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Tuesday: Nikylan Knapper Will Be Maplewood’s 1st Black Mayor

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

A year ago, Nikylan Knapper wouldn’t have guessed she’d soon be launching a campaign to become mayor of Maplewood, the St. Louis County municipality where she lives with her husband and three children. But shortly after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, she witnessed something in her own neighborhood that prompted her to begin thinking seriously about the idea.

Nikylan Knapper
Maplewood Mayor-elect Nikylan Knapper, 41, ran what she describes as a “people-powered” campaign for the seat.

It started with a gesture of solidarity that Knapper, who is African American, appreciated in the days immediately following Floyd’s death: A white mother and children used chalk to write “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Their Names” on an area fence.

But then another neighbor took to social media and described the chalk drawing as graffiti.

“And she said in this group on Facebook that if anyone wanted to call the police and report it, they could,” Knapper told St. Louis on the Air. “And I just thought, ‘Really? We’re calling the police because [of this]?’

“Before then I was actually trying to find other people to run for mayor, and those people were not available to do so. And so when that happened, I thought, ‘I have to do it. I have to — because I don’t want people in our community thinking my life is akin to illegal graffiti.’”

On April 6, Knapper earned support from 58% of voters. The federal administrative law judge and school board member defeated incumbent Mayor Barry Greenberg to become Maplewood’s first Black mayor.

On Tuesday’s show, host Sarah Fenske will talk with Knapper about her campaign and her hopes for her community going forward.

Does the election of Maplewood’s first Black mayor give you hope for the future? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group, and join the 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 audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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