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The Word on the Street Is, Keep It Crenshaw Boulevard

June 18, 2003|Olga R. Rodriguez and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

A move to rename historic Crenshaw Boulevard after Tom Bradley, Los Angeles' first black mayor, has piqued some residents and business owners who say it would strip away a central part of the area's identity.

"This is the Crenshaw community," said Bruce Barnett, whose family has owned and operated a business on the boulevard for three-quarters of a century. "We're the Crenshaw Carpet Center on Crenshaw Boulevard in the Crenshaw District. It's absurd. It's 75 years of identity they want to wipe out."

City Councilman Nate Holden proposed the idea earlier this month as a tribute to a man who many believed transformed Los Angeles during his 20 years as mayor.

Bradley, who died in 1998 and was the grandson of a slave, forged extraordinary political coalitions and presided over the construction of the downtown skyline, the start of the subway system and the rise of Los Angeles as a center for international trade.

Some council members noted that Bradley's name already graces a street outside City Hall, not to mention the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.

But Holden said that the stretch of Crenshaw within the city of Los Angeles, from Wilshire Boulevard to 79th Street, should be renamed because the five-term mayor had deep roots in the Crenshaw community.

The councilman added that area residents, including friends of Bradley's, came up with the idea.

"That street will always be there, and we need something that will always be there, because he was always there for us," Holden said.

The idea will be discussed today by a council committee and could come up for a final vote as soon as next week. Holden, who retires June 30, said he wants to see the boulevard renamed before he leaves office.

Some area residents said the proposal moved so fast that they weren't consulted.

"This name-change proposal has caught everyone off guard," said Najee Ali, an activist who is gathering signatures opposing the plan. "Everyone is outraged. Crenshaw is known internationally and has a legacy and a proud tradition of its own."

Another group favors renaming Crenshaw Boulevard for Malcolm X rather than Bradley.

"L.A. has no monuments to Malcolm X," said Torre Brannon, co-founder of Artists for Justice and Liberation, a community group in Leimert Park. "Can you imagine what would happen at the corner of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard?"

In barbershops and other businesses up and down Crenshaw, several people said they did not want to imagine any name change.

"I think it's a horrible idea," said Kenyatta Griggs, owner of All That Beauty and Barber on Crenshaw. Not only would it take the community's name, he said, but it would cost business owners hundreds of dollars in new stationery and business cards.

"We're a landmark," agreed Sanjay Schaller, who was waiting for a haircut. "Let Tom [Bradley] have Vermont Avenue."

A few steps away, Michael Duhart, manager of New Millennium hair salon, agreed. "The 'Shaw' has a reputation. I don't want to be saying I'm gonna go chill on Tom Bradley Boulevard. It's 'I'm going to go chill on the Shaw.' "

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