Racial Divide | St. Louis Public Radio

Racial Divide

Manuel Pastor and the Rev. Starksy Wilson speak on the two reports at the Deaconess Foundation. Sept. 20, 2019.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

A new report points to ways in which racial equity and common interests can move the St. Louis region forward. The report was highlighted at an event held Thursday morning by the Deaconess Foundation.

“Changing States-Building Power on the Frontlines: Missouri,” from the University of Southern California Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, examines how Missouri can improve racial equity in the electoral, judicial and corporate arenas.

In the wake of Ferguson unrest, longtime St. Louisan Henry Biggs felt a pull to do something about the issues facing the St. Louis region.  He chose to swim.
Swimming to Ferguson

University City resident Henry Biggs remembers hearing “a lot of talk” about bridging St. Louis’ racial divides and disparities in the months that followed Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson four years ago.

“But I didn’t really see many people saying, ‘OK, well, what’s the thing that I could do?’” Biggs recalled this week on St. Louis on the Air.

For Biggs – a longtime St. Louisan, scholar and athlete – that one thing ended up involving a whole lot of swimming. He decided to swim the entire 28 miles of water surrounding Manhattan in New York City, and he asked people to pledge a dollar per mile to support “things that would make the Ferguson area better.”

Lights illuminate the commemorative plaques that line a memorial walkway near Kirkwood City Hall. The plaques honor those killed at City Hall 10 years ago. Feb. 6, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The choir will sing soothing words of hope when the community gathers Wednesday evening at Kirkwood United Methodist Church for a prayer service marking the 10th anniversary of a tragedy that time has not yet tempered.

“Peace fall like a gentle snow ... Fall fresh on the wounded heart ... Come blanket our every fear and let the healing start ...”

The church commissioned “Canticle of Peace’’ by Joseph M. Martin in 2009 and dedicated it to a community still healing from the City Hall shootings. On Feb. 7, 2008, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton, armed with two handguns and a festering grudge against city officials, fatally shot two council members, the director of public works and two police officers before being shot and killed by responding police officers.

Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books, stand next to the ResiSTL display table.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

The protests in St. Louis over the last three weeks have topped the news almost daily.

Even for those who stay up on what’s happening, there may be questions about how this came to pass again, just three years after race-related protests in Ferguson.

Delving into St. Louis’ history of racial division and relations between police and black people can seem overwhelming. St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman set out to make a reading list with recommendations from people who are used to being asked.

Archbishop Robert Carlson, Brother Emile of the Taizé Community and Rev. Starsky Wilson joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss an upcoming pilgrimage in St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Several years ago, the archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson, had a discussion with a group of black pastors about an idea for people of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds to come together and talk to each other. Unfortunately, that effort failed.

And then, events unfolded in Ferguson. After the police shooting death of Michael Brown and the protests that followed, Carlson said, “I knew in my heart that we needed to get people to sit down and talk to each other, to understand and to know one another.”

Kirkwood High School increased the number of students taking AP tests last school year by about 200, largely through encouraging more students of color to enroll.
File photo | Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

The Kirkwood School District is hoping to speed up plans for comprehensive staff diversity training in the wake of controversy over blackface at the high school last month.

The district’s racial equity plan created last school year originally called for the training to take place during the 2017 - 2018 school year.

Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

One year ago this week the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia was in turmoil.

University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe abruptly announced his resignation Nov. 9 as his leadership and handling of issues of race were strongly criticized. Several hours later, R. Bowen Loftin said he would be leaving his post as chancellor of the system's Columbia campus to coordinate university research.

Hank Foley was then moved from research  work for the system and the Columbia campus to become interim chancellor at Mizzou..

Catholics cross 'Delmar Divide' to symbolize racial unity

Sep 10, 2016
St. Louis area Catholics and other residents pause to pray at the corner of Delmar Boulevard and Sarah Street in St. Louis, during the Crossing the Delmar Divide pilgrimage.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

About 250 St. Louis area Catholics and other residents symbolically walked across Delmar Boulevard, the street signifying the city’s racial and economic divides, as part of what they called a “pilgrimage” Saturday.

