The Irrelevant Past vs.The Relevant Present!
Like most of the streets in Valdosta, Forrest street was named for a slave holder., a Confederate Soldier named Nathan Bedford Forrest, and one of the founders of the Klu Klux Klan.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a prominent member of the Confederate Army who rose to the rank of Brigadier General. Even after 200 blacks who were in Union uniforms , surrendered to the General and his men at Fort Pillow on October 29, 1877, he ordered that the surrendering blacks all be shot to death, at the battle of Fort Pillow.
In those days, it really didn't matter, blacks accepted streets named after slave owners, and arch segregationists. However, today is a new day, and the sons and daughters of slaves don't simply accept what happened in the past without challenge.The irrelevant past is never as important as the relevant present.
Why does the People's Tribunal want to rename Forrest Street to Barack Obama Blvd. He was our first Black elected President. He left a spotless record. For the eight years that he and Michelle lived in the White House, there were no scandals in his administration. None.
In derision, they called him King, Monarch, Emperor, arrogant, and criminal.
No matter what a true patriot he was. No matter how intelligent, optimistic, and positive he remained. No matter how exemplary his family was. No matter that his mother was white, at the end of the day, Barack Obama was still black.
It didn't matter that he brought about the demise of America's arch enemy, Osama bin Laden, and disarmed Al-Qaida's international operations. It does not matter that he equipped police officers with body cameras to protect them from false accusations, and the community from police misconduct. It does not matter that he made it possible for Gays and Lesbians to serve openly in the military, and signed into law the most sweeping health care bill in American history, which provided millions with insurance that didn't have it.
It did not matter that young people could stay on their parents' insurance until they turned twenty-six, and insurance companies could not cancel their insurance because of pre-existing conditions. It did not matter that he initiated equal pay for equal work for women.
It did not matter that President Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, and saved General Motors and Chrysler from Bankruptcy. He was still what Senator John McCain called, "That One."
In the minds of the most Naive Valdostans, Forrest Street may have been named for a black man in the mid 1860's, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that when Forrest Street was named, The City didn't name major streets after blacks, no matter how successful they were.
Let me be clear. One of the Councilmen, Eric Howard, told us that we had to have at least 61 percent of the current residents of Forrest street to change the name. No mention was made of a town hall meeting or anything else; only the residents of Forrest Street. That is what the People's Tribunal intends to achieve. So, we would suggest that if others would like something else, they should simply do it. Our goal is to get the necessary signatures of the current residents of Forrest street to present to City Council, and we are well on our way.