Weston Street, in the tiny southeastern San Diego neighborhood of Broadway Heights, has a new name: Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

On Saturday, the children of Broadway Heights unveiled two new street signs, making the street the first in San Diego to bear the late civil rights leader’s name.

The children, members of the Broadway Heights Community Youth Council, worked for months to get the street renamed. They first explored the idea at one of their meetings early this year, where they planned improvements to their neighborhood: Cleanups, beautification projects, block parties.

They wanted to change a street name in Broadway Heights to honor an American leader. They did a little research and learned no streets in the city were named after King. There was a pool, a recreation center, and a portion of State Route 94, but no street.

In the 1980s, the City Council renamed Market Street in honor of King. Residents and business owners on the street weren’t happy that they would have to hassle with address changes, and voters overturned the decision at the ballot box.

At a City Council hearing last month, Councilwoman Marti Emerald told the children who’d addressed the members that they’d been able to accomplish what city leaders could not 24 years ago.

It took the children of Broadway Heights months of signature gathering, letter-writing, and a few visits to City Hall to push the renaming through.

Granted, the renaming of Weston Street, just 200 feet long, was a less daunting and contentious feat than the effort to rename Market Street, which cuts across the city. Weston Street is a connector between two of the neighborhood’s more populated residential streets. None of the neighborhood’s 192 houses face it, so no addresses were affected.

But that didn’t seem to diminish the importance of the occasion at Saturday’s unveiling, where speakers said the renaming was long overdue to honor a man who made possible communities like Broadway Heights, where residents, predominantly African American but also white, Latino, and Asian, have organized to improve quality of life and create a small town sense of community. We wrote about their efforts to rename the street back in April.

Barbara Robinson, a local resident, fought back tears as she described a visit with other Broadway Heights residents to King’s house in Atlanta. “It’s a neighborhood like ours. It was a real neighborhood, he was a real man.”

Charles Ray, the neighborhood crooner, brought tears to eyes in the audience with an impassioned performance of “A Change is Gonna Come,” a song that came to symbolize the Civil Rights Movement.

“It’s been a long, long time coming,” Ray sang, “but I know a change gonna come.”

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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