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Norman City Council unanimously votes to change name of controversial DeBarr Ave

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
DeBarr Avenue sign in Norman.
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NORMAN, Okla.-- It is official: DeBarr Avenue will be getting a name change. The Norman City Council voted unanimously to start the renaming process and imposed a  June 1st, 2018 deadline for completion. 

Edwin DeBarr, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, one of the first professors at The University of Oklahoma and also vice president of the university until 1923, named the street after himself at a time when there were no city rules about the subject.

Currently, changing a street name in Norman requires 75 percent approval from the property owners. An oversight committee will now consider enacting a new policy for renaming streets when it meets on Nov. 8 at City Hall. 

It has been a long-fought battle for Breea Clark, Ward 6 Norman City Council representative, who initially organized the online petition to rename DeBarr Avenue this past spring, and other local activists, including Deon Osborne, an OU student and leader of Norman Citizens for Racial Justice. 

“We need more cultural competencies from our city leaders,” Osborne, who is also a contributor to Red Dirt Report, said. 

A press conference was held to conclude this passionate week with the support from major Oklahoman activists on Oct. 25. Besides, Osborne and Clark the speakers included among others Garland Pruitt, the president of the Oklahoma City NAACP, Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, the director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma, Grace Franklin, the director of OKC Artists for Justice, Ashley McCray, the co-Founder of No Plains Pipeline, Indigenize OU, Joshua Harris-Till, the president of Young Democrats of Oklahoma and Sache Primeaux-Shaw, the South Central Region Director of Young Democrats of America.

One thing pointed out by the speakers is that still, today leaders have difficulties to listen to their constituents when it comes to racial issues.

Deon Osborne, current OU student and local activist, talking about the DeBarr name removal. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

“What happen last night, I think we can say it was a historic victory but was not without a hard fight,” McCray said.

As this is only the first step, the speakers expressed motivation to continue the fight to ensure the DeBarr name is removed and offered a replacement: Henderson Street, named after George Henderson. Henderson founded the human relations department at OU and has taught at the university for half a century. 

“We have to work together,” McCray said. “We want our city to be an inclusive community for everybody.”

“Racism did not die in the 60s with the passing of civil rights laws; It did not die when Barack Obama becoming President,” said Dan Williams, OU student and member of the Student Government Association.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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