For those interested in learning more about East St. Louis’ rich cultural legacy, a new “music and history walk” is one route to consider. Treasure Shields Redmond, daughter of East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond, is organizing opportunities for hipsters, jazz nerds and genuinely curious minds alike.
On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske discussed with Shields Redmond how opportunities like the Historic Jazz & Poetry Excursion is showing the world a different East St. Louis than what you might see on the evening news.
Shields Redmond is a poet in her own right, and she conducts the Historic Jazz & Poetry Excursion tour every Saturday with local artist Dail Chambers. During the tours, participants stop at the Culture Cafe in historic East St. Louis, learn about the life and impact of the late jazz great Miles Davis and more.
“It’s just a fantastic way to usher people into the city via what it has to offer, not what it needs,” Shields Redmond said.
In addition, Shields Redmond and Chambers also co-founded the Fannie Lou Hamer House. Artists create in community, but they also need time to unplug and rest, Shields Redmond said.
Named after civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, the space provides retreat and an affordable short-term, creative stay space for artists and organizers as well as general visitors to the area.
“[An] organic intellectual is a term from the lexicon of Antonio Gramsci … who talked about cultural production and how it can be used to continue to go along with the status quo: state oppression, racism or sexism. Or cultural production can be used to becounter the status quo,” Shields Remond said. “So Dail and I believe that art is not for art's sake — art is for freedom’s sake and people’s sake. And if you give artists space, they can create things that will make the world better for all of us.”
Shields Redmond also addressed the use of Airbnb to conduct the tour and home hosting.
“One of the hurdles in the U.S. is the kind of cultural belief that artists should be broke and struggling, that there’s nobility in that. [But] we know that owning property and creating programs is one path toward economic sustainability,” she said.
“It’s a path for Dail and I, who are single parents raising school-aged children, and it is a path for the communities we serve … to model for people something different than waiting on gentrification … What if poor people from a community changed the community?”
Listen to the full conversation:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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