“In America, the stigma has been placed on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Streets and it’s embarrassing. We want to change that,” said Melvin White.
WELLSTON, Mo. — Music filled the air.
Vendors sold a variety of goods.
Parents had lots of fun with their kids.
But the event was more than just a Saturday afternoon fall festival.
“It is a very disrespectful thing. Looking at his street and it does not match what he stood for,” said Melvin White, the President and CEO of Beloved Streets Of America.
White is on a mission to give Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Wellston, a much-needed makeover.
“MLK Streets are some of the worst streets across America and it’s a sad thing. It’s a slap in our face and we need to change it,” White said.
Ten years ago, White started his non-profit in hopes of revitalizing MLK streets around the nation.
“There are more than 900 streets across the country that bear Dr. King’s name,” said White.
He estimates he’s visited about 40 percent of them and says a majority of the streets have been plagued with poverty, crime and despair for decades.
“Some of the streets are also over seas. They’re in places like India and in Honduras and they’re decent, but in America, there are many abandoned buildings on the street, prostitution is prevalent and other problems. The stigma has been placed. It’s so embarrassing for Dr. King to be recognized like that,” said Melvin White.
He wants to turn the vacant buildings into profitable, new businesses and give the struggling MLK street a much-needed makeover.
“We want to bring back jobs, economics, adequate housing, social programs for our youth and urban agriculture. We want to bring back Dr. King’s legacy,” said White.
He’s pleading to the community for help.
“Banks, business owners, organizations, we need your help. We need grants and all of those type of things. We’re pleading to St. Louis city and county officials and state officials to help us get our project started for the long haul. A lot of the state dollars are not being allocated to the communities that need the help,” White told 5 On Your Side’s Robert Townsend.
“I’m tired of it. All of those abandoned buildings just aren’t good,” said St. Louis area resident Pamela Johnson.
Johnson’s ready for a change.
“Wellston needs to be helped just like other areas. I say bring the area back up to where it needs to be,” said Johnson.
On Saturday, a huge crowd turned out for Wellston’s first annual MLK Festival.
Meantime, Melvin White is confident that if the community steps up and helps him and his team, then turning around MLK Street for the better will ultimately help them fulfill Dr. King’s dream.
“I’m absolutely positive. If we just have the resources and the funding needed, we can do it,” said White.
White hopes civic and business leaders and organizations will also help them with their MLK revitalization project.
If you’d like to assist the non-profit organization just go to Belovedstreetsof america.org.