What’s in a name? Rodeo Road becomes Obama Boulevard

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What a street is called can help define a neighborhood's identity and sense of place for residents and outsiders alike. Think Fairfax Avenue, Ventura Boulevard and Avenida Cesar Chavez. And street names are never permanent, they often change in response to history and events.

This Saturday in South LA, the three and a half mile-long Rodeo Road is officially being renamed Obama Boulevard to honor America's first African American president. This traditionally black neighborhood has been changing and gentrifying along with expansion of LA’s commuter rail network.

Residents near Rodeo Road (soon to be Obama Boulevard) talked about what the street name means to them.

Hakim Johnson

Hakim Johnson Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez.

I think it’s the acknowledgement that we had our first black president and he did good things for us.

Do you miss him?


I feel almost privileged to have grown up with the first black president, because a lot of people either died waiting or waited for a thing to happen and for me to see that at such a young age makes me feel special.

Alan Burgess

When I look at all the issues and things I want addressed in this country, a name change on a street isn’t high up on the priority list, but it’s symbolic and that’s necessary too, so I’m happy about it. Like I said, it’s a war of attrition, so I’ll take it.

Jennifer Holman and Judy Rogers

Jennifer Holman (left) and neighbor Judy Rogers who live just south of Rodeo/Obama Blvd.  Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez.

I'm very excited about the name change. I'm very proud that is happening in our community. I love Obama. I loved what he represented for the black community and for all of our communities - black, white, orange, green, yellow. I think he was a very positive role model. And I'm just excited they are going to be dedicating this to him.

And do you think just given the community and its history and who's lived here historically that something named Obama is better than something named Rodeo.

Of course. We don't do rodeos on this side of town and we're definitely not Rodeo . We don't have horses. We have horsepower, we don't have horses.

Hisham Hussein

I think there's a lot of change that's happening in this neighborhood. I feel it everyday. I feel embarrassed that I've lived in L.A for over twenty-five years, and I had never driven through this neighborhood until we were shopping for a house. And it was affordable at the time, three and a half years ago. I don't know if my wife and I could afford it today.  I think having the name change to Obama will get people to come here and be curious about it.

Varlie Cherry

It’s an example of a black middle class neighborhood that’s very community-oriented. It’s a beautiful place. There’s a lot of history here, a lot of African American history, but the black population has declined since I moved here in the ‘60s.

Dr. Jan Vanderpool

I think it’s wonderful. I think the best president we’ve ever had. So I think it’s an honor for the man and what he accomplished. Hopefully, young kids will look at it and say, ‘‘This is something we can do as well.”