St. Louis Perspectives: Interviews on Inequity

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st. louis perspectives: interviews on inequity

written by tinuola adebukola

illustrated by colleen avila

Created as part of Creative Collaborations for Big Projects 2019-2020 A special thank you to all that helped us along the way, including Heather Corcoran and Jamie Perkins from Creative Collaborations, our interviewees Dr. Diana Parra Perez, Adam Layne, and Brianna Chandler, Rob Morgan and the Beyond Boundaries Program, the Ervin Scholars Program, and our families and friends who supported us all throughout.


introduction In this short book, we aim to localize a small part of the history of racial tension in St. Louis, tracing the divide of St. Louis City and County. Through this, we provide background on the city’s chronic wealth stratification and racial segregation, and illuminate some of the systemic ways in which these inequalities are perpetuated. We want to educate more privileged populations, who may not be entirely aware of this aspect of the city they currently live in, about issues in St. Louis they would not be forced to confront otherwise. In the process of creating this book, we interviewed three individuals with experience and knowledge about St. Louis, in the sectors of Health, Education, and Activism. A large part of this book are the voices of these individuals, Dr. Diana Parra Perez, Adam Layne, and Brianna Chandler, as we want them to be the narrators of the story of the city they know so well. By our conversations with them, we hope readers are able to learn and become more aware of the problems St. Louis faces and where there exist opportunities for progress. Supplementing the transcripts of our conversations, Tinuola Adebukola conducted research on the topic to create a condensed and accessible explanation of the history of St. Louis and its present consequences, and additionally constructed the synthesis at the end of the book. Colleen Avila designed the book and provided the illustrations, which include renderings of places in St. Louis as well as of the individuals we both interviewed. We believe it is important to uplift the voices of community members as well as provide evidence of the impact of disparities on members of the region.


a brief history of racial segregation in st. louis In this brief history, we focus on the city and county split. This divide began when St. Louis City split from St. Louis County in 1876. St. Louis County surrounds St. Louis City with about 80 municipalities. The constitutional convention of 1878 resulted in a legal division of St. Louis City and St. Louis County. This division allowed for racial segregation on a municipal level. Blacks were segregated into low-quality housing in neighborhoods in North St. Louis City and County through urban planning in 1918. The suburbanization of the White population in accompaniment with White-flight from St. Louis City to St. Louis County in 1950 also led to further segregation in the city and the surrounding region, through the creation of boundaries. On the municipal level, the county allowed cession of only small parts of land to Black communities. Tax contributions were used to justify segregation for preferential treatment of Whites, as they paid more municipal taxes than they used as opposed to Blacks. Several other segregation practices continued to be implemented. Zoning multi-family housing that allowed residential, commercial and industrial properties were denied in White, single residence neighborhoods. The practice of strategically rezoning commercial neighborhoods to multi-family residential neighborhoods was used to control the movement of growing Black populations. In order to create a buffer zone between Black and White neighborhoods, industrial zones were created in a U-shape around Black neighborhoods. These types of practices were coupled with segregation policies to further drive the racial divide. Polluting industries and vice businesses were allowed to be built only in or adjacent to majority Black neighborhoods. Black neighborhoods were led to be overcrowded and unsafe through the subdivision of houses only in Black neighborhoods. The St. Louis Realtor Association also agreed to only sell homes to Blacks in neighborhoods zoned for them. This practice was reinforced by the possibility of noncooperative realtors losing their licences and livelihoods. The White population was worried that the presence of Blacks would lead them to take over their neighborhood and thus cause a decrease in property values. These sentiments served as a motive to move Blacks out of White neighborhoods. The Federal Housing Administration played a part in concentrating the Black population in the city by excluding them from FHA insured mortgages in an effort to reduce risky lending. Most Black families were provided low quality housing in the north and White families were provided housing in the south. In 1949, the FHA provided funds to destroy houses in neighborhoods that were considered slums, consisting of a high Black population. The FHA restricted houses from being built in those neighborhoods and instead built highways or businesses. These practices are what contributed to the geographical racial divide in St. Louis today. Information derived from Benton, Mark. “‘Just the Way Things Are Around Here’: Racial Segregation, Critical Junctures, and Path Dependence in Saint Louis.” Journal of Urban History 44, no. 6 (August 2017): 1113–30.


