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Rahm denies political motives in renaming Stony Island for Brazier

Bishop Arthur Brazier  2008 | Sun-Times files

Bishop Arthur Brazier in 2008 | Sun-Times files

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Updated: October 12, 2013 6:29AM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to permanently rename Stony Island Avenue the “Reverend Bishop Brazier Avenue” to honor the renowned religious and civil rights leader who forced the resignation of a schools superintendent and wielded enough clout to tear down the 63rd Street L.

Three years after Bishop Arthur Brazier’s death, Emanuel wants Brazier’s memory to live on — not with another one of Chicago’s countless honorary street designations — but by permanently renaming Stony Island, from 56th Street to 130th.

Dr. Byron Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, the mega-church at 6320 S. Dorchester that his father built, said it would be Chicago’s first arterial street renaming since the late 1970’s, when King Drive was renamed for the slain civil rights leader.

The younger Brazier noted that it was his father who helped bring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Chicago in 1966.

“I feel wonderful about it. Both myself and the congregation are thrilled. That’s why they name buildings. It becomes a permanent recognition of someone’s contribution and what is left as a legacy to those who knew him and would learn about him,” the younger Brazier, who co-chaired Emanuel’s transition team, said Tuesday.

“My father was a dimensional man who operated — not just in one area. He provided insight and development in housing, education, public safety, health and human services. His comprehensiveness is what the mayor and what our community understood. He wasn’t just a person who ran a program, but understood the development and self-determination of a community.”

In a news release announcing the renaming, Emanuel called the elder Brazier a “spiritual and community leader” on the South Side who fought “crime and poverty while advocating for better housing and schools.”

The mayor added, “By renaming Stony Island Ave. in his memory, we are honoring a man who influenced generations of pastors and parishioners to spiritual worship with community activism.”

The elder Brazier went from picketing Mayor Richard J. Daley to being appointed by Daley’s son to the Public Building Commission. He was a friend and one-time tennis partner of President Barack Obama.

As pastor of a tiny Woodlawn congregation during the 1960’s, the elder Brazier started working with community organizer Saul Alinsky and helped found The Woodlawn Organization to battle slumlords and the University of Chicago’s efforts to displace blacks south of 61st Street.

Bishop Brazier also helped organize a boycott of Chicago Public Schools to protest the concentration of black students in mobile classrooms. His efforts helped force the early resignation of school Supt. Ben Willis.

TWO sponsored rent strikes and business boycotts and picketed slum landlords. At one point, the elder Brazier received police protection because of threats on his life.

He died in 2010 at age 89 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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