Fountain Renaming
COMMENTS
UPDATE June 24: 
The Parks Board separated the process into two parts:
1. The Nichols name has been removed from the fountain.
2. Commissioner Goode has proposed renaming it the 
    "Dream Fountain" as a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.
 How is it appropriate to associate these images of violence
with the dream of Martin Luther King Jr?

The violence and brutality of the sculptures of J C Nichols fountain 
would blaspheme the memory of Martin Luther King Jr 
if it were renamed  the Dream Fountain.


Nichols perpetrated racism, so many folks favor renaming the fountain--
as The Star's editorial points out here.
Renaming J C Nichols Fountain

Slave owners closed their eyes to the sin of slavery and could not see the iniquity of their control of another human being. Just so, Kansas Citians often cannot see through the splash and spray of the fountain to see the triumphalism of the human subjugation of nature and the destruction of the environment symbolized in these sculptures, metaphors for the exploitation of white privilege and racism, part of the very structure of oppressive culture King sought to replace with "the beloved community." These images of subjugation, in their historical context, are metaphors for slavery.

It is ironic that a Parks Board proponant of renaming the fountain has said, “The time has come for us to stop turning a blind eye towards racism of the past and present,” but eyes are not open to the clash between the sculptures and King's dream.

The 19th Century industrial-mentality sculptures representing four of the world's rivers were created by Henri Gerber in 1910 and brought to Kansas City from the mansion Clarence Mackay in Long Island, New York, and installed here in 1960 to honor J. C. Nichols. How does this palatial background suit King's life story?

Meeting King in 1967 was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I would hate to see his memory dishonored by the assaults of the fountain sculpture. 
 

THE FOUNTAIN IS AN ABOMINATION. 

After moving to Westport decades ago, I began walking most days to the south end of Mill Creek Park. I certainly knew Nichols Fountain was there, and I saw its streams of water. But I never really looked at it until one day, maybe three years later, I actually examined the fountain. 

I was distressed. It is a celebration of human domination over nature, not harmony with it -- appropriate for our petro-fueled economy. There is violence and pain in the sculptures, along with the glee of domination, supposedly representing the Mississippi, Volga, Seine, and the Rhine rivers. I was unable to deter a Johnson County friend and colleague a few years ago from preaching a series of sermons celebrating the fountain, so I know my opinion is unlikely to get anybody to look beyond the gorgeous sprays of water at the horror of what the fountain sculpture actually portrays. 

In 2017, Steve Kraske proposed renaming the fountain. Alas, the "J. C. Nichols Fountain" is a far more appropriate name for this message of environmental assault than associating it with Martin Luther King Jr and his dream. 

 --------- 

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

The Kansas City Star has endorsed renaming the fountain. This is the gist of what I wrote the Editorial page editor on June 11: 

Please send a photographer to take photos of the Indian on the horse and the alligator, and the spearing of the bear for sport as you support renaming Nichols Fountain (and in my view, dishonoring Martin Luther King's dream). It took me three years of walking by the fountain almost every day before I finally really looked at this industrial-mentality sculpture set of the four rivers, celebrating human abuse of the environment, a mentality that makes other forms of oppression possible. 

Even the cherubs join in the fun of dominating, instead living in harmony with, nature. The happiness associated with the fountain (as in weddings I've performed there) is evidence of ignoring or glossing over the ugliness of our ecological ignorance, part of the oppressive system at the root of racism. We are so used to racism, white people don't see what people of color must endure every day; just so, viewers of the fountain are blinded from seeing how our culture is so rapacious; we even sentimentalize those cherubs tormenting the dolphins. 

[I also wrote her then that I doubted The Star would publish my letter. To date, it has not appeared; so I wrote again, that my viewpoint does not seem to be welcome in a survey of opinions in the pages of The Star.]

I have sent the following in red as a Letter to the Editor. . . . 
 

Out of the transformative experience of meeting Martin Luther King Jr in 1967, I write opposing renaming Nichols Fountain to the "Dream Fountain." Its violence would dishonor King's memory. 

