St. Louis on the Air | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis on the Air

Noon-1 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. (repeat) Monday-Friday

St. Louis on the Air creates a unique space where guests and listeners can share ideas and opinions with respect and honesty. Whether exploring issues and challenges confronting our region, discussing the latest innovations in science and technology, taking a closer look at our history or talking with authors, artists and musicians, 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 WoodburyEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr.

St. Louis on the Air is sponsored by The Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise and Mari de Villa Senior Living.

July 1, 2020 J. Courtney Sullivan
Provided by the author

Author J. Courtney Sullivan has a knack for probing the interior lives of women. Her four bestselling novels — “Commencement,” “Maine,” “The Engagements” and “Saints for All Occasions” —  tackle many different ideas. The marketing of engagement rings. The gift of religious devotion. The difficulty of families.

But they have one thing in common: The women in them seem utterly real and completely sympathetic, even when readers might be horrified by their choices.

That is also true of the women in Courtney Sullivan’s new book, Friends and Strangers. The novel tells the story of Elisabeth, a Brooklyn journalist who finds herself living in a small college town just as she becomes a new mother. She’s lonely — and the college student she pays to watch her baby, Sam, becomes her main confidant.  

A fireworks display in south St. Louis. July 4, 2015
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Many sanctioned fireworks shows are canceled this summer due to the pandemic, but people continue to set off everything from firecrackers to Roman candles in backyards and streets throughout the region.

And compared to 2019, fireworks use in St. Louis is up this year. 

“[It] started much earlier in my neighborhood and in the neighborhoods I work in,” said St. Louis Fire Department Chief Dennis Jenkerson. “We have 30 different firehouses around the city. They’re all seeing an earlier start and an increased amount of shooting going on early in the evening. The size and the sound of these fireworks going off has increased.”

Last year from May 1 to June 24, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department received 196 calls about illegal fireworks use. During the same period this year, the city received 879 calls. 

Workhouse protest, July 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” at noon Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

In 2018, a powerhouse trio of nonprofits and activist groups set off on an unlikely quest: They wanted to close the city’s notorious Medium Security Institution, better known as the Workhouse. ArchCity Defenders, Action St. Louis and the Bail Project argued that the fraught racial history of the city jail and its hellish conditions meant that St. Louis was better off without it, moving all of its detainees to the Justice Center downtown.   

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

It was one thing to navigate the initial stress and disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic. And early on, as people looked for ways to guard mental well-being amid big changes, many people realized that it helped to have a sense of horizon in sight.

“I can shelter in place for a month” and “One semester at home is manageable” were common — and useful — mindsets.

But as weeks turn into months and maybe even years of new normals, frustration and anxiety may be mounting. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Dr. Jessi Gold of Washington University will offer strategies and insights for safeguarding your mental health at this time and take questions from host Sarah Fenske and listeners.

Fitzpatrick political cartoon from 1946 Post-Dispatch
Washington University Libraries

With protests against police brutality and attention to systemic racism sweeping the nation in 2020, there’s renewed urgency surrounding the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization is also celebrating 100 years of existence, both at the national level and in Missouri — and a curator at Washington University Libraries has recently dug deep into records of that century’s worth of history.

As Miranda Rectenwald and a handful of student assistants have noticed during their research over the past three years, the ACLU’s beginnings intersect with St. Louis history in significant ways. At the center of that intersection is the late Roger Baldwin, one of the key founders of the national ACLU organization.

Melanie Meyer is the chef and co-owner of Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef at The Silver Ballroom.
Andy Paulissen

The pandemic has led to an increased demand for food delivery services, like DoorDash and Postmates. In March, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it would expand its delivery services by partnering with Uber Eats. But for local eateries, the price of working with a third-party delivery service can be steep.

Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air, local restaurateurs Melanie Meyer, of Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef, and Kurt Bellon, of Chao Baan, shared their experience working with third-party delivery services. They also talked about how they are approaching the reopening of their facilities.

Inez Davis, Bill Callahan
DEA St. Louis Division

More often than not, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is associated with tracking drug cartels and arresting traffickers. But the law enforcement agency also ensures physicians and pharmacists are following the law with regard to prescriptions, a role that has become more critical as well as more challenging in recent months.

And in the DEA’s St. Louis Division, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more focus on community outreach, even as the opioid crisis continues to ravage the country. Earlier this month, the St. Louis County Department of Health reported a 47% increase in opioid-related deaths among Black men in 2019.

This spring, the division launched the website With You STL in an effort to help connect community members with critical resources for prevention, treatment and recovery. 

