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Race, Identity & Faith

St. Louis Religious Leaders Want More People To Learn About Racism

Leah Gunning Francis, second from left, locks arms with Rev. Karen Anderson, Betty Thompson, Rev. Traci Blackmon and Valerie Richmon of Austin, Tx at the front of the Mother's March on October 18, 2014.,
File photo / Camille Phillips
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St. Louis Public Radio
The Rev. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant locks arms with women during a march in 2014. She will discuss the effects of racism in health care when the Archdiocese of St. Louis coordinates "The Way Of The Cross: Overcoming Racism" on Saturday.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is inviting people of different faiths on a tour Saturday from downtown St. Louis to north St. Louis to explore ways to eliminate racism in health care, education, housing and the criminal justice system.

Religious leaders from across the region will lead people beginning at 9 a.m. from the Basilica of St. Louis, better known as the Old Cathedral, near the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, to Gateway Elementary and Sumner High School in north St. Louis. They are asking people to acknowledge how racism has harmed Black St. Louisans and to work to help bring equality.

“Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, and Jesus also tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked,” said Joyce Jones, program director of racial harmony at the Archdiocese of St. Louis. “If we just take each individual action and focus on doing those things for each and every person, then we’ll be able to eradicate racism.”

Along the journey, clergy will highlight injustices faced by Black St. Louisans. At the Old Cathedral, near the area where slave traders once sold Black people and where an enslaved Black man, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom, they will discuss the effects of racism in the criminal justice system.

Religious leaders will guide a conversation about housing during the second stop at Gateway Elementary School, which sits on a portion of the former Pruitt-Igoe Public Housing Project, off North Jefferson Avenue and Gateway Drive. The last stop is in the Ville neighborhood at Sumner High School. The high school is near the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital, built to serve Black St. Louisans. Leaders will focus on discrimination in health care and education.

People need to acknowledge racism to learn to eliminate it, said the Rev. Charles Norris of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis.

He said people should not turn a blind eye to racism.

“We need to remove those masks that allow us to be comfortable with inequities that continue in the way in which they currently exist in,” Norris said.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

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