The fountain's sculptures brutally portray human control of nature, not respect, just as racist violence has been used to control people of color. We need loving regard among all citizens, as we need environmental justice. Look beyond the beautiful splash and play of the water, look beyond the material delights of our oppressive social-economic system, and you will find embedded a celebration of the assault on the human soul. 

By all means, rename J. C. Nichols Parkway. But don't disgrace our city by attaching King's dream to the brutality of the fountain sculptures. We must look deeply into the causes of racism, beyond the surface spray and evaporating solutions.

----- 

THE PARKS BOARD

A proposal is before the Parks Department to rename the J.C. Nichols Parkway to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, and rename the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain to the Dream Fountain. While I think renaming the Missouri side of State Line for King would better promote a larger and more fruitful dialogue, inviting serious consieration by cities on the Kansas side of State Line, I would be glad to see the Parkway renamed . . . . 

So I wrote the Parks Board

Renaming J C Nichols Fountain: 

After moving to Westport decades ago, I began walking most days to the south end of Mill Creek Park. I certainly knew Nichols Fountain was there, and I saw its streams of water. But I never really looked at it until one day, maybe three years later, I actually examined the fountain. 

I was distressed. It is a celebration of human domination over nature, not harmony with it -- appropriate for our petro-fueled economy. There is a lot of violence and pain in the sculptures, supposedly representing the Mississippi, Volga, Seine, and the Rhine rivers. I was unable to deter a friend and Johnson County colleague a few years ago from preaching a series of sermons celebrating the fountain, so I know my opinion is unlikely to get anybody to look beyond the gorgeous sprays of water at the horror of what the fountain sculpture portrays. 
 



I agree that the racist part of the Nichols legacy should not be celebrated. I agree that Kansas City needs a way to memorialize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But Nichols Fountain is a hideous choice.
 

2020 June 11
Kansas City should rename J.C. Nichols Fountain and parkway

BY THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD

Renaming the J.C. Nichols Memorial fountain near the Country Club Plaza and the J.C. Nichols Parkway nearby would be an extraordinarily powerful symbol of inclusion for a city that still struggles with racial division.
     The city should move quickly to make these needed changes.
     The proposal comes from Christopher Goode, a member of the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners. In a memo to colleagues, Goode suggests changing the name of the fountain to the Dream Fountain and renaming J.C. Nichols Parkway for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
     Nichols’ racist approach to development left a scar on this city, and his legacy should not be celebrated. For decades, he used zoning and restrictive covenants to exclude African Americans from his projects.
     “No person accelerated white flight, redlining, and racial division in the Kansas City area more than J.C. Nichols,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement.
     Goode made a similar point in his memo. “The fountain named in (Nichols’) honor, as well as the adjoining parkway allow racism to take center stage in our most photographed, valued and visited destination in Kansas City.”
     Plainly put: J.C. Nichols was a racist. Kansas City need not honor him.
     Nichols’ disturbing views on race would be reason enough for renaming the fountain and parkway. But the project takes on new urgency because the fountain, the surrounding park and the parkway have been at the epicenter of recent protests over racial injustice and the police.
     It’s the right time to replace what J.C. Nichols represents with names that can unify the community.
     It’s also the perfect place. J.C. Nichols Parkway generally marks the eastern border of the Plaza. Naming it for King would disrupt relatively few homes and businesses, but would remind visitors and residents of the city’s commitment — still unfulfilled — to inclusion and diversity.
     Renaming the fountain and parkway would also likely end the frustrating debate over renaming The Paseo for King. We supported that effort, but Kansas City voters overwhelmingly rejected it. That vote and the hard feelings it caused still haunt Kansas City politics.
     Goode’s promising proposal addresses The Paseo dilemma by naming a significant midtown roadway for the civil rights leader.
     As is often the case with the Board of Parks and Recreation, the precise process for renaming the two assets is murky.  City officials said Wednesday that the board can rename the fountain on its own, subject as always to a citywide petition drive.
     Renaming the parkway for King may take City Council review, following a parks board recommendation and the involvement of a street renaming committee.
     The mayor has voiced his support for both changes, which will help. The parks board will hold two hearings on the plan in the next 30 days, and written testimony is being accepted. Kansas City residents should help build momentum for action by endorsing the proposal.
     This shouldn’t be hard. Renaming the water display as the Dream Fountain and naming J.C. Nichols Parkway for Martin Luther King Jr. are obvious steps in a city still struggling with questions about racism and inequality that have been highlighted by recent protests.
     Erasing J.C. Nichols’ name won’t solve every issue in Kansas City, but it’s a start. And at this consequential inflection point for our city and our country, this would be a small step in the right direction.
 

