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URBAN STREETS NAMED FOR MLK STILL STRUGGLE

Monday, 20 January 2014 09:27 Published in Local News

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A walk down the 6-mile city street named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. yields plenty of images that would surely unsettle the civil rights leader: shuttered storefronts, open-air drug markets and a glut of pawn shops, quickie check-cashing providers and liquor stores.

The urban decay along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in St. Louis can be found in other major American cities, from Houston and Milwaukee to the nation's capital.

"It's a national problem," said Melvin White, a 46-year-old postal worker in St. Louis and founder of a 3-year-old nonprofit group that is trying to restore King's legacy on asphalt. "Dr. King would be turning over in his grave."

Nearly three decades into the observance of Monday's federal holiday, the continuing decline of the most visible symbols of King's work has White and others calling for a renewed commitment to the more than 900 streets nationwide named in the Atlanta native's honor. The effort centers in St. Louis, where the small nonprofit is working to reclaim MLK roadways as a source of pride and inspiration, not disappointment over a dream derailed.

White's goals are ambitious, his resources admittedly modest. A neighborhood park is planned across the street from the group's headquarters. An urban agriculture project to encourage residents to eat healthy and grow their own food has preliminary support from nearby Washington University, one of the country's wealthiest private colleges. Above all, Beloved Streets of America wants to build community from the ashes of what was once a thriving retail corridor when White was a child.

The template can be found just a mile away. Delmar Boulevard, which saw a similar decline, is now a vibrant retail corridor packed with restaurants, nightclubs, a renovated movie theater and a boutique hotel. The renaissance earned Delmar recognition in 2007 as one of "10 Great Streets in America" by the American Planning Association.

Journalist Jonathan Tilove, who wrote a 2003 book based on visits to 650 King streets nationwide, called the King byways "black America's Main Street."

"Map them and you map a nation within a nation, a place where white America seldom goes and black America can be itself," he wrote. "It is a parallel universe with a different center of gravity and distinctive sensibilities. ... There is no other street like it."

But while streets named for King undoubtedly resonate widely in the black community, a University of Tennessee geography professor whose research explores the cultural and political significance of such streets said the compromised condition of streets named for King in St. Louis and other cities deserves broader attention.

"In some ways we racially profile these streets," said Derek Alderman, author of a 2007 study that found a smaller disparity among MLK-named streets and other "main streets" than is popularly portrayed. "We need to move beyond those images and see what concrete lives and realities are living on those streets."

More than 50 years after King led his march on Washington, communities large and small still debate whether to rename local streets in his honor. In Harrisonburg, Va., city leaders recently agreed to rename a street for King over protests by some residents. A similar debate continues in High Point, N.C., where a King street proposal first suggested two decades ago remains up in the air.

Other cities have had more success in balancing the desire to commemorate King without superseding local tradition. Alderman singled out Chapel Hill, N.C., which in 2005 renamed a major thoroughfare that abuts the University of North Carolina campus. Street signs that identify Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard also include the name "Historic Airport Road."

Chicago's Martin Luther King Drive, a major thoroughfare spanning roughly a dozen miles south of downtown, is anchored by important hubs of black life in the city. The street features grassy boulevards with stately greystones, while other segments touch rougher patches that have fallen into disrepair, including a dilapidated motel that drew community protests over crime. Gentrification is taking hold along some parts.

The major landmarks include Bronzeville, the neighborhood where numerous black activists lived or worked and tourism officials have marked with plaques. There's also Chicago State University, where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks taught.

In Miami, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard stretches from the predominantly Cuban town of Hialeah through largely black Liberty City and into Little Haiti - a reflection of both the city's diverse demographics as well as its lingering segregation.

Along MLK Boulevard in Hialeah, where U.S. flags fly alongside Cuban ones, MLK Boulevard isn't known as the street named after a civil rights leader. Rather, it's simply referred to by its number: "La Nueve Street," or 9th Street.

The sights and sounds of MLK Boulevard change in Liberty City, where many buildings are shuttered and storefront churches can be found on almost every block. In the decades after the civil rights movement, Liberty City has seen two race riots and struggled to escape a cycle of violence and poverty.

At Miami Edison High School on the border of Liberty City and Little Haiti, 17-year-old Judith Etienne said King would be disappointed in his unfulfilled dream.

"I'm sure Martin Luther King didn't have this in his dream," she said. "There's a lot of kids dying of gang violence in this community."

For Alderman, the King street scholar, the struggle to reclaim MLK Jr. Drive in St. Louis offers a realistic portrayal of the battles King waged a half-century ago - and where such efforts need to reach into the 21st Century.

"Those street names are really powerful social indicators of how far we've come in really fulfilling the dream, and giving us an indication of where we need to do more work," he said. "As much as it may sadden us, it demarcates and defines boundaries for civil rights activism for the future. You've got something that remembers the past that actually works, in its own tragic irony, to symbolize where the struggle still is."

---

Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen in Chicago and Christine Armario in Miami contributed to this report.

