UPDATE: On June 25, 2021, in a 33-15 vote, Chicago city council passed a compromise on the du Sable Drive ordinance which will rename outer Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive

If you take a walk through Greater Grand Crossing and Chatham speaking with the first community members you meet, you’d be hard pressed to find one who has a passion for renaming Lake Shore Drive as fervent as Chicago alderperson David Moore. Out of the 12 people interviewed for this story since June 11, none of them expressed strong support for renaming Chicago’s iconic roadway. 

Ald. Moore represents the 17th Ward which stretches through Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, South Shore and Greater Grand Crossing. Although Lake Shore Drive’s border never touches the 17th Ward at any point, Moore is the Chicago City Council member leading the charge to rename outer Lake Shore Drive after the city’s first Black and non-Indigenous settler, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable.

A City Council vote on the ordinance that would rename outer Lake Shore Drive — from Hollywood Avenue to 67th Street — to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive was postponed Wednesday (June 23), marking the second delay since the ordinance was expected to be voted on during the City Council meeting on May 26.

Back in May, the ordinance vote stalled after two alderpeople — Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward) — enacted the “defer and publish” rule, which gave them an extra month to weigh other options besides changing the street’s name.

On Wednesday, the vote was deferred to Friday (June 25) after the City Council meeting ended abruptly when Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) and Ald. Ray Lopez (15th Ward) refused to advance Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s nominee Celia Meza for corporation counsel of the city’s law department.

Prior to this week’s scheduled vote, The TRiiBE spoke with residents in Greater Grand Crossing and Chatham on the city’s South Side, asking about the measure to rename Lake Shore Drive. While most had heard about the proposed name change, they also had no idea that the push was being led by their alderperson, David Moore. They also were unaware of how much it would cost to rename Lake Shore Drive. 

When 40-year-old Shannon Hawkins learned for the first time that the estimated cost would be between $853,500 and $2.5 million, he rolled his eyes at the proposal.

“It’s too many communities between here and Lake Shore Drive that we could be focusing on,” Hawkins said outside his friend’s home in Chatham on June 23. 

He has been a 17th Ward resident his whole life, and had no idea that it was his alderperson leading the fight to change the name of Lake Shore Drive. 

“What’s that supposed to do for us? All that money can go to giving something for the kids to do over here, man,” Hawkins said. “That money could be going towards something like the Kroc Center or something like that over here.”

Programming for children was one of the most common concerns expressed by the residents I spoke with, as well as the usual suspects of job scarcity, violence and infrastructure maintenance. 

Kierra Young said she hasn’t been staying in Greater Grand Crossing for long, but she has noticed issues with the plumbing that need to be fixed. 

“You see that sprinkler,” Young said, pointing to a tower sprinkler by the playground spraying out into a pool of dirty water at Grand Crossing Park. Her sons are playing nearby. “That pool of water isn’t supposed to be there. It’s supposed to be concrete. Whenever it rains it backs up and floods the park and the streets. It stinks.”


Homeowner Jeanine Davis expressed similar concerns for the upkeep of the neighborhood while looking out onto the park from her front porch. 

“I don’t understand why they’re pushing it [renaming Lake Shore Drive] because we have bigger fish to fry than renaming a street,” Davis said. “They don’t maintain the tennis courts in the park over here. I’ve had to call the park district multiple times for them to send people to pick up the trash. There’s nothing over here for the kids to do, for them to go.”

Of the 12 people interviewed for this story, Davis was the only person who knew about the proposed name change, and about Moore’s sponsorship of the ordinance. While Davis doesn’t stay in the 17th Ward, she is a resident of the nearby 8th Ward under Ald. Michelle Harris. 

“Our aldermen, to me, suck. They just don’t do enough for the money they make,” Davis said. “For the money it’s going to cost, this is the stupidest thing they could do. I don’t care what the street is called while I drive down it, as long as there are no potholes in it and it is clean.”

We reached out to both alderpeople King and Moore for comment via phone and email multiple times in the past two weeks but received no response before publication.

Since Ald. Moore and King first proposed the ordinance to rename Lake Shore Drive in October 2019, it’s been met with pushback from Lightfoot, who has proposed other compromises such as naming the Chicago Riverwalk after DuSable, putting money towards developing DuSable Park which has remained just a patch of green overgrowth next to Navy Pier, and establishing a DuSable festival — altogether these three changes would cost about $40 million with three quarters of that estimate funded by taxpayers and the remaining from corporate funding. That’s more than 10 times the cost of the original name change ordinance.

A separate proposal suggested tacking DuSable’s name onto Lake Shore Drive, changing it to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive — a mouthful, I know. 

Ald. Moore has rejected all of these measures. He maintains that he is fighting for community organizations and constituents who won’t be satisfied with the mayor’s costly consolation prizes. 

The renaming of Lake Shore Drive is similar to the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in that they are both symbolic changes sought to quench Black citizens’ thirst for equity. In conducting research to create the TRiiBE Guide, we learned that Lake Shore Drive’s history is wrought with racial overtones far greater than we’re seeing in the present. 

According to Indigenous historian and Potawatomi tribesman Dr. John Low, Lake Shore Drive was built illegally upon unceded Potawatomi land when wealthy landowners in Chicago began using the area on the coast as a landfill for debris leftover from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. 

Later, an Illinois court dismissed a complaint by the Pokagon band of Potawatomi, who fought to reclaim the unceded land. The complaint went to the Supreme Court in 1917, where the justices didn’t see a need to determine the original rights of submerged lands.

You can read more about the history of Lake Shore Drive in the Summer 2021 issue of The TRiiBE Guide: Heritage EditionVisit reshapethenarrative.com to find a copy of The TRiiBE Guide near you. Cover photo features Kannon Purnell, the 5th great-grandson of 19th century Chicago abolitionists John Jones and Mary Richardson Jones.

If city officials want to do something to honor Black Chicagoans, it might behoove them to address the concrete changes suggested by Black residents. As Davis alluded to in her statement about the failures of the city’s alderpeople, these issues aren’t isolated to one neighborhood or a single ward. 

For example, Kenneth Davis is a 28-year-old resident of Auburn Gresham, born and raised. His family stays a block away from Ald. Moore’s office on 79th and Ada streets. His family has hosted events such as community softball games and fireworks shows for the block, he said, but they never received any support from city officials: including his alderperson, David Moore.

“Last year my mother reached out to the alderman’s office about using space for an event the day before the 4th [of July], and they told us that we couldn’t use their parking lot for it,” Kenneth Davis said. “We could use some more help from the city in simple things like safety. People are just scared to come outside to things nowadays.”

Kenneth Davis was one of many residents who’d heard about the proposed Lake Shore Drive name change, but couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. After learning some background on it during our interview, he was still just as puzzled as to why it mattered. 

“I haven’t heard people talking about that in the community or nothing. I don’t understand stuff like that, like they’ll make Juneteenth a holiday and it’s just some symbolic thing that they do,” he said. “You can call Lake Shore Drive anything, [but] that’s not going to stop kids from being killed everyday.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.