2020 June 24
Another attempt to rename The paseo for MLK? No thanks

BY THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD

Kansas City’s turbulent search for a street to name for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may soon hit another rough patch.
     Some Kansas City ministers are thought to be discussing plans to try again to rename The Paseo for the fallen civil rights leader. In November 2019, after a multiyear debate, Kansas City voters soundly rejected that idea.
     But some East Side leaders don’t think the proposal truly failed. They argue that voters might be more willing to endorse the move this November, when turnout would be higher. The reaction to the death of George Floyd might and the current focus on racism and inequality could also play a role.
     Confusion over the ballot question could be clarified, they say.
     Last week, Rev. Vernon Howard of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City announced that his group opposes renaming the J.C. Nichols Parkway for King.
     “J.C. Nichols Parkway has not been an enrichment to Black business and entrepreneurship in any significant way,” he said.
     This week, Howard offered a pointed “no comment” to questions about whether making another push for renaming The Paseo is currently under discussion. At the same time, he said, “we believe that The Paseo is the best location” to memorialize King.
     It isn’t yet clear how the issue might resurface. The City Council could be asked to put it on the November ballot, or a petition drive could be launched. Time is short: November ballot proposals must be finalized by Aug. 25.
     Naming a prominent Kansas City street or boulevard for King is long overdue. We strongly supported renaming The Paseo for King. But trying again would be unwise. If there is a need to name a street for Martin Luther King — and there is — it should not be The Paseo.
     The most important reason is the most obvious: The voters have spoken. Roughly 70% of voters, including many living on The Paseo, voted against the name change. Their message was clear. No one should doubt Rev. Howard’s good faith, or that of other ministers, in continuing to push King’s name for The Paseo. But their 2019 campaign was lackluster and disorganized. There was little grassroots energy for the cause. At the same time, opponents were able to communicate their concerns.
     If Kansas City tries to rename The Paseo again, and it fails again, the overdue effort to rename something for King could be buried for years. Kansas City already has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the only major cities in the country without a street named for King, so we can’t afford another failed attempt or an extended delay.
     Kansas City business leaders have endorsed renaming J.C. Nichols Parkway near the Country Club Plaza for King. So have we. It’s a prominent Kansas City street adjacent to one of the most-visited parts of the community. It can serve as a link between the East Side and midtown, while erasing the name of a developer who did much to segregate our city.
     On Wednesday, the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners will hold another public hearing on renaming J.C. Nichols Parkway for King and renaming the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain. The board should approve both changes as quickly as possible.
     If renaming the parkway isn’t possible, Kansas Citians should continue the work of finding a suitable memorial for Martin Luther King Jr., whose importance and stature are ever more consequential today.
     They must look beyond The Paseo, though, to find it.


THE STAR'S FRONT-PAGE STORY 2020 June 11

Officials push to rename J.C. Nichols parkway, fountain

SHANE KEYSER File photo
The parks department ranks the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain by Country Club Plaza as the most photographed of all its city fountains.

