A caravan of dozens of vehicles traveled Lake Shore Drive Saturday afternoon to celebrate the renaming of Chicago’s most iconic road in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable.
Led by an old silver Chevrolet pickup truck and a wagon, the group of cars waved Haitian flags and cheered from their windows as they drove south to 67th Street before turning around and head north to Hollywood Beach. Some drivers pasted signs to their vehicle’s doors and windows acknowledging the new lakeside namesake of the black man believed to be Chicago’s first citizen.
“We are making history,” said Maria Ihekwaba, who came to the event organized by the Black Heroes Matter Coalition. “We’ve conquered what we set out to do: make Lake Shore Drive named after Chicago’s founder.”
Months of speeches cleared the way for the city council to approve the rebranding of Chicago’s lakeside road last week to honor DuSable, a black man of Haitian descent who was the first non-colonial settler. native of the city.
The city is expected to soon replace hundreds of street signs with new ones that read “Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive.”
Many DuSable supporters said the move, which brings increased recognition to the Chicago founder, was long overdue.
“A lot of people didn’t want that to happen because people are so comfortable with what they know, and change is hard for a lot of people,” South Sider Eric Sexton said. “We set out to do it, and we did it, and now we can’t wait to build on that, because it’s more important than that. It’s an incredible first step.
The name change comes amid a renewed national conversation on racial injustice that has brought new scrutiny to how black history is taught in schools. Sexton, 56, said he met many people who didn’t know who DuSable was.
“Having a dialogue now – that alone is wonderful,” Sexton said. “So maybe right now [this] will make us start thinking about black accomplishments and how we can shed more light on them.
Members of the Black Heroes Matter Coalition hope to build on this momentum, paying more tributes to DuSable in the form of a city-recognized holiday and a 25-foot statue.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot – who opposed the name change for its potential inconvenience to homeowners and businesses with lakeside addresses – said last week that she plans to continue with her plan to develop DuSable Park , erect a statue and have year-round programming in his honor.
“We still want her to engage and honor that,” Englewood resident DeAndre Hawthorne said.