City's sign of change: Barack Obama Avenue

On Presidents Day, Opa-locka, Fla., became one of the first cities in the United States — if not the first — to have a street named after President Barack Obama.

And it may be just the beginning of change coming to the city. The commission wants to rename the airport located within its boundaries the Opa-locka-Barack Obama Executive Airport.

"I really want to leave a piece of history for the next generation," said City Commissioner Dorothy Johnson, who proposed the idea of rechristening a mile-long section of Perviz Avenue from Oriental Boulevard to Ali Baba Avenue as Barack Obama Avenue.

Monday's occasion was marked by a parade featuring marching bands from Miami Central and Hialeah high schools and Allapattah Middle School, and grand marshals Jo Marie Payton, a native of Opa-locka who acted on the ABC series Family Matters, and Karl Wright, president of Florida Memorial University.

"It's an honor knowing that this event is taking place here," said Dave Anderson, enjoying the parade.

It was especially important to the predominantly black city to honor the nation's first African-American president.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the city's population is 70 percent black.

Johnson, the commissioner, said Perviz was the right street because "it made all the connections" to residents and services like the city government, a school, a library and a day care.

Obama was aware of the event, she said, but could not make it. The city is raising money for an Obama monument that will be installed somewhere near the street. Johnson has hopes the president will attend that event.

Although city officials say Opa-locka is the first U.S. city to honor the president in this fashion, it's not the first in the world: African cities have been naming streets after Obama since before the election.

In Uganda, the town of Masaka renamed a street Obama Boulevard. In Kenya, the country's coastal town of Mombasa announced a new street would be named after the president.

In the past, most of Opa-locka's street names have come out of the Tales of the Arabian Nights.

"I hope the dedication is the avenue to overcome adversity, the boulevard that brings about benevolence and the street that will bring about solutions," said Lionel Lightbourne of Liberty City.

"I hope we become those streets, boulevards and avenues of change."

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