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The Brandon Sun has an article today on Thomas Lafayette Rosser, his history as a Confederate major general, his general amount of questionable business ethics, and his propensity to being a bit of a sh** disturber. This isn't news to me, I saw his history a few years ago and figured, "Huh, that's not exactly stellar!" So, this brings up the question, if it was decided to change the name of Rosser Ave to something else, what would your leading names be? A famous Brandonite? Someone of provincial or national significance? I realize some will be, "We don't need to change the name. Always changing things!" That's not what this is about. If Quaker can drop the Aunt Jemima name, we can consider expunging Thomas Lafayette Rosser. As for cost, singage won't break the bank, and I'm sure Canada Post would recognize "Rosser Ave" as valid for a number of years.
For more background, Rosser's wikipedia is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_L._Rosser
Have known and become quite accustomed to the Rosser Ave name over my life and have taken it for granted without knowing the history. I think its fair to be open to a conversation about whether who we are as a community today and what we signal support of in our historical street namings are in alignment.
Folks will have their own opinion on what might be appropriate for a major street if there is a renaming, but just speaking generally in terms of street names... lots of prime ministers, premiers, mayors, MPs and MLAs have presided over the last few decades and we seem to have gotten away from using their names. Maybe it gets difficult in today's politically charged environment in that for every Chretien Crescent you need a Harper Avenue and a G.Doer Drive to cover all sides of the political spectrum. We also have some local folks that have gone on to do great things such as James Ehnes and Israel Idonije that I think are very fitting of some sort of honour.
The other thing that really jumps off the page of local street names to me is how under-represented Aboriginal persons are given the depth of history in the area. FWIW, this list is a decade old now but these are names that have been on the city street name registry: https://brandon.ca/images/pdf/developmentServices/property/StreetNameRegistry.pdf
Words matter. Empathy matters. People matter. Being an inclusive community matters. A few of the posts here are acting like we’ve just become aware that the man once as a kid stole a pack of bubble gum from the corner store. This isn’t a small mistake, this was a key figure in an ugly, ugly part of history that saw the fighting to do despicable, inhumane things to people of colour that should not be done to any human being. Because it’s another country’s history or that his most serious wrongs didn’t happen here doesn’t change the fact that it happened. Recognizing what it signifies to build our city’s identity around someone with an established history of fighting for a system that included enslaving human beings shouldn’t have to be something that you have to identify with one part of the political spectrum to be able to see a problem with. Having a street named after someone is an honour and I’ve read enough to not feel right about this being someone we should continue to shine a light on. Relatively speaking Brandon is quite young as a city and Canada as a country, let’s admit this mistake “early” in that history and at least look at how practical it would be to not signal this is someone we embrace... because now that the history is out there and everybody knows it there’s an argument to be made that that’s what we’re doing. I don’t think anybody’s saying to erase the pages from local history books and pretend that he was not in Brandon for a period of time. You could argue that this conversation in the community right now has already done more than anything could in educating current generations on this part of our history. Folks would continue to have the opportunity to continue to read about and learn that history from the same books. Any proposed change should absolutely come with a look at cost since there realistically is an upper limit on what the city could afford to spend without some form of outside contribution. A starting point re cost might be this USA city (link below), which a few years ago had direct and indirect costs at $6200… granted every city and street will have its own variables that could send costs one way or another: https://www.thetowntalk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/30/changing-street-name-alexandria-can-costly/16511857/ Words matter. Empathy matters. People matter. Being an inclusive community matters... exception being hitching our wagon to the history a confederate general.
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