Andrea Y. Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Andrea Y. Henderson

“Sharing America” Reporter

Andrea Henderson joined St. Louis Public Radio in March 2019, where she covers race, identity and culture as part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America. Andrea comes to St. Louis Public Radio from NPR, where she reported for the race and culture podcast Code Switch and produced pieces for All Things Considered. Andrea’s passion for storytelling began at a weekly newspaper in her hometown of Houston, Texas, where she covered a wide variety of stories including hurricanes, transportation and Barack Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inauguration. Her art appreciation allowed her to cover arts and culture for the Houston African-American business publication, Empower Magazine. She also wrote arts stories for Syracuse’s Post-Standard and The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.

Andrea graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and earned her master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University. For three years, she served on the board of the Houston Alliance of Fashion and Beauty as the media chair, and she is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. When the proud Houstonian is not chasing a story, she enjoys catching up on her shows, getting lost in museums and swimming in tropical waters.

Follow her journey through St. Louis via Twitter and Instagram at @drebjournalist.

Ways to Connect

Affinia Healthcare's Biddle Street location services one of the largest homeless populations in the city. Now COVID-19 testing is available to those communities experiencing homelessness as well.
Kendra Holmes

North St. Louis’ first COVID-19 testing site opens Thursday in the Carr Square neighborhood. 

Affinia Healthcare's 1717 Biddle St. location will begin drive-thru and walk-up testing in its parking lot for individuals who are experiencing symptoms and need to be tested for the virus.

Kendra Holmes, the center’s chief operating officer, said having a COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis is vital because African Americans in low-income areas often don’t have access to necessary health care. 

WNBA Minnesota Lynx player Maya Moore announced in January 2020 that she was taking another season off to work on freeing St. Louis native Jonathan Irons, a man whom she believes was wrongfully convicted of a crime.
NBAE | Getty Images

Updated March 27 with Missouri attorney general’s decision about the Jonathan Irons case

Less than one month after a Cole County judge overturned Jonathan Irons’ conviction, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt this week appealed the decision.

Schmitt filed a writ of certiorari in the case. Court documents say Cole County Judge Daniel Green “exceeded” his authority and “abused” his discretion in the ruling that overruled Irons' conviction.

Original story from March 16:

Since the spring of 2019, WNBA All-Star Maya Moore has not missed a single one of Missouri state inmate Jonathan Irons’ court hearings. 

The Annie Malone Children and Family Center's administrative facility was built in 1922 to house orphans. Anne Malone donated $10,000 for its construction.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

As foster care administrators in the region try to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus within their agencies, they are preparing for what could be an extremely trying time for children in their care.

Annie Malone Children and Family Services provides intensive care for children with extreme behavioral issues, so the enforcement of social distancing and school closures will significantly impact the foster children they serve.

Congregation members pray during one of the final services at Grace Baptist Church in St. Louis Place neighborhood in June 2016.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition met Thursday with Mayor Lyda Krewson at St. James AME Church to ensure the city does not overlook its most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to discuss the social and spiritual impact that social distancing has on churches.

Krewson advised a group of about 10 clergymen that their churches should adhere to the 10-person-or-fewer rule for gatherings — which the city announced on Tuesday — while conducting services, because there are confirmed cases of the virus in the city as well as in St. Louis County. Others may have COVID-19 and unintentionally pass it on.

The new Sumers Welcome center employees a glass, curtain wall design.  [9/27/19]
James Ewing

Updated at 8:40 p.m. March 13, with new information about St. Louis University and the University of Missouri System 

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on college campuses in the St. Louis region, but many university admistrators are taking precautions by suspending in-person instruction and transitioning to online teaching platforms for varying periods of time.

Here's how the insitutions are responding.

Ericka Harris, one of the founders of The Collective STL, emphasizes breathing in her sessions, because when her students step outside the studio and into other situations she knows they will always have their breath.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For decades, white women have been the face of yoga across the nation. But inside a yoga studio in Old North St. Louis, the atmosphere is worlds apart.

