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Community updates: Friday, Oct. 15

Grand Rapids renames streets for Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez; Kent County coalition seeking help for local Afghan refugees.
Downtown Grand Rapids, facing south.

Downtown Grand Rapids, facing south. /Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids renames streets for Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez

Grand Rapids city commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the renaming of two major city streets in honor of civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr. and César E. Chávez.

Effective Feb. 22, 2022, Franklin St. will be renamed as Martin Luther King Jr. St. from Oakland Ave. to the city’s eastern limits. Grandville Ave. will become César E. Chávez Ave. from the west city limits at Clyde Park Ave. to Weston St.

The renamings include the changing of street name signs, which will take place “over a reasonable period before and after” the Feb. date, according to a Tuesday statement from the City of Grand Rapids.

Tuesday’s vote on the changes was the result of a community-led campaign known as the Moving Ahead for Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes (MARCH) Committee. The committee sent requests to the city in July for the renamings, with its members including the city’s Second Ward commissioner Milinda Ysasi and Third Ward commissioner Senita Lenear.

It's an appropriate time to recognize these two civil rights leaders, especially knowing that we have been through a period of racial reckoning in this community and in this country,” said Ysasi. “To know that we probably will never reach that pinnacle where we have all the answers, but we are striving every day to achieve the racial equity that Martin Luther King Jr. and César E. Chávez worked towards.”

This is truly historic,” she added. “This is really about the past, but is more so thinking about the future.”

Tuesday’s commissioner meeting also included approval for giving the renamed streets commemorative designations identifying their previous names. Approval was also given for the removal of the commemorative designation of Division Ave. as Martin L King Jr. Way and Grandville Ave. as César Chávez Way to prevent future confusion.

The city anticipates a price tag of around $20,000 for installing the new street name signs. There will be an additional cost for related highway signage on US-131 for the current Franklin St. exit signs, still being developed in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

More details about the street renamings are available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


Kent County coalition seeking help for local Afghan refugees

A group of representatives from Kent County, the City of Grand Rapids, Samaritas, and other local partners is seeking support for hundreds of Afghan refugees they expect to be arriving in West Michigan following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Called the Kent County Welcome Plan Steering Committee (WPSC), the group has compiled a list of prioritized needs and ways the broader community can contribute, available at

The opportunities available address what the group has identified as Afghan refugees’ essential needs, such as housing, supportive services, mental health care, and volunteers to help them adjust to life in the U.S.

Creating a welcoming community takes all of us coming together in support of our neighbors, whether it’s our long-time residents or individuals who just arrived,” representatives from the WPSC said in a Thursday statement. “We are encouraging our community to join together to ensure these families have the resources and support they need to resettle in West Michigan.”

The Kent County WPSC is the result of a national Gateways for Growth strategic planning award, helping local communities develop multi-sector plans to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for immigrants and refugees. Among other local partners in the group are representatives from the Grand Rapids Chamber, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and over 30 others.

More details about the group's refugee support efforts are available through its website.


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