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Robert E. Lee Boulevard To Be Renamed Allen Toussaint Boulevard

By Flickr photographer dsb nola / Derek Bridges - Flickr photo, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44949048

New Orleans will soon have a street named after legendary r&b and jazz musician Allen Toussaint.

The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously that Robert E. Lee Boulevard would become Allen Toussaint Boulevard. The name change is a month in the making after councilmember Jared C. Brossett introduced an ordinance in December to strip Lee’s name off the boulevard and replace it with a much more loved and admired community figure within New Orleans.

Reginald, Toussaint’s son, did not immediately approve of the street name proposal. He felt it was “disrespectful” to only rename the Gentilly section of the street after his father and not the Lakeview portion.

“The entire street should be named in his honor,” Reginald stated at the time. The planning commission agreed and decided to rename the full street after Toussaint.

In recent years, statues and other public memorials of Lee have been stripped clean across the nation in an effort to diminish the legacy of the Confederate military leader and advocate for Black slavery in America. Activists and community leaders have urged for Lee’s legacy to be disassociated with that of an American hero. New Orleans is the latest city that can now enjoy a roadway named after a much more uplifting community figure.

Born January 14th, 1938, in New Orleans, Toussaint learned to play the piano at age seven. As a teenager, he performed with the Flamingoes band before catching his first professional break at age 17, when blues star Earl King asked him to fill in for Huey “Piano” Smith at a live show. Following that gig, songwriter Dave Bartholomew hired Toussaint to play the required piano elements during a recording session. His popularity ballooned within the New Orleans music community. He went on to release music and produce hit records for other artists, including Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” and LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.” He enjoyed a decades-long career before sadly passing away in 2015 of a heart attack while on tour in Madrid.

Many celebrated the news of Toussaint being honored with a street renaming. Louisiana state health officer Joseph Kanter took to Twitter to praise Toussaint for his cultural impact on New Orleans.

“Every important piece of New Orleans music the past half century ran through Allen Toussaint,” Kanter wrote before adding that the beloved musician was “just the kindest man you’d ever meet.”

Aside from his outstanding musical capabilities, Toussaint had a heart for giving back to the city he loved so much. In 1985, he and Aaron Neville co-founded New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness. Their mission was to provide meals and shelter for struggling residents. They then teamed up with Sister Jane Remson, a nun from the local branch of Bread for the World, a Christian-based anti-hunger organization. Together, they funded their initiatives through benefit concerts and celebrity events. Celebs who have partnered with New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness include actors Nicolas Cage and Woody Harrelson.

To date, the association has dispersed over $2 million in funds to several shelters and centers across New Orleans, including Ozanam Inn, the Lazarus Project, St. Jude Community Center, Luke’s House Clinic, and Food for Families. The organization also offers financial assistance to people in emergency situations.

The boulevard name change will take effect on February 1st.

Blogged by @cakedupdrippedout

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