East St. Louis has paid off more than $20 million in bonds it’s owed Illinois for nearly two decades.
Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. says the $21.4 million it borrowed 19 years ago helped bail out the city in a time of crisis, but paying them off has been a financial burden ever since.
“This is a huge deal,” he said. “What it does is send a message that East St. Louis has handled its responsibilities to the state of Illinois and we have never defaulted on our loan from the state of Illinois in terms of refinancing the bonds.”
An East St. Louis museum dedicated to late choreographer and civil rights activist Katherine Dunham is getting a $100,000 state grant for fix-ups, but an unpaid utility bill could cast the site into darkness.
The Belleville News-Democrat reports administrators of the landmark need to pay St. Louis-based Ameren $486 by Thursday to keep the lights on. Dunham considered East St. Louis her adoptive home. She pioneered a dance technique combining Caribbean and African styles. She died in 2006 at age 96.
Erin Williams focuses on the uncertain future of the Dunham legacy.
When Katherine Dunham - world dancer, former professor, and part-time East St. Louis resident - died in 2006, she made it a point to make sure that her legacy was remembered. She held workshops and gave personal instruction to other dancers on how to perform her flamboyant, graceful, Africa-influenced Dunham Technique; she wrote books, gave talks, and did interviews at length on overcoming racism and
discrimination while traveling the world with her troupe, the Katherine Dunham Company; and, most importantly, she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Katherine Dunham Museum in East St. Louis, housed just across the street from the three homes she owned and occupied during her time in Illinois.
Unfortunately, memories can’t make money. And that’s what you need in order to run a museum.
Though the museum receives grants from time to time, there’s no trust or steady income, visits are by appointment only, and paying members of the museum are few. In fact, if you call the number listed on the website to book a tour, you get the cell phone of Laverne Backstrom, board president of the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities - and tour guide for the museum. Unlike the lights and the phone line at the museum, she can guarantee that her phone won’t be turned off.
“I think that her plan was by continuing to certify instructors, she then had these persons understand that they were more than dancers, that they were perpetuating a way of life, and it was the way that she thought that life ought to be lived,” says Backstrom, a retired schoolteacher.
Ideally, Dunham envisioned the museum as a bastion for artist to dance, make music, and learn about other cultures – and for the most part, that’s still happening. The studio located in the backyard still serves as a place for instruction and weekly classes, and there’s still a yearly intensive held at Wash U every summer. If she were ever in financial trouble, Dunham could quickly call on friends like Harry Belafonte to help her cover costs. Her daughter, Marie-Christine, lives in France and leaves the day-to-day operations of the Museum in East St. Louis to the Board.
“You’re always subject to losing all of it. But you don’t think about that on a day to day basis. You continue to think where the next grant is going to come from or where the next resource might be,” says Backstrom. “I’m not going to be very effective screaming and yelling by myself that this is what needs to happen.”
Over the past six decades, the Metro East has gained a nasty reputation for dangerous crime. The news headlines reflect a cycle of poverty and crime made worse by a lack of local resources for adequate governance.
Three government officials charged with tackling these problems joined us to discuss their vision for creating a more positive future for the Metro East: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen Wigginton; State's Attorney for St. Clair County, Brendan Kelly; and the mayor of Washington Park, Ann Rodgers.
Pastor Herman Watson, left, and former U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello at the dedication ceremony. Land has been secured to begin phase two of Sinai Village in East St. Louis, which will build 30 more homes in the Winstanley Neighborhood.
Public officials and religious leaders gathered in East St. Louis Saturday to celebrate the expansion of a major housing project aimed at providing low-income residents with an affordable place to live.
Officials have charged more than 50 individuals following a three-month long investigation into drug-dealing in East St. Louis.
The operation, called "Wild Wild East," was carried out by Illinois State Police. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said the defendants are at the middle tier in the drug trade, and were involved in dealing out heroin and cocaine.
58 charges ranged from delivery and armed violence to conspiracy. Kelly said the good news is that the arrests will have a serious impact on the area.
An East St. Louis police detective is in federal custody today on charges that he and six other men helped distribute more than five kilos of cocaine in St. Clair and Madison counties over the last month.
Orlando Ward, 41, has been with the department for more than a decade. He will remain in jail until a hearing on May 15.
The citizens of East St. Louis once believed their town was destined for greatness. They thought the town was poised to outdistance Chicago as the premier industrial giant and railroad freight node of the Midwest.
According to Andrew Theising, political scientist at the Institute for Urban Research at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and series editor of the East St. Louis Sesquicentennial series, “In the 19th century residents really did think it would be the new Pittsburgh. (Early) documents are just gushing with civic pride.”
Less than one week ago East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks announced a list of new measures in an attempt to curb recent violence in the city. Among the new rules is a curfew for all youth after 10:00 p.m. A ban from wearing royal blue or bright red clothing was also in effect for all men though the Mayor has since backed down.
Host Don Marsh talks with multiple guests about the new measures which stem from a deadly weekend in which an 18 year old man was stabbed to death and three young men died after being shot in the parking lot of a local club.