At the Collective STL, yoga is taught by black instructors and the floor is filled with black educators and other professionals, community activists and students — many of whom are there to release the stress of trauma, family struggles and depression.

Since the studio opened in 2017, it has focused on improving the wellness of African Americans in St. Louis.

Dawn Harper-Nelson stretches during a training session at Belleville West High School as her daughter, Harper, naps nearby. February 2020.
Dawn Harper-Nelson

In professional sports, female athletes continue to fight for equality. They are pushing for equal pay, combating sexism within their particular sport and demanding maternal protections from sponsors. 

Three U.S. Olympic track stars — including Allyson Felix, Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño — voiced their opinions last year about sponsors who released them from their contracts because of their pregnancies. (After public outcry, Nike had a change of heart, announcing a new maternity policy that guarantees a sponsored athlete’s pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy.) 

John Wright holds two black business and travel guides. The 1934 issue of the 'St. Louis Negro Business and Trade Directory' featured all-black companies, while 'Your St. Louis and Mine' included white-owned businesses that welcomed black patrons.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Burns remembers his parents using a booklet with a green cover to help direct their road trips from St. Louis to Chicago in the late 1950s and early '60s. 

At the time, he did not understand why they had to depart before dawn, but he did know the black-owned businesses listed in the booklet would keep African Americans free from harm while traveling. 

The booklet his family relied on was "The Negro Motorist Green Book" — more commonly known as the Green Book.

For Steger Sixth Grade Center social studies teacher Tracey Mack, being one of a few black male teachers in the classroom can be isolating, but it benefits children of all races.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Darryl Diggs Jr. only had two African American male educators in his school years.

He met the first one, a physical education teacher, in grade school — and then another, a physiology teacher, in high school. At college, he only had one black male professor. 

Today, Diggs, 37, finds himself in a similar position. An assistant principal in Manchester at Parkway South High School for eight years, he’s the only black male administrator in his district. 

Educators like Jameca Falconer believe it's up to families and communities to help bring black history alive for children of all races, not just schools.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Every February, schools around the nation commemorate the accomplishments of African Americans by highlighting them through Black History Month lessons and programs. Some celebrate with school plays, guest speakers or hallway exhibits of locally and nationally known black figures.

Educators like Jameca Falconer, adjunct professor and director of Webster University’s Applied Educational Psychology and School Psychology program, believe it is the duty of parents of all races — as well as the community — to not limit interest in black culture to February.

Wes Moore (left), author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation spoke with Charli Cooksey (right), CEO of WEPOWER about ways to dismantle poverty not only in St. Louis, but nationally.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Poverty and racism should not be discussed separately in St. Louis, author Wes Moore said.

“You can't look at a region like this, and you can’t look at places like my hometown of Baltimore and think that the reason that we have the racial wealth gap is just simply because one group isn't working as hard as the other,” Moore said.

Moore is CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, and the author of several young adult novels, as well as his bestselling biography, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.” 

Concordance Academy of Leadership provides programming to previously incarcerated and incarcerated individuals that will assist with re-entering into society.
Concordance Academy of Leadership

Before being released from prison, Melvin Hill Jr. was doing everything in his power to secure a sustainable job that would allow him to fulfill his lifelong goals. 

Then a friend told him about the local nonprofit Concordance Academy of Leadership. Hill applied while he was still incarcerated. Last May, he was accepted into the program that supports reentry into society after prison.

Recently, the academy received $1 million to advance its mission of reducing recidivism in Missouri and Illinois with a holistic approach to reentry into society.

As the National Park Service's Regional Program Manager for Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion, Nichole McHenry's plan is to make all national parks and sites inclusive and diverse.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As a child, Nichole McHenry envisioned herself broadcasting the news, just like famed St. Louis anchor Robin Smith.

Although her dreams of becoming a reporter did not come to fruition, she found a different way to tell stories.

For the past 28 years, McHenry has been sharing the stories of national parks and other connected sites for the National Park Service. McHenry began working full time with the park service right after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

Clean Energy Trust is a Chicago-based organization that advocates for clean tech innovation.
Clean Energy Trust

A Midwest nonprofit and a financial institution are partnering to invest $25,000 in one small energy business to help provide exposure, economic support and mentorship.