BY ALLISON KITE

For more than a week, Kansas Citians gathered to protest police brutality and racism — and they did so near a fountain bearing the name J.C. Nichols, whose racist housing practices helped perpetuate segregation across the city.
    Now, the city will consider removing Nichols’ name from both the fountain and parkway on the Country Club Plaza.
    Chris Goode, a member of the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners, asked his colleagues in a letter last week to consider renaming both. He wrote that he had been in pain seeing the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and felt compelled to act.
    “The time has come for us to stop turning a blind eye towards racism of the past and present,” Goode wrote. “There is no immediate resolution to racism, that of which has been embed- For more than a week, Kansas Citians gathered to protest police brutality and racism — and they did so near a fountain bearing the name J.C. Nichols, whose racist housing practices helped perpetuate segregation across the city.
    Now, the city will consider removing Nichols’ name from both the fountain and parkway on the Country Club Plaza.
    Chris Goode, a member of the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners, asked his colleagues in a letter last week to consider renaming both. He wrote that he had been in pain seeing the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and felt compelled to act.
    “The time has come for us to stop turning a blind eye towards ded for over 400 years into the fabric of this country. We can, however, make a collective decision to simply do the right thing now.”
    Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement Tuesday he would “fully support” the effort. “No person accelerated white flight, redlining, and racial division in the Kansas City area more than J.C. Nichols,“ Lucas said. “The time has long passed that we remove Kansas City’s memorials to his name.”
    In an interview with The Star, Goode said Arbery’s killing hit him especially hard as a fellow black man and runner. Arbery was shot by a white father and son in February while running through their neighborhood in Georgia. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were charged in May after a video of the killing went viral.
    “What makes me any different? I’m educated. I’m articulate. I know how to navigate,” Goode said. “But I’m no different. I’ve learned how to walk on the street and make my presence less intimidating. It’s just my norm. I know how to open my hands, smile — ‘Hey, I’m friendly.’ I shouldn’t have to do that. I shouldn’t have to do that.”
    J.C. Nichols developed the Country Club Plaza and affluent neighborhoods in Kansas City and surrounding suburbs, using restrictive covenants to bar blacks, Jews and other ethnic groups from purchasing or occupying the homes. In recent years, the covenants remained — though unenforceable — in the rules of many homeowners associations.
    “There is no good reason why in the confines of our city that we love and that we know is such a hidden gem … that we would openly — openly — illuminate and celebrate people that stood for hatred, that stood for racism, that stood for separation,” Goode said in an interview Friday.
    Goode suggested that the J.C. Nichols fountain be renamed the Dream Fountain and that the parkway be renamed to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But he is more concerned with removing Nichols’ name.
    The city will also take comments from the public. Last year, the City Council voted to rename The Paseo to honor King, but residents voted to revert to the original name in a citywide ballot initiative. Proponents argued they didn’t object to naming a street for King — just not The Paseo, which they said has its own rich local history.
    After the vote, the city began taking suggestions for other landmarks that could be renamed to honor King. The comment period ended in mid-February, and the department scheduled public hearings.
    The first was supposed to be held March 25 but was canceled because of the spread of coronavirus, the parks board secretary, Karmen Houston, said in an email.
    In his letter, Goode said he had informed his fellow commissioners of the proposal, but he was not sure how much support he had.
    The parks department announced in a press release Tuesday evening that it would hold two public comment sessions over the next month before the board votes. Houston said details would be worked out by the end of the week.

Allison Kite: 816-234-4088, @Allie_Kite



200708

Dear members of the Editorial Board:
     Today you write, "Real strength is understanding the power of words and images and the importance of using them to promote unity, not division." Excellent!
     So please explain why it would be appropriate to rename the fountain at Mill Creek Park, with its sculptures of violence, brutality, and subjugation, "The Dream Fountain" in honor of Martin Luther King Jr, as you wrote June 11. Surely you would not choose a Cigar Store Indian as an image to honor Dr King, yet you do not appear to have even looked at the Indian in the fountain.
     I understand that the photos I submitted to the Parks Board may have led to the separation of the question of renaming into two parts. I am glad the Nichols name has since been removed. I am concerned that The Star's endorsement of "Dream Fountain" has not yet been retracted.
     As I predicted in my June 11 email to Coleen, my 137-word letter to the editor, below, submitted June 11, has not been published. I believe I know why it was never considered: because I wrote it.  