The city's Ways and Means committee approved a bill that would put the issue of privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport before voters in November. The bill must now be approved by the full Board of Aldermen.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has given its initial approval to asking voters in November whether they want to authorize a long-term lease of St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

Monday’s 14-11 vote came after more than six hours of debate. Opponents said the measure was jammed through to benefit political donors at a meeting ostensibly called to vote on the 2021 budget. Supporters said opponents were ignoring the needs of impoverished wards. The legislation sets the minimum lease price at $1.7 billion.

Personal injury attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey emerge Sunday evening from their Portland Place house pointing guns at protesters who were on their way to protest in front of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's house.| 6/28/20
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated at 5 p.m. with comments from the McCloskeys’ attorney

Hundreds of protesters marching Sunday evening through St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood were greeted by a pair of personal injury attorneys, who stood outside their home brandishing guns. 

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who live in a million-dollar home on the private street Portland Place, came out to their front porch and lawn and shouted at protesters to go away.

Michael Rozier
Michael Rozier

As an assistant professor of health management and policy at St. Louis University, Michael Rozier is used to thinking a lot about matters of public health — and finding plenty of reasons for hope. His research focuses on the shift toward preventative health care efforts, as well as how ethical and moral rhetoric can advance health care policy. But last week, with COVID-19 case numbers in the U.S. suggesting any end to the pandemic is still a long way off, he took to Twitter to offer some less-than-optimistic predictions.

“Sadly, I'm becoming convinced that #COVID is not far from taking on the characteristics of #gunviolence,” Rozier tweeted. “[The U.S.] will endure much higher, persistent negative effects from something that other countries have solved; we'll normalize it and convince ourselves nothing can be done.” The tweet was off the cuff, but it quickly gained traction online, with both those in agreement and those who found it too pessimistic weighing in.

Nelly's released his debut solo album, "Country Grammar" on June 27, 2000.
Universal Records

Twenty years ago, a record release on June 27 changed the course of St. Louis’ presence in the hip-hop world and overall cultural identity. Cornell Haynes Jr., a.k.a. Nelly, debuted his first solo album, “Country Grammar,” bringing national attention to St. Louis’ distinct accent and steez. 

Nelly introduced the streets of north St. Louis to the world with the music video to the album’s title track. St. Louisans recall the local places where the video was filmed, as well as seeing friends and family members in the video dancing and proclaiming, “I’m from the Lou, and I’m proud.” 

"It makes me feel really alone in this world," said Christine Rudolph, a few days after being evicted from her home in Jefferson City. Missouri tenants facing eviction are unsure how to follow a stay-at-home order when they no longer have a home to go to.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

In March, when the pandemic shut down businesses across St. Louis, the city announced a moratorium on evictions. Officials didn’t want to see people displaced at a time when sheltering was required.

That moratorium has ended, but since the courts are still shut down, no eviction proceedings are taking place. (They were set to open June 22; however, that same day, they were forced to close again due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19.)

A scene from "Woman on the Threshold," directed by Dan Steadman.
Provided by Dan Steadman

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske explored the 13th annual QFest, presented by Cinema St. Louis. The film festival showcases contemporary gay cinema, spotlights the lives of LGBTQ people and celebrates queer culture. 

Joining the discussion was Chris Clark, Cinema St. Louis' artistic director and QFest organizer, to talk through what this year's festival has to offer. Also joining the discussion was local director Dan Steadman, who’s participating in QFest for the first time and has two short films on the lineup. 

Tad Yankoski is an entomologist at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Butterfly House.
Missouri Botanical Garden

Tad Yankoski is an entomologist at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Butterfly House. His job mainly consists of tending to the site’s cockroaches, beetles, ants, tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes and butterflies. Even when the garden had to shut down to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yankoski still had to show up to work and feed the insects — a few days of imbalance and no food could lead the bugs to turn on each other. 

But early on during the pandemic shutdown, Yankoski received news that his job just got a bit trickier to manage. How tricky? The U.S. government had intercepted 14 exotic mantis egg cases illegally shipped from Germany, with each case carrying anywhere from a dozen to 150 mantids. They could either be delivered to an accredited site or be euthanized.

June 22, 2020 Ali Araghi
Provided by the author

Ali Araghi’s debut novel, "The Immortals of Tehran," spans four decades of Iranian history — from what would prove to be the nation’s final shah taking power to the 1979 revolution. It’s a sprawling family saga, with a dose of magical realism and a few surprising twists. Who would believe the surprising role meddling cats played in Iran’s tumultuous 20th century? 

Araghi is an Iranian-born translator and writer, but he’s spent the last four years living in St. Louis, where he is a Ph.D student of comparative literature at Washington University. He explained on St. Louis on the Air that he was inspired to incorporate cats after a chance encounter on the streets of Tehran.  

