On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we profiled The Ville, a historic black neighborhood in St. Louis. The stories of the people who live there are shared in a new podcast episode that’s part of a collaboration between St. Louis Public Radio’s “We Live Here” and the podcast “Out of the Blocks,” from Baltimore’s public radio station, WYPR.
Joining host Don Marsh for the discussion was Kameel Stanley, co-producer of “We Live Here,” Aaron Henkin, co-producer of “Out of the Blocks,” and Aaron Williams, who helps operate 4theVille, a partnership between Northside Community Housing and Ville residents that seeks to share the neighborhood’s history and spark reinvigorated ownership of the community.
WYPR released the first part the collaboration last week and a version of the episode with much of the same content will be released as part of “We Live Here” on Tuesday. Called “Out of the Ville,” the episode features the neighborhood bounded by St. Louis Avenue on the North, Martin Luther King drive on the South, Sarah on the East and Taylor on the West.
The podcast episode will follow a format similar to the “Out of the Block” podcast. Each station will post their version of the project.
“It’s not news to anyone to say history is defined by who gets to tell the story,” Henkin said about oral histories. “You really end up with new, alternate and equally true and important histories of your own city.”
Williams described The Ville as one of the original “walkable, self-sustainable communities” in St. Louis. The tightly-knit neighborhood had retail shops, schools, health providers and religious sites located in close proximity.
Stanley said the neighborhood reminds her of other cities in the country where there can be stark differences between affluent and neglected areas.
“The Ville is interesting though in that it has such a rich history and it birthed so many important African-American figures,” Stanley said. “It’s quite special in that way.” Some notable figures to come out of The Ville include Tina Turner, Chuck Berry and Arthur Ashe.
Williams explained the concept behind 4theVille as a project aimed to empower the community with its own history.
“We’re trying to create a central portal that allows us to tap into any work that’s been done about The Ville and allow the community to take that momentum and use it to revitalize the community,” Williams said.
Among the oral histories featured on the episode will be St. Louis Alderman Samuel Moore Jr. He described the current state of the neglected area.
“It is horrific like Iraq, Syria or Lebanon. It looks like it’s been bombed out. That’s why I do my politics different than the rest of them do,” Moore said.
Because of the contrast in disparity, Moore said working in the impoverished community is a “fulltime position.”
“I have to govern in an unorthodox way and let St. Louis know, shame on you for letting this community get in the condition that it’s in.”
Henkin calls St. Louis and Baltimore “sister cities” due to their similar demographics and shared issues of segregation, red-lining, block-busting and real-estate practices.
“Now The Ville has got another narrative to add to whatever else has been written about it,” he said.
Listen below for the full discussion:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.