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West Valley City renames street after Rosa Parks

Published November 15, 2012 8:48 pm

Culture • Officials honor civil rights icon in a move that also reflects change in the city's demographics.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City • It isn't along a historic bus route in Montgomery, Ala., but West Valley City has changed the name of a stretch along 3100 South to honor Rosa Parks and reflect the city's growing ethnic diversity.

Community members and City Councilman Corey Rushton met Thursday at the corner of 1355 West and 3100 South to dedicate the new Rosa Parks Drive in honor of the iconic civil rights activist.

"It was a natural fit for several different reasons," Rushton said, noting that some embraced the street name because it is located close to the city's cultural center, while others feel the name is emblematic of diversity found in the city's 132,000 residents.

The nearly one-mile span of road goes across Redwood Road from Decker Lake Drive and goes east to Cultural Center Drive.

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake branch, expressed joy Thursday about the renaming of the street.

"Rosa was an icon and mother of the civil rights movement," Williams said. "Now to have a street named after she passed ... it is a proud moment."

In 1992, Williams orchestrated bringing Parks to Utah. Parks, who died in 2005, presented the state's first Rosa Parks Award, an honor handed out each year to a woman who has helped to "Keep the Dream Alive" through courageous efforts and commitments to racial equality in the community.

Frances Battle, a Murray resident, received the 2008 Rosa Parks Award and attended the unveiling of the road sign.

"It is an acknowledgement of a person who was humbled and determined to make a difference in our community," Battle said.

Seeing the sign on display in a prominent area on the main thoroughfare of Redwood Road illustrates to Battle how far acceptance across races and cultures has progressed, she said.

"We as a people are overcoming," Battle said after the unveiling. "We are respectful and acknowledge all the people and their ways of life."

Williams said seven years ago she approached the West Valley City Council about naming a street after Rosa Parks. Originally the plan was to name 3500 South after Parks, but a construction project there lasted longer than anticipated, and by the time it was nearly complete, the city decided the road leading to the cultural center would be a better fit to pay tribute to the woman.

"If Rosa Parks resided in Utah, she would live in West Valley City because of our diversity and culture," Rushton said.

About 65 percent of West Valley City's population is white, while 33 percent of residents are Latino, according to U.S. Census Bureau Statistics. Five percent are Asian, about 4 percent are Pacific Islander and 2 percent are black, statistics show.

Rosa Parks Drive fittingly ends at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, a place where diversity in West Valley City and Utah are celebrated, officials at Thursday's ceremony said.

cimaron@sltrib.com

Twitter: @CimCity —

Past recipients of the Rosa Parks Award

1992 • Mary Washington Green

1993 • Helen Zeese Papanilolas

1994 • Janet L. Swift

1995 • Alberta Henry

1996 • Jane H. Edwards

1997 • Florence Lawrence

1998 • Charlotte Starks

1999 • Shauna Graves-Robertson

2000 • Pamela J. Atkinson

2001 • Josie Valdez

2002 • Joyce Gray

2003 • Dorothy Anderson

2004 • Eva Sexton

2005 • Joanne R. Milner

2006 • Jeanetta Williams

2007 • E. Jean Tracy

2008 • Frances Battle

2009 • Denise Elbert

2010 • Irene Fisher

2011 • No Award Given

2012 • Gloria Wilkinson