June 22, 2020 Joe Monahan Walter Smith
Provided by Confluence Discovery Technologies

COVID-19 remains a mystery in many ways, but as it continues to rampage through the world’s population, some things are becoming more clear. One of them is that cytokine storms — a “deranged immune response” to the virus, in which the body literally attacks its own cells instead of the invading coronavirus — appear to be one reason some patients end up extremely ill.

A drug developed in St. Louis aims to combat those cytokine storms. Called ATI-450, it was originally developed by Confluence Discovery Technologies in 2013 with the idea of helping people suffering from autoimmune diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis.    

Nearly 90% of cases the Crime Victim Center assists with deal with domestic violence.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis nonprofit organization that assists victims of domestic violence says it has seen a big increase in reports in recent months. Executive Director Marti Kelly said she believes the increase is related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly runs the Crime Victim Center. Nearly 90% of the organization’s caseload has to do with domestic violence. 

“We get copies of the police reports, and we can tell you that in April there was a 225% increase in the county and a 25% increase in the city,” said Kelly on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The police officers that we spoke to ... believe it’s because people in the county aren’t essential workers as often. They’re staying home, and working with their spouse in a home, instead of going out and leaving every day for work.”

Public Safety director Jimmie Edwards defends the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department on Jan. 29, 2019 against charges that officers are obstructing  Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's investigation in the death of Katlyn Alix.
Andrew Field | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said Monday that he believes body and dashboard cameras will help to “close the trust gap” between the police and the public.

Last Wednesday, the city approved a $5.7 million contract to outfit its police officers with body cameras and dashboard cameras. City officials said some officers could be wearing cameras within a month.

And while Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, has argued that his union has a say in how cameras are implemented, Edwards pushed back on that. The collective bargaining agreement holds that the city has to discuss such changes in equipment, he said. That doesn’t mean they have to be negotiated.   

June 17, 2020 City Museum
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ beloved City Museum has long prided itself on having very few rules — “don’t run” being one of them. But when the 600,000-square-foot playland reopened Wednesday after months without visitors, it had a host of new policies and procedures in place. 

Those new rules are designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, even while allowing guests access to the giant tunnels and slides that have long been the museum’s raison d’etre — well, most of them, anyway. In addition to some features being closed, now visitors have to reserve their spots ahead of time. If they’re over 9 years old, they have to wear masks. And the museum will be given a complete cleaning between groups of visitors.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, general manager Rick Erwin discussed the difficulty of bringing order to a place that has long promised near-total freedom. 

Coffee Wright founded the St. Louis Inner City Cultural Center Enterprise 20 years ago. This year, the organization is partnering with the Missouri History Museum for a Friday night Juneteenth event. This photo is from her group's second annual Juneteenth
Derrick Phillips

For generations, June 19 has been a day of celebration of heritage and liberation for many African Americans. Family and community gatherings across the nation, particularly in the South, commemorate the day when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free

As the nation enters a new era in the struggle for equality during weeks of protests aimed at stopping police from killing black people, Juneteenth celebrations are taking on greater significance, said Sowandé Mustakeem, an associate professor of history and Africa and African American studies at Washington University. 

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin is the first woman and third African American to lead Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood.
U.S. Army

Updated June 18 with new leadership being appointed at Fort Leonard Wood 

The first woman to lead Fort Leonard Wood is getting a new position and will be leaving Missouri. 

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin will be the next Provost Marshal General of the Army and lead the entire branch’s law enforcement and criminal investigation division. She will be based in Virginia.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport. August 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Today marks 100 years since the inception of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. On June 18, 1920, Major Albert Bond Lambert and the Missouri Aeronautical Society leased 170 acres of farmland in north St. Louis County to serve as an airfield for St. Louis. Today, it is the oldest continuously operating commercial airport in the U.S.

In addition to being a commercial airport, the Lambert site has proved useful for manufacturing companies. From 1928 to the present, more than 10,000 airplanes have been built there, including parts of the Gemini and Mercury spacecrafts. Daniel Rust says it’s unprecedented to have this kind of manufacturing at a major hub for commercial air traffic. 

Antigone Chambers Reed
Tiffany Sutton

At 17, St. Louis resident Antigone Chambers Reed is already a writer, actor and human rights activist. And earlier this month, she added yet another role to the mix when she was named the 2020 Jamala Rogers Young Visionary.

The award is given annually by the Youth Council for Positive Development, recognizing young adults who are working for social justice and making a difference in their community. The council is associated with the Organization for Black Struggle, which celebrated 40 years of existence earlier this year.

