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How MLK boulevards throughout the country are inspiring change

A new documentary released last week aims to parse why so many streets named for the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. have become symbols of blight and inequality. 

Avenues of Dreams: Reclaiming MLK Boulevards” highlights scholars, business owners and residents in St. Louis and Baltimore working to restore their neighborhoods with an eye toward honoring King’s vision of an equitable nation for all people.

 

In the summer of 2020, producer Amber Payne began to research Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards and the Black communities they were in. Her focus soon went to Baltimore and St. Louis. 

“It’s a story that I’ve been thinking about for years,” said Payne, a former NBCBLK editor. “So it just became a dream of mine to find a way to tell that story.”Reggie Williams in the ring in a scene from "Avenue of Dreams."

-Reggie Williams in the ring in a scene from “Avenue of Dreams.”Rayner Ramirez

The film is a collaboration of Comcast NBCUniversal’s Voices of the Civil Rights Movement and cable provider Xfinity’s Black Experience. Comcast owns Xfinity and NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

The struggles of Black people in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis are examined through old, abandoned buildings that populate streets named for King. The poor conditions of the properties reflect systemically racist policies that continue to prevent the development of Black communities. 

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