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.

What we’re writing:

Wow! So many people hate winter! ¤ “Instead of seeing a million places for just a minute each, I'm going to spend a million minutes exploring just one place.” ¤ The case against Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. ¤ What the h*ck is “National Landing”? ¤ What monthly block parties can bring to changing East Houston. ¤ In this Palestinian city, historic homes are at risk of extinction. ¤

What we’re taking in:

Names and terrains have always been contested. That’s part of the identity of a place and that’s also part of the struggle.” (Longreads) ¤ Meet the cabal of mall Santas making bank. (Vox) ¤ An exemplar of Houston rap. (The New Yorker) ¤ Black rice: the quinoa of Manipur. (Popula) ¤ “Soon after we’d moved in, the house splintered into two worlds.” (Longreads) ¤ These youths in New York are very good at fashion. (The New York Times) ¤ An anonymous artist is installing benches in L.A.’s neglected bus stops. (Los Angeles Times) ¤ “Life underground = too loud.” (Guernica) ¤ Artists from Chicago’s South Side are finally being recognized. (The New York Times) ¤

View from the ground:

@blossomingbrick shows a skinny street in Spain. @lukas_darling's photo says that not all streets are built the same. @justlikeabirdonawire captures just how street signs dangle. @asu_space illustrates an elevated street tangle.  

Tag us with the hashtag #citylabontheground so our fellow Karim Doumar can shout out your #views on CityLab’s Instagram page or pull them together for the next edition of Navigator.

Until next time,

Tanvi

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