The CleanTech Inclusion Award was created to support minorities and women in the white, male-dominated energy space. It focuses on founders who have a product or service that mitigates harmful emissions, reduces carbon or positively impacts the environment. 

Fashion designer Brandin Vaughn cuts fabric for a client's custom suit at Brandin Vaughn Collection, his Cherokee Street storefront and workspace. Dec. 18, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lisa Hu wants to make St. Louis sexy. Not only in a fashionable way, but with a desirable economic engine. 

Hu's posh, eco-friendly handbag company Lux & Nyx has already been featured in national and local fashion magazines, and the St. Louis venture has only been around for about a year and a half. That’s partly because of her connection to the St. Louis Fashion Fund.  

Unauthorized immigrants in rural areas who seek legal representation can often face roadblocks when trying to find credible lawyers.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Zikrullah Habibi migrated to the St. Louis from Afghanistan in 2014 with his immediate family. He did not have any friends or other relatives in the States to assist with his transition.

Though Habibi, 32, came to St. Louis with a business degree and work experience under his belt, he said his new start had him in a state of confusion. The cultural barriers made it challenging for him to even drive, grocery shop or job hunt.

Harris-Stowe State University is one of 13 four-year public universities in the state and receives the least amount of state appropriations.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Waiel Turner, 20, was not planning on going to college. He thought about entering the U.S. Air Force or becoming a police officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Enrolling at Harris-Stowe State University was strictly happenstance.

In 2017, he accompanied a friend to the campus in midtown St. Louis where she was registering for classes. An admissions counselor told Turner he should enroll. Two days later, Turner became a college student. 

Turner said it is the family environment that makes Harris-Stowe home for him. Like many historically black colleges and universities, Harris-Stowe is struggling to keep its tight-knit family of students and staff together in the face of shaky finances and relative lack of state resources. 

Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club started out as a baseball program with two neighborhood coaches. The club provided an outlet for young African American children from impoverished neighborhoods in St. Louis.
Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club

When the St. Louis Rams football team moved to the city from Los Angeles in 1995, it did not have a practice field. Shortly after a deal with the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club, the team had a facility where players could train.

Former NFL player Brandon Williams, 35, did not have to wait until he was drafted into the league to meet some of his favorite players. He was 11 years old and on the club’s field on North Kingshighway playing catch with a few Rams players like Toby Wright, Ryan McNeil and Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis.

Big Brother Andre Chambers poses with his Little Brother Jabari at a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri outing.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri has a plan. 

By the end of 2019, the organization intends to recruit 90 men to support, mentor and develop 90 "Little Brothers."

Currently, the agency serves about 1,800 young girls and boys. However, there are more than 400 boys still in need of a mentor.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump poses for a photo at St. Louis Public Radio.Oct. 22, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump remembers being bused to a predominantly white school in Lumberton, North Carolina, in 1979. 

Crump and his white classmates played with each other and were cordial in class. Things were very different during lunch hour, however, when segregation became obvious.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri will provide pro bono legal support to residents and neighborhood associations in Hyde Park, the West End, Old North St. Louis and Academy. The grant money will prevent residents and land owners from displacement.
File Photo | Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2018, Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office found that of the 129,000 properties in the city of St. Louis, about 25,000 were vacant and abandoned.

Beginning this month, residents and community organizations in four high-vacancy neighborhoods will have extra support in reducing that number. 

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) received a two-year grant from Legal Services Corporation to expand its efforts with its Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative (NVI).

Kevin Cox landed a million-dollar fellowship designed to promote diversity in science. Sept. 2019.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Kevin Cox Jr., 28, asked a lot of questions as a child. He wanted to know how and why things came to be. 

The plant biologist, a Florissant native, figured his curiosity would take him into the medical field, but at the end of his sophomore year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he found a new interest: microbes.

