BY PATRICIA MAZZEI
AND CARLI TEPROFF
HOLLYWOOD – Acknowledging the painful legacy of slavery and the Civil War, Hollywood commissioners decided last week to rename three streets honoring Confederate generals that for the better part of a century have run through a predominantly Black city neighborhood.
After more than five hours of fervent and often tense debate, the City Commission voted 5-1 on Aug. 30 to rechristen Forrest, Hood and Lee streets, though their new names have yet to be determined.
“This is about what the meaning of community is,” Mayor Josh Levy said. “We don’t endorse hate. We don’t endorse symbols of hate. What hurts you, hurts me. It should hurt all of us.”
Levy, Commissioners Kevin Biederman, Dick Blattner, Debra Case and Linda Sherwood voted in favor. Vice Mayor Traci Callari voted against.
A five-vote supermajority was required for approval. Case was out of town and attended the meeting by phone. Commissioner Peter Hernandez walked off the dais in a huff just before the vote, accusing his colleagues of violating procedure.
Hernandez and Callari said residents of the three streets should have gotten a chance to vote on the changes, something the commission opposed last month. Hernandez also suggested the city was acting with hypocrisy by not renaming other Hollywood streets also thought to be named after Confederates.
“I can’t support cherry-picking, and I can’t support the process, the way it was done,” he said.
A plan to rename the streets Savannah, Macon and Louisville, in a nod to historically Black cities in the South, as historians say Hollywood’s founder originally intended, went nowhere.
Biederman proposed renaming Forrest Street after Frankie Shivers, a Hollywood police officer killed in 1982, but Sherwood asked to hold off on a decision to give everyone more time to settle on all three names.
They were to take up the issue in a meeting this week.
As often happens when government grapples with history, Wednesday was messy.
Politician after politician implored commissioners to finally rid the Liberia neighborhood of streets honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate Army; Gen. John Bell Hood, a commander in the Battle of Gettysburg, and, above all, Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant general thought to be the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard.
The county sheriff agreed. The public defender agreed. The property appraiser agreed. The chamber of commerce agreed. Like almost all of South Florida, Hollywood, which was founded in 1925, has no historical claim to the Civil War.
“Let me be honest,” said Brian Johnson, the vice mayor of neighboring West Park, who argued the streets should have been renamed long ago. “We should not be here today.”
City activists pushed for new names for more than a decade. But some residents of the three streets, citing a variety of reasons, remained steadfastly opposed.
A long fight
Citing costs to residents and small businesses, and a bureaucratic process that seemed designed to make renaming streets difficult, the commission — which has never had a Black member — repeatedly put off making a renaming decision.
But the board voted in July to proceed, and Aug. 30 marked the final step to finally change the names. Two activists, Linda Anderson and Laurie Schecter, applied to change the names in June.
Less than three weeks after deadly violence during after a White supremacist rally Charlottesville, Va., emotions were raw.
A protest of about 150 people outside City Hall, guarded heavily by police, resulted in the arrest of a 22-year-old Hialeah man, Christopher Rey Monzon, who lunged at demonstrators with his Confederate flag.