Bronx residents urge City Council to approve street co-naming for living civil rights icon activist

Bronx residents urge City Council to approve street co-naming for living civil rights icon activist
(From l. to r.) Father David Powers (Pastor of St Helena Catholic Church), Sheik Musa Drammeh (Chairman NY Peace Coalition) Debra Oguamah and Dennis James urge City Council officials to pass legislation to honor civil rights activist Claudette Colvin with a street co-naming ceremony.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

Advocates are calling on legislation to be passed to honor a civil rights activist with a street co-naming ceremony while she is still very much alive.

Claudette Colvin, 80, a retired nurse aide known as a pioneer of the 1950s civil rights movement, was arrested at the age of 15 in Montgomery, AL, after refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded, segregated bus.

Members of the Claudette Colvin Committee—gathered at the No. 6 Parkchester Train Station at 177nd St. on Monday, Oct. 28—say it’s only right to name Unionport Road between East Tremont and Westchester Avenue, Claudette Colvin Plaza.

The committee has initiated a petition, which has received 58 signatures for the street renaming.

“The whole world celebrated the courageous act of Rosa Parks, and none can take that away from her, however, what the world celebrates about her, truthfully belonged to Claudette Colvin,” said Sheik Musa Drammeh, chairman of the New York Peace Coalition.

Colvin was one of four plaintiffs—along with Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald and Mary Louise Smith—who filed a lawsuit against segregated bus seating in the Browder vs. Gayle U.S. Supreme Court case. The case was successful, impacting public transportation throughout the country, including trains, airplanes and taxis.

The civil rights activist has called Parkchester her home since 1958 and said farewell to her Bronx community in October. A special tribute was held in her honor celebrating her contributions There have been at least four living individuals in New York City given a street co-naming,” Drammeh said. “We are calling all of the righteous Bronxites to stand up, especially those who live in Community Board 9 to say enough is enough.”

Debra Oguamah, who has lived in Parkchester for the past 20 years, came to show her support. “My grandmother told me that she [Colvin] was not the face for the civil rights movement. She was not the person that they chose, but my family never explained to me the whole entire story,” Oguamah said.

When Oguamah received notice that Colvin’s street co-naming was delayed, she decided to continue advocating on behalf of Colvin.

Oguamah and Drammeh are urging Bronxites to sign the online petition and send letters to local politicians, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“We need this co-naming and I really feel that we’re still going to get this co-naming regardless,” Oguamah said. “We need to take this plight nationally as well. We’re not trying to take anything away from Rosa Parks or the NAACP, but we need this to be included in our American history.”

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