WOODLAWN — Among business owners from Hyde Park to Burnside on Stony Island, reactions ranged from apathetic to offended at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to rename the street.
Emanuel on Wednesday introduced a measure to the City Council to rename Stony Island after Bishop Arthur M. Brazier to honor the late pastor of Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn.
“You know what would probably honor the bishop more? Giving that money to some bloke who can’t feed his family tonight,” said Mark Cruikshank, who grew up in Jeffery Manor and has owned Stony Island Automotive at 9200 S. Stony Island Ave. in Calumet Heights for 23 years.
Cruikshank said he wasn’t personally familiar with Brazier, but said he thought honoring any religious leader in a way that provided no tangible benefit to the community was offensive.
“This is not going to change any lives,” Cruikshank said, adding that he voted for the mayor because of his reputation as a spendthrift. “This is a waste of money.”
Cruikshank and others businesses who have marketed themselves using the Stony Island name said they would not change the name of their business to avoid any implied connection to Brazier’s son, Byron Brazier, the current pastor of the 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. church.
“Unless the dentist was in some way affiliated with him, I don’t think we would change,” said Glynis Moore, who works the front desk at Stony Island Dental Works at 8803 S. Stony Island.
She said she has attended Apostolic Church of God and thought it right to honor Brazier in some way.
Emanuel has come under criticism for the proposal as pandering to black voters.
"I'll leave that to the cynics," Emanuel said after Wednesday's City Council meeting. “My hope is that people around the city take note of somebody who's changed our city, changed it for the better."
Ald. Michelle Harris, whose 8th Ward is home to a long strip of Stony Island Avenue also defended the renaming as a fitting memorial.
"Bishop Brazier has made so many wonderful contributions to the community at large,” Harris said of the elder Brazier, who died in 2010. “He's an excellent leader and a wonderful example of what a faith-based leader should do and be.”
Brazier was well known in his life for starting the community activist group The Woodlawn Organization with noted community organizer Saul Alinsky, and for marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Despite his accomplishments, many along Stony Island were unfamiliar with Brazier’s work or reputation.
Shay Thomas, who has worked at Stony Sub at 8440 S. Stony Island Ave. for seven years, said she thought the honor was going to the Rev. Gwendolyn Miller of Zion Lutheran Church, who Thomas said has a reputation for being involved in the Stony Island Park neighborhood.
When asked if Stony Sub would change its name to Brazier Sub, Thomas shook her head no.
“Nah, I don’t like that,” she said.