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Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/AZAGIER

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

PARADES, MARCHES AND SERVICE PROJECTS TO HONOR MLK

Monday, 20 January 2014 09:25 Published in National News

ATLANTA (AP) -- The nation paused to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Monday with parades, marches and service projects.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday is the third Monday in January.

In Atlanta, a service was planned at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was pastor. In Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated, an audio recording of an interview with King would be played at the National Civil Rights Museum. The recording sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King's wife more than 50 years ago.

Historians generally agree Kennedy's phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband's arrest in October 1960 - and Robert Kennedy's work behind the scenes to get King released - helped JFK win the White House.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte planned to deliver the keynote address for the 28th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium on Monday morning at the University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

IRAN STARTS IMPLEMENTING NUCLEAR DEAL

Monday, 20 January 2014 09:10 Published in National News

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran started to shut down its most sensitive nuclear work on Monday, part of a landmark deal struck with world powers that ease international concerns over the country's nuclear program and clearing the way for a partial lifting of sanctions, the state media said.

The United Nations nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that higher-level uranium enrichment in the Natanz facility in central Iran had been stopped.

Iran's decision to halt higher-level enrichment is seen as a key step toward easing Western fears over Tehran's nuclear program. The West fears Iran seeks to build a nuclear bomb. The Islamic Republic insists the program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The shutdown follows a historic deal reached Iran reached with world powers in Geneva on Nov. 24 that calls for an end to higher-level enrichment in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

Iranian state TV said authorities halted enrichment of uranium to 20 percent by disconnecting the cascades of centrifuges enriching uranium at the facility. That level is just steps away from bomb-making materials.

The broadcast said international inspectors were on hand to witness the stoppage before leaving to monitor the suspension of enrichment at Fordo, another uranium enrichment site in central Iran.

The official IRNA news agency said Iran also started Monday to convert part of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to oxide, which can be used to produce nuclear fuel but is difficult to reconvert for weapons use.

Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed to halt its 20 percent enrichment program but continue enrichment up to 5 percent. It also agreed to convert half of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to oxide and dilute the remaining half to 5 percent over a period of six months.

In addition to the enrichment measures, the six-month interim deal also commits Iran to opening its nuclear program to greater U.N. inspections and providing more details on its nuclear activities and facilities. Iran will also refrain from commissioning its under-construction 40 megawatt heavy water reactor in Arak, central Iran.

The U.S., European Union and other world powers are studying the U.N. nuclear agency report, said U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf. She said the U.S. would have further comment "after all parties have had the opportunity to review the report."

In exchange for the nuclear curbs, Iran receives a halt to new sanctions and easing of existing sanctions. Measures targeting petrochemical products, gold and other precious metals, the auto industry, passenger plane parts and services will be lifted immediately.

The Geneva deal allows Iran to continue exporting crude oil in its current level, which is reported to be about 1 million barrels a day.

In Brussels, foreign ministers from the 28 European Union members, gathered for one of their periodic consultations, were poised to suspend some sanctions for six months if U.N. inspectors report that Iran's uranium enrichment efforts have halted.

The ministers will hear a report from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who chaired the Geneva negotiations that led to the agreement with Tehran. Miroslav Lajcak, the Slovak foreign minister, told reporters as the meeting opened that "we are moving in a good direction. That means we are ready to lift sanctions."

The sanctions have weakened Iran's economy, and an easing of the measures could provide relief to ordinary Iranians.

Senior officials in U.S. President Barack Obama's administration have put the total relief figure at some $7 billion of an estimated $100 billion in Iranian assets in foreign banks. Iran is to receive the first $550 million installment of $4.2 billion of its assets blocked overseas on Feb. 1.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague emphasized that only some sanctions would be suspended once it is clear Iran had ceased enrichment.

"Of course other sanctions will be maintained. This is limited and proportionate sanctions relief," he said. "Then we will get to work at a very early stage, as early as next month, on the negotiation for a comprehensive deal to settle the Iranian nuclear issue."

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran has a total of 196 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium and will convert half of it to oxide over a period of six months, 15 kilograms each month. Iran, he said, will dilute the remaining half to under 5 percent level within three months.

Iran's hard-liners have called the deal a "poisoned chalice", highlighting the difficult task President Hasan Rouhani faces in selling the accord to skeptics.

Hard-line media denounced the planned halt. The Vatan-e-Emrooz daily printed in black Monday instead of its usual colors, a sign of sorrow and mourning. It declared the deal a "nuclear holocaust" and called it a gift to Israel's Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

"Today, Netanyahu is the happiest person in the world," it said. However, the Israeli prime minister has made the opposite argument as the hard-liners: He says the deal gives Iran too much for too few concessions.

The interim Geneva accord will last for six months as Iran and the world powers negotiate a final deal. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters Saturday that Tehran is ready to enter talks for a permanent accord as soon as the interim deal goes into force.

____

AP writer John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed to this report.

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