Parkway North sophomore Israel Lewis puts a bracelet on Carla Gronsborg's wrist as her son Henry shows her his bracelet on Sat. May, 7, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A student organization launched after the unrest in Ferguson spent their Saturday encouraging baseball fans to be a positive force in St. Louis.

Outside Busch Stadium before the Cardinals game students with Gateway2Change started conversations with baseball fans by handing out bracelets made of seeds.

Naomi Tutu speaks about the reconciliation process she witnessed in South Africa Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis. Her father, Desmond Tutu, was chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The daughter of the man who led South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission says facing harsh truths and recognizing the humanity of those who are different could help heal racial divides in St. Louis.

Naomi Tutu, who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., led a discussion about reconciliation and racial justice Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis.

The "Nuns on the Bus" social justice bus tour arrives in Keiner Plaza in downtown St. Louis on Thursday, as the first stop in a seven-state journey.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

A national Catholic social justice organization made St. Louis the first stop on its seven-state bus tour as it travels the country ahead of Pope Francis' upcoming U.S. visit. 

Goldie Taylor
Robert Ector Photography

As discussions about race relations continue across the nation, many people are working to bridge the gaps.

Goldie Taylor, former St. Louisan and senior editor for Blue Nation Review, joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to talk about the issues and importance of social equality. Taylor is also a contributor for CNN and HLN, and a former contributor for MSNBC.

Protesters in Ferguson in August 2014
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Recent incidents from Ferguson to Baltimore regarding police and community relationships have fostered other uncomfortable truths on the state of racial affairs in America. Many wonder what can be done to address the age-old issue or if there is any one particular act that will solve it.

What about the “truth?”

Terrell Carter is pastor of the mostly-white Webster Groves Baptist Church
Terrell Carter / Courtesy Photo

Since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the subsequent community unrest, dialogue about racial division in the St. Louis area became a frequent topic. Additionally, many people vowed to come together and address the apparent ‘invisible line’ separating black and white residents in the region.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 5, 2008 - The suggestions that Democrat Jay Nixon got more Missouri votes than Barack Obama on Tuesday because of racism drew a spirited objection Thursday from Gov. Matt Blunt and alternative explanations from other political observers.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 29, 2008 - Earl Cowens says if Barack Obama is elected, it will mean America has woken up.

If there is an ounce of bitterness in Earl Cowens' heart, he won't admit it. His country never was evil, he said. It was more that when it came to equal rights and equal opportunities for whites and blacks, things had gotten broken somewhere along the way -- "all messed up," he calls it --- and nobody was quite sure how to fix them.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 22, 2008 - I’ve asserted time and time again that “race matters,” but given the recent happenings it’s also important to be clear that it is not “everything.” It seems that our default is to claim colorblindness or name race as the cause and cure. The dichotomy that race means nothing at all or drives one’s every move is false. To be an inclusive society, we must recognize what an individual’s race and ethnicity might bring while also connecting with what is common among us.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 29, 2008 - One may ask: How can Barack Obama possibly lose the 2008 presidential election?

Commentary: Progress on race doesn't mean the end of racism

Jun 16, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 16, 2008 - What does it all mean? Landmark after landmark. Contradiction after contradiction. What does it mean when in the past weeks we have seen a biracial man clinch the Democratic nomination and a town in Mississippi host its FIRST integrated prom?

Can adoption be colorblind?

Jun 12, 2008
braiding a young African-American girl's hair 300 pxls 2008
Kristen Hare | St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 12, 2008 - Maryanne Dersch's white fingers reach into a slippery tub of conditioner. She smoothes it into her daughter's soft black hair.

"Are you gonna be a good girl? Good beauty shop?" Dersch asks Taylor, 2, who's seated at the island in her new family's St. Louis kitchen.

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