officials culminated roughly 20 years of work when they dedicated the new Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the legislative district Saturday afternoon on a sunny, pleasant, mid-January day.
"This has been a long process; this hasn't been a couple weeks in the making," IMA President Rev. Michael Rogers said. "But we thank God for the tenacity and the fortitude of all who were involved. Some twenty years ago, Rev. Dr. Rudolph Coleman, of the Mount Zion AME Church came to the IMA and said we need to do something for Dr. King in Dover, Delaware."
Three years ago, the IMA began meeting with Mayor Carleton Carey and Delaware State University President Dr. Harry Williams to renew the effort, Rogers said. The IMA began in earnest in February 2012 to finally establish a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the state capital. The IMA then petitioned Dover City Council to change Division Street to MLK Jr. Boulevard, but merchants along the Del. Route 8 came out against that proposal because of the serious economic impact a name change would have caused them.
In the end, however, Dover City Council went with the compromise put forward by Councilman Adam Perza (Third District) to rename the Court Street corridor after MLK. Council voted 7-1 to rename Court Street, Duke of York and William Penn streets after the late civil rights leader back on Dec. 10. The motion included renaming Capital Drive within the Garden Court Apartments as Court Street and retained the name Court Street for the alley street segment on the south side of the current Court Street between River Road and Cowgill Street, allowing Courtside Apartments to retain its address.
In addition, plaques would be placed honoring the historic figures of the Duke of York and William Penn along the streets that had been named after them.
City officials and community members gathered on the Legislative Mall Saturday for the official unveiling and dedication of the new boulevard, with one of the street signs that read "Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. S" in green and white with the words "Historic William Penn Street" below in brown and white.
State Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) said King had fought for all people in his struggle for civil rights.
"Our nation is elevated and all of us together are a better people," he said.
Dover City Council President Thomas Leary said he was proud of the way the community and city staff came together to research this matter and to hold public hearings in preparation for this dedication. Leary, who decided not to run for reelection this year, said the historic dedication of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dover would be one of the proudest moments he would reflect back on as a member of council.
Page 2 of 2 - He also thanked Kent Signs for working quickly to get the signs ready in time for Saturday's dedication.
Dover City Councilman Sean Lynn thanked the IMA, Carey, Bushweller and Dover City Council for their work as well as Perza for coming up with the compromise solution of naming the Court Street corridor after MLK. He also thanked University of Tennessee Professor of Geography Dr. Derek Alderman for his research and guidance.
"'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,'" Lynn said, quoting king. "I like this quote because it captures the way in which all us are tied to our respective communities rather than separated or bounded by them."
Perza said King represented the movement of people in pursuit of the liberties promised to all Americans by the Founding Fathers "of the greatest nation on the face of the Earth."
"Reverend King offered hope of justice to Americans denied the very principles of freedom prescribed in our Constitution," he said.
IMA Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Committee Chairwoman Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige thanked God for allowing this historic event to occur as well as Perza for coming up with a compromise. She also thanked those who opposed the establishment of MLK Boulevard on Division Street.
"It even took the opposition to help get us to where we are today," she said. "We thank everyone who had a part of this. … To God be the glory."
Dover City Councilman David Anderson (Fourth District) also read letters from Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who commended the state capital for city for the dedication of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He also read a letter from the Interdenominational Ministers Council Action of Greater Wilmington in New Castle County congratulating the city for its establishment of MLK Boulevard in the state capital.