Reed’s project, Writing Through Trauma, impressed the selection committee with its vision to provide people in her community with a safe, creative space to process, heal and share lived experiences of violence. Making use of the $2,000 prize that accompanies the award, Reed expects to launch her free virtual workshop later this year.

Protesters take to the streets in downtown Clayton. May 30, 2020

The average protester might seem like a young adult, but parents are also bringing out their children with them to demonstrate. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske heard from parents about how they navigate the ongoing shift in culture when it comes to conversations about race, and making the decision to bring kids to protests. Joining the discussion were We Stories board members Jenna Voss and Pamela Washington. 

Peter Raven is the president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
M. Jacob

In between all the news updates about the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against police brutality, a totally different story jumped out from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the other day. “Mass species extinctions are accelerating,” the headline began.

That’s the existentially disturbing takeaway from a new study co-authored by Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Examining the populations of nearly 30,000 vertebrates, and particularly the 515 species that are on the brink of extinction, Raven and his colleagues found that 20% of all species could be gone by the middle of the 21st century. From there, the numbers could grow far worse in the coming decades because of how “extinction breeds extinction.”

June 16, 2020 EyeSeeMe
Provided by EyeSeeMe

Racism isn’t just a topic in the streets, as St. Louis has joined cities across the nation in marching against police brutality toward people of color. It’s also a topic at bookstores and libraries, as readers increasingly seek out books that examine and critique racism. 

That’s true nationally and locally. Nine of the top 10 books on the most recent New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list were focused on topics related to race. At EyeSeeMe African American Children's Bookstore in University City, sales are up significantly. “We’ve seen an exponential increase in desire for these books,” owner Jeffrey Blair said.

And at Left Bank Books in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood, staffers can’t even keep display copies of some books on racism in stock. Bookseller Danielle King says as much as one-third to a half of to-go orders (the shop is still only open for curbside or delivery) include a book about racism or a book centered on the black experience. 

Crews lift the Christopher Columbus statue from its pedestal in Tower Grove Park on June 16, 2020.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:50 p.m., June 16

A crew removed the statue of Christopher Columbus from Tower Grove Park in St. Louis with little fanfare early Tuesday morning.

The statue, which has stood at the east entrance to the park near South Grand Boulevard for more than a century, has become the subject of scrutiny in recent years. Petitioners have called for its removal, citing the explorer’s treatment of Native Americans. 

Dr. Joshua Swamidass, Kennedy Mitchum
Peaceful Science & Carolina Ramos

What’s in a word? The answer is a whole lot when it comes to words such as “race” and “racism.” And contemporary definitions of these terms can vary widely — both in dictionaries and in hearts and minds.

Florissant resident Kennedy Mitchum recently grappled with this in an unusual way, and with striking results. After noticing some of her day-to-day associates citing Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism as a kind of dismissive proof text in conversation with her, the Nerinx Hall High School and Drake University alumna reached out to the dictionary’s editors, asking them to update the entry to better reflect the historical context of systemic oppression.

Many emails later, the editors came around, ultimately telling Mitchum that changes to the entries on “racism” as well as related terms are now in the works.

The Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club was founded by two baseball coaches and has worked to keep baseball alive in north St. Louis city.
Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club

In 2016, Ed Wheatley retired from his job as an engineer at AT&T. But Wheatley has kept busy — to the point that Reedy Press recently published his third book in as many years. Wheatley’s “Baseball in St. Louis: From Little Leagues to Major Leagues” surveys the city’s rich baseball history, from the Major Leaguers who got their start here to the semi-pro and amateur leagues that flourished for decades.

In the book, Wheatley posits that the classic St. Louis question asking where someone went to high school works just as well when framed around the national pastime and asking where you played baseball. 

“It’s just kind of gauging the enemy, if you will,” he explained on St. Louis on the Air. “‘You played baseball. How good are you? What club were you with? Who did you play with?’ It’s all those same kinds of identifying answers as people ascertain when you ask, ‘Where did you go to high school?' It tells a lot about you.” 

May 28, 2020 Corey Bradford
Provided by Harris-Stowe State University

Corey S. Bradford Sr. chose a tough time to come home to the St. Louis metro. The native St. Louisan took office as president of Harris-Stowe State University on May 4 — an unprecedented time for higher education, which is grappling with both funding shortages due to the economic downturn and complications from the coronavirus.

And, indeed, the coronavirus complicated his move. On St. Louis on the Air, Bradford recalled living at a near-empty Chase Park Plaza Hotel for a week. So many people working remotely, he said, “delayed us from getting our furniture here in St. Louis.”

But Bradford feels up for the challenge. 

Bradford described his background as “very humble.” In answer to the all-important high school question, he said he graduated from the Academy of Math and Science, now known as Gateway Tech High School, before earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s in applied math and statistics from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.