health Diana Parra is Assistant Professor in the Program in Physical Therapy,

School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, and a scholar at the Institute of Public Health. She is a former postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition at the University of SĂŁo Paulo. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Work, with concentration in Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis, a Masters degree in Public Health from Saint Louis University, and a Bachelors in Physical Therapy from Rosario University in Bogota, Colombia. She is a social and behavioral researcher and a practicing yoga teacher with a focus on wellness and health promotion, particularly focused on underrepresented minorities. She is currently completing her 300 hour training as a mindfulness facilitator through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute; this training is focused on at risk populations and uses a trauma-informed framework. Major goals of her research include developing evidence-based recommendations for physical activity and nutrition programs at the community level, and the feasibility and impact of mindfulness-based interventions on the health and wellbeing of Hispanic immigrant populations in the United States.


tinuola adebukola: How have you seen St. Louis change

over the years? Are there prominent events, people or organizations that have caused such changes?

dr. parra perez: It has definitely changed. Most of the

change I’ve noticed is very tied to my experience. When I first moved to St. Louis in 2006 I was living by the Botanical Gardens, and two years later I moved to Clayton. When I was in the botanical gardens neighborhood, I don’t think I saw as many people biking. There was still a sense of unsafety and danger. Now whenever I’m around that neighborhood, I see that there are more people bicycling. The progress has been very, very slow, and I have been involved in projects where we have to try to get bicycling initiatives. As soon as these initiatives start, soon after they just collapse.

colleen avila: What kind of specific issues in the health field have you witnessed in the St. Louis Community?

dr. parra perez: So with the Hispanic Community, there’s

definitely a higher proportion of obesity and diabetes. You see it when you go out and you see it at the organizations that are giving services to immigrants. Then with the Black communities, it’s a lot of the maternal and child health issues; the mortality rate for children is so shocking when you compare location by zip code. Even when comparing [by zip code] things like diabetes, obesity and mortality rate complications during pregnancy and birth, [it’s shocking]. For the urban environment when you go into a lot of these neighborhoods, you mostly see fast food restaurants and you see a lot of liquor stores. So all of the ways in which these environments are designed perpetrate a lot of these issues. I would say also gun violence and mental health issues are very prevalent in the community. There’s also a severe lack of green spaces, which is another thing that I have seen. In my research I have looked at, for example, at the availability of parks or the ability of stores. I’ve found that those communities have more food deserts that don’t really sell fresh foods or vegetables or fruits and then there’s less green spaces for kids to play and interact.

In terms of nutrition, I have seen improvements. I don’t remember seeing farmer’s markets or anything like that and now they happen almost all year round during the season. There are more small stores that sell produce that are from local farmers. Clayton hasn’t really changed; it stayed the same. So I think that this city is changing and it’s changing for the best; it’s just very very slow. “trauma doesn’t necessarily mean And then the county where I live in, Clayton, is pretty much the same. that you’ve been abused or that

tinuola adebukola: What are differenc-

es you’ve noticed about different parts of you’ve been to war, it can also be Then there’s Metro expansion that St. Louis, and what factors play into these generational trauma or trauma took forever to build but it was just differences? from being segregated through one extra lane that doesn’t really cover much of the rest of the city or many years in the way urban envidr. parra perez: There’s definitely a the transportation needs. I wish it cultural component and I’m only saying that ronments are set up.” was more progressive in many asbecause I’m also a yoga teacher, and I repects, but also St. Louis is kind of like cently learned of this yoga studio called The a small town. I have seen progress in research in terms of more Collective. The Collective is a yoga studio that is specifically for involvement with things like the north part of the city, like what African American residents. The teachers are African-AmerJason Purnell is doing in terms of equity. icans and they’re also school teachers, so they acknowledge In terms of the Immigrant Community, I have also seen that the organizations that are helping them have increased. There’s more opportunities for them to go to get legal services or health services. For example, there’s a saturday cleaning service that helps uninsured patients. There’s still a lot of disparities with the Black community, with the Hispanic community, and all other types of immigrant communities in St. Louis.