    Out of the transformative experience of meeting Martin Luther King Jr in 1967, I write opposing renaming [what was the] Nichols Fountain to the "Dream Fountain." It would dishonor King's memory.
    The fountain's sculptures violently portray human control of nature, not respect, just as racist violence has been used to control people of color. We need loving regard among all citizens, as we need environmental justice. Look beyond the beautiful splash and play of the water, look beyond the material delights of our oppressive social-economic system, and you will find embedded a celebration of the assault on the human soul.
    By all means, rename J. C. Nichols Parkway. But don't disgrace our city by attaching King's dream to the brutality of the fountain sculptures. We must look deeply into the causes of racism, beyond the surface spray and evaporating solutions.


I appreciate your faithful and independent contributions to the welfare of the city, and wish you would consider my complaint as a similar exercise of good will.

Vern Barnet




COMMENTS

I  agree with you, fully!  The first thing I thought when I heard the proposal was, “Dream Fountain"?  What kind of dream are they having?  That should be the "Nightmare Fountain.”  It certainly doesn’t present a picture of peace.

 -- 

Vern Barnet observes and perceives what is invisible to most observers, and he has a moral sense of what is not appropriate to honor the life and work of an American treasure. 

--

THANK YOU, Vern! I didn't meet Dr. King, but he was a speaker at a conference I attended in 1959. 3000 college students were there, half of whom were international students. He was so inspirational that he changed the direction my life took, and I agree with you that a much better way to honor him must be found- how about a re-designed police department as a sign that our hearts have changed and want to honor his legacy? ! ! ! 

--

I do not see the petrol connection. That is a bit of a stretch for me. I do, however, see the brutal, masculine symbolism. As I said in my book City of Fountains: Kansas City’s Legacy of Beauty and Motion, this fountain does not just invite one to draw near, it COMMANDS one to draw near. One can hear its power and implied testosterone from down the block. It is a forceful artistic expression of maleness. At the opposite end of gender scale is “The Muse of the Missouri” on Main Street between 9th and 10th. This is a graceful and powerful depiction of womanhood and I sense motherhood as well. She is unabashedly naked, and like the river she represents, exudes a quiet force of nature, moving silently along in the universe with unstoppable power, and of being the creator of life-water and female. She does not need to loudly proclaim her existence as does the JC Nichols Fountain. They are yin and yang, male and female.

Vern's comment: As much as I respect this brilliant photographer, I am surprised he says that the fountain "commands one to draw near" when many people say they have never really looked at the sculptures. I do agree the sculptures are masculine in contrast with "The Muse of Missouri." Maybe the petrol connection would be clearer if I outlined the steps of the industrial revolution from the water wheel to the steam engine to the oil internal combustion engine which made J C Nichol's Plaza newly accessible. (Though for a time one could still ride in a horse-driven buggy.) The critical agreement he and I have is the brutal nature of Nichols Fountain.
--

Great email, Vern.  Thank you for opening my eyes to the symbolism. 

--

I agree that the parkway needs to be renamed - has needed to be renamed for a long long time, and King would be a great name to change it to. The fountain: I love the name - Dream Fountain and at the same time, totally see what you're saying. I agree that with the way the fountain is now would not give Dream Fountain justice whatsoever. 
     An alternative: a new fountain with the name The Dream Fountain. I know it would take a lot of money but what you write is compelling and again, totally agree with it. I've taken friends from out of town to see the plaza and the fountain. I think the water spraying out of is beautiful - the curves and the beauty of how the water actually comes out.
     I also have noticed the sculptures in the fountain and have found them grotesque. One does have to really focus to see that. Many fountains are that way. But what you point out is even more than I had seen. For some reason, I don't remember having seen an American Indian with a weapon as one of the sculptures.
     So, let's get rid of the fountain sculptures altogether and put something in that might still look like the iconic fountain in terms of how the water flows but with different imagery - maybe imagery of peace - the lion laying down with the lamb or quote from King, or something abstract with a peaceful message.