Eventually, his inquisitive nature paid off. In September, he landed a $1.4 million fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The money will fund his work as a plant science fellow at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

To help students cope with environmental stressors, Emerson Academy offers therapy sessions, a specialized curriculum and a violence intervention program. Oct. 2, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Early this spring, Shamyia Ford Jennings, 17, walked with her cousin and a friend to a corner store in north St. Louis. Minutes later, she was in St. Louis Children’s Hospital with a bullet wound in left leg. Her friend had also been shot, in the foot. 

And a couple of summers ago, Devin Smith, 16, was playing basketball on the playground with family members when someone fired shots in his direction. His cousin was hit in the drive-by. 

According to Washington University's Center for Social Development's latest study, predominantly black residents and low-income communities in the region face barriers in casting their ballots.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

While working at polling stations in the St. Louis region for the 2008 presidential election, Gena Gunn McClendon noticed the voting process varied, largely depending on the neighborhood. She observed hours-long wait times, malfunctioning machines and a number of people turned away because they were not registered to vote. 

“As a black woman, I am accustomed to things being a little imbalanced, but I just assumed that when it comes to voting that democracy was fair across the board, especially at the local level,” McClendon said.

A group of more than 20 Jewish organization leaders from around the country, including three from St. Louis pose with in the Mexican Counsel General (at center) in Nogales, Arizona in Sept. 2019.
Rori Picker Neiss

In Nogales, Arizona, there were quiet streets with houses and yards and giant metal beams with razor-sharp wires attached at the top. In Nogales, Mexico, there were kids playing soccer in the schoolyard. These are just a few scenes that Rori Picker Neiss observed on a recent trip to the border.

“We were all just really struck by the scene that we were seeing,” Picker Neiss said. 

Professor and author Jennifer Cobbina interviewed nearly 200 people about their experiences during unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore.
St. Louis University

Jennifer Cobbina found herself deeply affected by the 2014 protests in Ferguson. She called the St. Louis region her home for five years while she worked toward her doctorate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. 

Just two months after the unrest began, Cobbina, now a Michigan State University criminal justice professor, had the opportunity to explore her concerns about Ferguson and its residents by participating in the Ferguson Research-Action Collaborative project. 

Members of the national organization Remember the 400 gather around the historical marker in Hampton, Virginia, that recognizes the location where the first 20 or so Africans were brought on slave ships.
Naomi Blair

After visiting Point Comfort — present-day Hampton, Virginia — a few weeks ago, Anthony Ross, director of the St. Louis chapter of Remember the 400, said he wants the group to bring more black history to the region. 

The group traveled for 20 hours by bus to Hampton in late August to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves in America in 1619.

Charli Cooksey (left), founder and CEO of WEPOWER, listens to entrepreneurs Reina Stovall (right) and Dr. Brittany Conners (middle) during one of Elevate/Elevar's focus group meetings on March 13, 2019.
WEPOWER

According to a report by Diversity VC and Rate My Investor, less than 1% of all venture capital funding supports black entrepreneurs and 1.8% of funding backs Latino founders.

The St. Louis organization WEPOWER aims to boost those percentages. Recently, the company initiated Elevate/Elevar, an accelerator program for black and Latino entrepreneurs. The goal is to increase their chances to build wealth and enhance economic growth in their communities. 

Burger 809 on Cherokee Street is one of the restaurants taking part in St. Louis Black Restaurant Week 2019.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

Without support from diners, no restaurant can survive. Frank Williamson, organizer of St. Louis Black Restaurant Week, says attracting customers can be especially challenging for African American eateries.

Highlighting local black restaurants to help them attract customers is the driving force behind the week.

Diners can visit eight restaurants between Sept. 3-8 and enjoy a variety of specials. Williamson wants this week to be a relationship-building experience among restaurateurs, chefs and patrons.

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, speaks before a crowd of about 500 at a town hall meeting about gun violence on Aug. 28, 2019.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

More than a dozen children have died from gun violence in St. Louis this year. The deaths were at the heart of a town hall meeting at Harris-Stowe State University on Wednesday night.

The Board of Aldermen's black caucus and U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, called for immediate action from the federal level to combat gun violence against children. 

“Gun violence is a public health emergency,” Clay said. 

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