Officials in coastal Brunswick, Georgia, the hometown of Ahmaud Arbery, have decided to honor his life with a street renaming. Many believe having his name immortalized on a green street sign is a powerful expression of the city’s ability to come together in strength and unity.
On Tuesday, Aug. 9, Brunswick city commissioners unveiled the first of two signs for the new Honorary Ahmaud Arbery Street, running along all 2.7 miles (4.35 kilometers) of Albany Street and tracking throughout the city.
The unveiling started near the Brunswick African-American Cultural Center, where one side of the wall is a massive mural of Arbery smiling.
Present at the unveiling, along with about 100 people, was Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, their attorney, Lee Merritt, and other supporters, Savannah Now stated.
Brunswick Mayor Pro Tem Felicia Harris opened the ceremony with a prayer, saying in part “We ask that you continue to lift this family up because this is not the end of the journey. They still have to contend with where they go from here.”
Moments before the sign was unveiled, the crowd chanted “Long live Ahmaud Arbery.”
Voted on in December 2021, elected officials passed a resolution that proclaimed Arbery had become “a symbol of strength and unity within our community.” Nine months later, crowds came out in the Georgia heat to recognize the tribute to the young man killed by three white men while he was jogging in their nearby neighborhood.
Community members talked about what the street renaming means to them. Brenda Davis, a dock worker who lives on the stretch of road that will bear Arbery’s name, said, “That’s an honor is all I can say. He means something to everybody, though a lot of people didn’t know him.”
On Feb. 23, 2020, Arbery met his premature demise while running through the Satilla Shores subdivision just outside of Brunswick. Greg and Travis McMichael, an armed white father-son duo, conspired to chase him with their pickup truck, alleging the young Black man was a house burglar. They were accompanied by William “Roddie” Bryan, their neighbor, who followed the chase in his own truck.
Bryan pulled out his cellphone and captured the pursuit, a fight between Travis and Arbery, and then the jogger being blasted by Travis with a shotgun.
No arrest was made for over two months until Bryan’s footage found its way to a lawyer who released it to local radio station WGIG, which posted it online.
Arbery’s death, along with those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were leading cases in the 2020 summer of civic unrest.
It took years after his death for criminal proceedings to get underway and the men to be convicted of his murder.
But on Monday, Aug. 8, the day before the unveiling, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced the McMichaels to life, and Bryan to 35 years in prison.
This is the second life sentence for the McMichaels, and additional years to Bryan’s life with a chance of parole issued by the state, after the trio was found guilty in November 2021.
The men will serve the federal sentences concurrently with their state time.
Throughout it all, reports show Brunswick stood strong and did not compromise the city’s dignity, honoring Arbery’s death with peaceful demands for justice through both trials.
The renaming is the most recent in a series of dedications to commemorate Arbery’s legacy. A Brunswick park has been renamed after the 25-year-old, and Georgia state legislators declared Feb. 23 as Ahmaud Arbery Day.
All of the tributes are resonating with the family. His mother said, “My only prayer is that you all won’t forget his name.”
The city of Brunswick is working to make sure that prayer remains answered.