Bob Marley Boulevard at last!

By Philomena Robertson

New York,USA, June 30, 2006 – Twenty-five years after his death, legendary icon, Bob Marley continues to be memorialized and this Saturday in Brooklyn, he’ll finally have his own boulevard.

A section of Church Avenue – from Remsen to East 98th Street in the East Flatbush area of the Caribbean-populated borough of Brooklyn will be co-named, ‘Bob Marley Boulevard,’ at a July 1 ceremony that is expected to attract a number of ambassadors, foreign dignitaries and entertainers.

Council member Charles Barron, who introduced the street-renaming legislation in the New York City Council and in whose district the boulevard is located, views it as a “new day” and an opportunity to begin the kind of “internal transformation that we must undergo as we forge ahead as a liberated people.”

Barron is anxious to see Caribbean Americans and African Americans on the whole be better represented in their communities. “Too many of the streets are named after people who did nothing for us,” he told HBN yesterday, while imploring them to stop being invisible and to take charge of their communities so that they better represent who they are and their accomplishments.

“We have to be a self-determining people so that we can tell the younger generation how to liberate themselves,” he added.

Michael Russell, the visionary behind the project and chairman of Community Board 17, also believes “the time has come to start respecting and acknowledging some of our people.”

Noting that “Bob Marley already has a star in Hollywood,” Russell questions “if other people can respect him, why can’t we?”

Barron wholeheartedly agrees that Bob is a “legend among not just African Americans but people all over the world who cared about redemption and freedom.” And he added, “Bob Marley made a tremendous contribution to our freedom. He always spoke out for the oppressed in Jamaica and elsewhere in the world.”

Barron also commended Russell for his “foresight, vision and commitment” and has pledged to work with him in realizing his vision to bring greater visibility to the area.

Russell is anticipating that ‘Bob Marley Boulevard’ will help to stimulate and energize the area, bringing more business for numerous Caribbean business owners who operate there. “We know that Bob sells tourism in Jamaica,” he says. “And we’re hoping it would do the same thing for this strip, one of the epicenters of the Caribbean community here.”

But even as the community pauses to celebrate and pay tribute to the man who consistently preached peace, love and unity, controversy threatens to overshadow the achievement. The ‘Bob Marley Boulevard’ is several blocks shorter that what was originally envisaged because two Caribbean-American New York City Councilmembers failed to introduce legislation in the Council in time. Those bills would have extended the Boulevard further down Church Avenue.

Council member Kendall Stewart, one of those blamed for the shortfall, says due process was not followed. “I have no objection to the co-naming,” he told HBN yesterday. “But things have to be done a certain way. We work by protocol.”

Stewart, a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, chided the Community Board for not giving people a chance to speak on the issue. This claim is refuted by Russell who says they spoke to merchants in the area and received more than 700 signatures in favor of the project.

Asked whether or not he will attend Saturday’s ceremony, Stewart replied that he has not received an invitation but will attempt to make an appearance if his schedule permits.

Attempts by HBN to reach Council member and Congressional hopeful, Yvette Clarke, the other city representative to whom the shortfall of the boulevard is attributed, were unsuccessful.

Despite this hiccup, Community Board Chairman Russell remains resolute in his optimism that the boulevard will be extended in the near future.

Maybe, we should all pay closer attention to the message of the man being honored, “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right.” (

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