Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that inspired millions, and contributed to an unprecedented era of social change. His nonviolent stand against racial inequality moved people to take a stand for justice and truth. He has been exalted and heralded as a martyr for his work. In tribute to Dr. King, hundreds of cities across America renamed prominent streets after the man who gave his life to this cause.
Melvin White has a dream. A middle-aged postal worker from St. Louis, he was disturbed by the increasing blight and decay of the street in St. Louis named after MLK. When he noticed similar conditions in other cities with streets bearing King’s name, he felt compelled to do something to restore honor to the civil rights leader’s name.
In 2009, after five years of formulating his mission and vision, White formed the Beloved Streets of America, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the streets named after King. His vision is that each of the over 700 streets in America honoring Dr. King be “vibrant, beautiful and prosperous.”
One of White’s key projects is Legacy Park, a multi-functional venue designed to honor Dr. King and other leaders, both local and national, who have had a positive impact on either St. Louis or American society. The park will feature a permanent exhibit of civil rights history in the community and beyond, with brick pathways that honor the lives of leaders and their legacy. The park is designed to be built across the street from BSA’s headquarters on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis. The group also has plans to develop the current headquarters into a Legacy Corner, which will feature urban agriculture, including a culinary school, hydroponic greenhouse and market/café.
Derek Lauer, the architect coordinating the master plan for the renovation of MLK in St. Louis, envisions the rehabilitation of abandoned buildings into urban greenhouses, growing herbs and vegetables using hydroponics. In an interview with Ladue News, Lauer praised the value and growth of urban agriculture, and a planned partnership with Washington University to use the produce in their campus restaurants. “This partnership will help to reduce Washington University’s carbon footprint and bring better nutrition, economic activity, and high-tech jobs and training to an impoverished neighborhood.”
Ray Mumme, a retired chef who has actively demonstrated the value of hydroponic gardening, discovered BSA and met with White and his board to offer support for their plans for urban agriculture. He then encouraged a group of volunteers called Transformation Team St. Louis to embark on a community service project to help BSA advance a plan to beautify an 11-block section of MLK Drive in St. Louis. The group is planning a massive workday on August 2, 2014 to paint, clean, plant and spruce up a select group of properties. “We intend to enroll over 1,500 people in the community to help with the project, and plan to make a big splash in the community to advance Melvin’s mission.”
White couldn’t be more pleased. “We’ve had a lot of success so far, and are excited to have this boost of energy and expertise available to us. This will provide a lot more attention to our cause, and give the people participating in our annual Legacy Walk a view of the progress we’ve made.” The 3rd annual Legacy Walk will be held on August 23, 2014.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream continues to inspire us today through the work of Beloved Streets of America. As progress continues in his hometown, White has ambitious plans to see his vision unfold across the country. “This is just the beginning. With the help of angels, we will achieve our dream.”
This will be published in the Going Green section of the July 2014 issue of Spirit Seeker magazine.