Correction: The date the name change will take effect was incorrect when this story was originally published. It has been updated.
Outgoing City Councilor Blake Ewing’s last meeting turned out to be an eventful one, with his fellow councilors voting overwhelmingly to support his proposal to rename M.B. Brady Street to Reconciliation Way within the city limits.
The vote was 8-1. Interim City Councilor Arianna Moore cast the lone “no” vote. The name change will take effect July 1, 2019.
“I believe our community’s story should be that five years later, we are capable of changing the name from Brady to something else,” Ewing said. “Not because we’ve arrived, or because we have healed, or because race relations in Tulsa are where they should be, but because we are one step better, and I like it that we’re one step (better).”
Ewing has said previously that he regretted the City Council’s 2013 vote to change the street’s name from Brady Street to M.B. Brady Street.
Brady Street was named after Wyatt “Tate” Brady, a city founder and one-time Ku Klux Klan member. Some have alleged that he helped organize the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.
Ewing supported a last-minute compromise to rename the street Mathew Brady Street after a famous Civil War photographer with no ties to Tulsa.
Before Wednesday’s vote, he told his councilors that he has tried explaining the council’s 2013 decision to many young Tulsans, most of them white, telling them councilors at the time believed it was the best available option.
“The consensus of the people I have talked to half a decade since (was) that it was lame, and I agree,” Ewing said.
Four speakers spoke in opposition to the name change. Each struck a similar note — that changing a street name would not change conditions in north Tulsa.
“There has been no reconciliation made with north Tulsa at all,” said James Alexander Jr. “In fact, I’ve been here all my life. I’m 66 years old, and it has gotten worse.”
Kristi Williams said removing the Brady name from the street would amount to taking “down a story of our history that happened.”
Ewing made clear that was not his intention.
“I don’t think this heals us as a community,” he said. “It takes something that has been on the wrong track and puts it on the right track.”
Moore said she understands the need for fundamental changes in local race relations, but that the issue needs to be tackled from all angles.
“I didn’t feel there was a significant impact from the last name change to make me think another name change would be any different,” she said. “It seems like another Band-aid on an issue, and we really need to dig a little deeper than a cosmetic change for a tangible difference.”
Ewing has said previously that changing the signs and other related public signage would cost an estimated $7,200. He told his fellow councilors Wednesday that anonymous donors have agreed to cover some of the cost.
His hope, he said, is that some of the donated money could be used to create an art installation or marker that would tell the complete story of the Brady name and its significance to Tulsa’s history.
The name change had initially been scheduled to take effect Feb. 1, but councilors agreed to push back the date to give property owners more time to change their addresses, modify business signs or make other necessary adjustments.
Ewing was one of four councilors who participated in their last council meeting Wednesday. The new City Council class will be sworn in Monday.