--

You make an excellent point.  Is it too early to discuss replacing the figures in the foundation with either nothing or some other image that is less violent and more instructive or inspiring?  I think of the gathering of people like the sculpture at the east side of the Nelson, people looking passively at a point in the horizon/future?  Just a thought.  How does renaming the foundation remove the image that is so violent and oppressive? 

--

I appreciate all that you say here about the Fountain – it is indeed an abomination. There is something else that needs to be said.
     Not only is the Fountain horrific in its showing the destruction of the environment – which subject has NOTHING to do with MLK and is his life’s antithesis -  but it is a hugely racist statue in and of itself, regarding Native American people.
     Thus far, America has had really only two tropes for Native Americans: Bloodthirsty Savage and Noble Savage. Not unlike the tropes of women being either Virgins or Whores (tropes that are still very much in play today), or Black people as being either Brute Animals or Childlike and in need of control – these are disgusting stereotypes. They are completely in keeping with the dominant patriarchal and White Supremacist views that dominated America in the 19th and 20th centuries – and are still alive today.
     There is nothing Noble about showing a Native American person killing wildlife. The fountain is an interesting combination of both ugly tropes about Native American people.
     There are MANY writings by Native American authors that address these issues. There are many “pioneer” statues all over the Midwest and west that are as bad as any of Christopher Columbus or Confederate traitors/losers. They ALL need to come down in their racism and violence. This is just one of many such.
     None of this has anything to do with MLK or his Dream. He would be horrified, I am convinced. Maybe it’s a great thing to rename the park – but if there is going to be a statue there labeled the “Dream” is should be a new one commissioned for that purpose, and created by one of the hundreds of gifted Black sculptors working in the US today.
     I’d suggest to start raising money for that statue! I’d support that financially!
     It would also be the work of a good ally to check in with local Native American groups, to get their thoughts and ideas on this. 

--

Really Vern?  Triggered by a statue?

Vern's comment: Well, I wouldn't use the word triggered, as if this is a sudden thing. I've been upset for decades about my tax dollars supporting these violent, grotesque sculptures celebrating environmental desecration. But instead of continuing to grouse with friends for years about this, the idea of what some consider a racist monument (cf not only the Nichols name, but the stereotype of the Indian) being named in association with ML King's dream was something I wanted to consider more broadly, feeling an obligation to the man I met in 1967 and martyred a year later, and whose  "dream" has  nothing to do with the brutal sculptures of Nichols Fountain. Those sculptures and King's dream don't fit.
     I'm glad you wrote as I'm collecting comments and posting them without names, and I'm glad to have a statement that suggests disagreement with me to show that I'm not censoring the accumulation! (Of course I already posted The Star's editorial with which I disagree.)
--

I agree with you that we need something more appropriate to honor Dr King. I fear that the movement to rename the fountain will escalate to the point of the destruction of the figures within the fountain. With the destruction of monuments (of things that people find offensive) that have been taking place lately, it feels like this could be a very real possibility. What next?  Artwork within our museums? Just because the monuments are crushed, broken, and destroyed doesn't erase history.  These are the things that should be used to remind us of how far we have come, what we have had the courage to change, what not to do in the future. We are so afraid of seeing us as a once broken nation, that we react out of fear and hate. Yes we have problems. Yes we still have a way to go.  But the way we have been acting out is not the road to improvement. Let's all take a deep breath (or more) and think about the open minded and open hearted way to accomplish it.

 Vern's comment: 
     (1) If the fountain is to be renamed, I'd suggest removing the grotesque sculptures and reinstalling them in the Kansas City Museum. They are valuable illustrations of a form of consciousness common in recent history that deserves preservation for educational purposes.
     (2) If the fountain is not renamed, we need to find another, very significant way we in Kansas City can honor King. A favorite idea is for Kansas City to rename the Missouri side of State Line and invite the various Kansas jurisdictions to do the same. I think this could be a wonderful educational processes. King belongs just as much to  "white, red, brown, and yellow" people as "black people" -- King said "“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."
     I am glad you agree that "we need something more appropriate to honor Dr King" than what we now call Nichols Fountain with its brutal sculptures.
--

Keen observation, Vern. Excellent common sense. I am with you 100% on this. 

