Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
The tail end of New Hampshire Avenue in D.C. feeds into a block full of very Washington institutions. At the tip, framed by wispy Weeping Willows, sits the massive John F. Kennedy Center. Before it, on one side, the Watergate Complex, where some famous offices—that of The Atlantic and CityLab—are located. Right opposite us is the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
Recently, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) in the area unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to rename our nub of New Hampshire the “Jamal Khashoggi Way.” The goal was to honor the Saudi journalist and dissident who wrote for The Washington Post. Per U.S. intelligence, he was murdered at the order of Saudi king Mohammad Bin Salman.
The resolution, Rachel Kurzius of the DCist reported, now seems to be stalled at the D.C. council level, but even if it had gone through next session, the change would have largely been ceremonial: No addresses on the block would have been altered, but the new name would have been displayed underneath the old street sign.
There are a bunch of reasons streets have been renamed in the past: geopolitical jibes (See: Turkey and Russia), overdue public acclaim, historic wrong-righting, honoring beloved residents, and, apparently, love of the Ramones. In D.C., municipal street names have been changed to make political statements before: Earlier this year, the D.C. council gave the street where the Russian embassy stands a ceremonial name honoring slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Renaming a street in this way only goes so deep—it doesn’t necessarily signal real change—and yet, it means something. Street names are symbols after all, reflecting the ethos of a particular place at a particular time. So it sends a message: We’re reclaiming this sliver of public space in the name of someone whose values we admire. That’s a small act of protest.
Are you aware of or involved in any street renaming attempts in your community? Tell me all about it.
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What we’re taking in:
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