ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – One Abilene nonprofit, Let Us Breathe, has been trying to get two street names changed to honor two black historical figures from the Key City. However, the request was declined by the Planning and Zoning board – not because they do not want to honor these people, but because of the problems that could come with it. 

Let Us Breathe has requested that the name of North 9th Street between Ash Street and Plum Street be permanently changed to Allie Ward Drive, and that Ash Street between North 9th Street to North 8th Street be permanently changed to Raymond Hayden Drive. 

“We want to honor and preserve black historical pathfinders throughout the community,” the organization told KTAB/KRBC in a statement. 

Allie Ward was the first black teacher employed by Abilene ISD and Raymond Hayden was the first black coach at Woodson. 

Dr. A.C. Jackson represented this request and explained why the non-profit wanted to make this change.

“The motivating force is the street signs I feel should now be used as land markers,” Jackson explained.

The organizations presentation at the planning and zoning meeting brought up some concerns, including a concern from the pastor of Mt. Zion church, Demotis Sherman. He has first hand experience with a street name change once before, in front of the church. 

“We’re going to be surrounded by two name changes, and it is going to be chaotic to me,” Sherman expressed. 

Another concern was brought up by Andrew Penns, a property owner in the area and a member of the ‘I-CAN’ group. 

“It does not add to the history of the neighborhood but takes away. Ash street has been in that neighborhood for many years,” said Penns. 

Penns is also opposing this idea because Let Us Breathe did not come to his group ‘I-CAN’, that has overseen change in the neighborhood for years. 

“We are a neighborhood association, so there should have been some contact there,” Penns explained. 

Penns added that these people are already honored at the cultural center. 

Chair of the planning and zoning commission, Clint Rosenbaum, said he is not against change, but, “There’s more opposition presented here today than there is for.” 

Even though the request was declined, changing the street names is still a possibility if Let Us Breathe submits an appeal for it to be brought before the city council.