--

All good points. The person who recommended it is blinded by his short term objective to remove the Nichols name from the street and the fountain. A significant portion of action these days - renaming fountains, tearing down statues - seems more geared to symbolic action, rather than effecting concrete goals to safeguard groups of lesser privilege, not just the Black community. And apparently, the conservative movement has appropriated the slogan All Lives Matter. So it goes.

--

Thanks for your comments.  I’d never really examined the fountain’s sculpture.

--

I don't agree.

--

Vern,  Is there anything we can do, Hope you are well. 

Vern's comment: Segments of the Black community seem to question renaming. Please write The Star as they will not publish my letter. The Parks Board has an on-line meeting this afternoon at 2 pm. Or you can write them: https://kcparks.org/contact/ .  I hate to think that 20 years from now folks will ask, What do these images of violence have to do with King's dream?
--

Thanks for the email, Vern.  Very good point.  I was in favor of the name change as at least something to honor Martin Luther King--but you have changed my mind. There was a suggestion about the Nichols Parkway name change.  Maybe that would be more acceptable.

--

Very well done - indicates a new found awareness . . . .

--

 . . [T]hose images are troubling. There’s nothing abut them that reflects peaceful resistance or non-violence. What King stood for and what these images depict are certainly antithetical, and it’s troubling. I hope you have spoken or will speak at one of the park board hearings; you’ve got a point that warrants consideration and reflection.
     The only thing I can say to defend the proposed renaming is that Goode is right when he says this is Kansas City’s most prominent fountain, and King deserves top of the line.

--

Good point. I personally think they should rename the park for King, let JC’s fountain exist in Kng’s larger legacy. Teachable moment. We’ll see what officialdom and the people decide. Thanks Vern. 

--
 

"The Dream" is definitely not a good title for this fountain, unless the dream is a crazy dream like a 1980’s MTV video with a mish-mosh of visuals to make it appear “artistic”. In my opinion it is a very odd fountain and my mind had always turned the horses into sea horses and the men into Neptune-like gods spearing fish for sushi, like the Neptune fountain. Gods are what I expect to be paired with cherubs. 
     I don’t know the original intent of the fountain’s meaning, however, when I reflect on the Native American relationship with wildlife I envision it as respectful. Yes, the relationship was violent but some thanked an animal for its sacrifice and did not allow any portion of the animal to go to waste. It was an existence of work, but also fully spiritual and in tune with nature. Without knowing better, I would interpret both statues featuring horses as “survival”. Maybe these images are juxtaposed with the cherubs to symbolize toiling on earth vs. being carefree in heaven. Perhaps I’m seeking redemption for the fountain when none is deserved. Perhaps it is a tableau of a testosterone-fueled assault on the ecological system, much like urban sprawl.

--

My priority is to get Nichols' name off the fountain. We can discuss what a new name should be down the road. But let's get the name removed.

--

. . . If you wish to express your wishes on what to rename the J.C. Nichols Horse Fountain at Mill Creek Park, or the Nichols Parkway, you should send your comments to:  <kcparksengage@kcmo.org>, and address comments to: Parks Department Commissioner Goode and the other Commissioners and Board members. I asked that the Fountain be called "Peace with Justice Fountain," for this is a positive message and this area has been a "free speech" zone for many years.  I forgot to say that the trident and other implements of war should be replaced with symbols of peace and understanding.  So, speak up. . . .

--.
 

In a city that struggles with many too many violent deaths, I believe that the best approach to the Nichols Fountain would be (in Biblical terms) to beat swords into plowshares. The fountain as it is glorifies violence and should simply be melted down and replaced with something more suitable.
     To me, an appropriate remedy would be a “Beloved Community Fountain” in honor of the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. I am sure there are talented sculptors both in Kansas City and elsewhere who could submit designs for such a replacement fountain.
     As we work to end the scourge of violence, let us replace a fountain that glorifies violence with a fountain that celebrates community.