Honoring Dr. King

The debate over how best to permanently honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Chico has been unfortunately awkward from the beginning, when local community activist Willie Hyman kicked things off by virtually insisting that a historic Chico street be named after the African-American civil-rights martyr. After listening to some testy public discussion, the City Council nixed that idea, suggesting instead that the 20th Street Park would be a good site to rename.

But that idea didn’t fly either, after a large number of people turned out to tell the Chico Area Recreation and Parks District directors that, if the park is to be renamed, it should be after someone from Chico.

That left supporters of a memorial to Dr. King batting oh for two and, we imagine, feeling alienated in this mostly white town where black people make up just 2 percent of the population. But it’s also safe to say that many non-blacks, perhaps most, share their desire to honor that great man, who is after all a hero to all Americans.

Anthony Watts, the Chico schools trustee and TV weatherman, has come up with a suggestion that just might work. In a recent letter to the editor, he proposes that the area surrounding “The Hands,” the lovely public-art piece at City Hall, be named the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza and be given a plaque so designating.

Noting that “The Hands” represents “most of what King espoused, friendship, cooperation, tolerance and vision,” Watt says the area would be “a most poignant and appropriate place to commemorate what King brought to our society.” We agree—and recommend only one small change to his suggestion: That it be named the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Plaza. As Anthony Watts points out, it’s "a peaceful place."