South Dallas residents have mixed feelings about changes to historic MLK and Malcolm X intersection
The intersection of MLK Boulevard and S Malcolm X Boulevard in South Dallas is only one of two intersections in the country where streets bearing both names meet. It is now home to a new Black Lives Matter crosswalk, an addiction recovery center, and more.
A new crosswalk was unveiled on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, with the words, “All Black Lives Matter,” spanning the four corners of the historic MLK and Malcolm X Boulevard intersection in South Dallas.
Although more than 950 streets across the nation have been named after King, and dozens after Malcolm X, D.C. and Dallas are the only places the roads intersect, according to the Washington Informer.
“It is perhaps essential because King and Malcolm X evolved together,” historian Miranda Yan told the Informer. “They remain as relevant today as in the 1960s, even with George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and the global protests, the only way to understand these movements is to understand Malcolm and Martin.”
Abounding Prosperity, Inc., the organization who paid for and installed the “All Black Lives Matter” crosswalk, vowed to maintain the paint for the next ten years with private funds.
The non-profit organization was created to respond to social and health disparities that impact Black men and their families in Dallas County.
But residents and activists are speaking out months later, not only criticizing the organization for not sealing the paint, resulting in tar marks on the art from cars and pedestrians, but also for the confusion on what the crosswalk really means.
Shenita Cleveland, a community organizer in South Dallas, says there’s division in the neighborhood about the crosswalk.
“The organization is really about the issues that plague the Black man and their families, which is fine, but people really need to know,” Cleveland said about the “All Black Lives Matter” message.
Michael Sneed, 65, has lived in the South Dallas neighborhood his entire life. When he first drove by the sidewalk, he felt prideful and excited. “We had something of our own,” he said.
The word “all” was written much smaller than the rest of the words on the crosswalk, causing confusion on why the word was used.
After being made aware of the company’s intentions to highlight the plight of LGBTQ+ Black people, Sneed’s feelings changed.
“It’s not that anyone is against it, but overall, we want to say just ‘Black Lives Matter’ to reflect the whole community,” Sneed said. “The ‘all’ stops people from walking across the sidewalk because they don’t want to be perceived as gay.”
The crosswalk has challenged and created conversation around the intersectionality of being Black and queer, and if it has a space on MLK Boulevard.
Ultimately, Cleveland says that residents want more investment from the city. “This crosswalk is nice, but where's our money?”
While the city of Dallas was involved in unanimously approving the art on public streets, no city funds were used for the project.
KERA reached out to Abounding Prosperity in regard to some of the residents’ complaints but did not get a response.
The “All Black Lives Matter” crosswalk also exists at five other intersections on Al Lipscomb Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The two-mile stretch of MLK Boulevard spans South Dallas, a predominately Black neighborhood in the shadows of Fair Park, the city’s art-deco fairgrounds where King spoke at a rally in 1963.
But, similar to the crosswalk, not everyone was on board when the street was first renamed.
Sandra Crenshaw has been a part of the political landscape in Dallas since 1978 and remembers the controversy around renaming the street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in 1981.
“When Marvin Crenshaw went down the street to get the petition the community leaders didn't want it to continue Cedar Crest. The had no problems on Forest Avenue, but they did not want it continued across the bridge to Cedar Crest," Crenshaw said.
Marvin Crenshaw was a plaintiff in the 14-1 decision and is a prominent community activist.
Residents should be consulted when the city decides to make changes to their neighborhood, Crenshaw said.
“Everybody [should be] aware that you are doing something that's going to impact not only them but their property, their property values and what they have to say about this,” she said.
South Dallas, a neighborhood that is primarily mentioned in the media during the State Fair of Texas or the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, is seeing transformative changes. Some of the changes are providing hope in the community.
Joe Powell, founder of Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA), just moved into the corner building at the intersection of MLK Boulevard and Malcolm X. The building housed an entrepreneur center before the pandemic caused them to shutter the space.
When asked about opening their space at this historic intersection in South Dallas, Powell nodded to the legacy of the two men.
He pointed to the photo of Malcolm X on a pole outside the building and reminisced about his time growing up in Harlem in the 60’s.
“These are the guys that I grew up with, right in New York and Harlem,” he said. He recalled the riots and “all of the racial justice that we were fighting for back then in the civil rights era.”
APAA moved from a different building down the street, on MLK Boulevard. The organization plans to open a community center to provide a safe space for people battling addiction and create education programs for youth in the neighborhood.
“We are excited that we get the opportunity to be on this corner, and to bring equity to this community, right here," Powell said.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the petition to rename the streets to the Dallas City Council.
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