that in a lot of the African-American population in St. Louis there’s at least some level of trauma. Trauma doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been abused or that you’ve been to war, it can also be generational trauma or trauma from being segregated through many years in the way urban environments are set up. So they acknowledge and understand that a lot of people think that certain practices and sorts of activities are for certain kinds of people. In the example of yoga, a lot of people think


that it’s just for White women, or like skinny and young and flexible women, so they don’t even try to go. That’s also because a lot of the teachers and students look like that and if you’re going to go into the studio and the people don’t look like you at all, you’re probably not going to feel comfortable staying in class. You want to see people that look like you. You want to see people that have at least some level of a cultural relationship with you. For example, The Collective uses classes like soulful yoga and they play music that the community likes better. They get input from the community for things that have a cultural influence to connect to people in different ways. I teach yoga to the Hispanic community and there’s a lot of religious influence in a strong Christian faith like Catholicism, and when they have to say ‘namaste’ in class a lot of them might be like, you know, it’s uncomfortable because that would compete with the beliefs that they have.

colleen avila: You’ve done research about food based diets.

physical activity, and general wellbeing programs for communities in need. Could you speak more on your research about that and how that can have an impact in the St. Louis community?

dr. parra perez: I can talk about a couple of projects. So the

first one was a text-based message intervention that I did with Hispanic immigrants. These were messages that were promoting healthy eating and movement in a very culturally relevant way. So it gave recipes that would resonate more with them, giving advice that was more doable that took into consideration their economic means and sometimes also their social and family support. Many of the women that I saw during this research work, for example, like doing housekeeping. They do actually have a lot of movement and have a lot of activity during the day but it’s not necessarily a mental health or a health promoting activity. Since they’re very tired at the end of the day they just want to go home and rest, but then they have kids they have to feed and fast food is cheaper, so they’ll just end up eating things like that. In terms of the other project that I was involved with, we gave advice that was very practical, like small things that they can do for themselves. Even if it’s just taking like a five minute walk in the morning that is just for them. Many of them didn’t want to see their kids overweight and for others their kids were already overweight and obese and they didn’t want that for them. They

didn’t want them to have diabetes when they’re 16 and they knew that they had to change. They knew that sometimes they just needed a little bit of information. They needed a little bit of push and support and I think that’s where a lot of these initiatives will play a very big role, where it’s just providing information and providing some of the means. For example, that yoga class that I teach, I got a message from one of the students and she’s like, “thank you so much because everything that I learned during the times that I did the class, I’m doing yoga now in my house and my three-year-old daughter does the poses with me.” So you never really know the ripple effect that an action, even if it is a small action, can have on someone’s life. Then there’s another project that I’m involved with which sadly we had to put a pause on right now due to the pandemic. It’s one with parks, and is called Trojan Park. It’s basically equipment for outdoor exercise that is set for anybody to use and is to develop strength. It has a few stations, about six stations to do things like pull-ups, push-ups, and different things with machinery. We did an evaluation last year and we found that the park where it was at was very used mostly by kids. The parents were taking their kids to the playground but the exercise station was not in use, so we’re like, well, what if we implemented a program where we could teach people how to use it? It’s right next to a playground so they can watch their kids while they wait instead of sitting on the bench. The average time that they spent in the park was like two hours. So that’s two hours and you’re sitting there and you could be doing something for your health. Even if it’s just like a 30 minute workout. So things like that, that are not necessarily a very high cost investment, can be used by a lot of people and can be very cost effective. They can translate across different populations too, in places like Cherokee street. That’s from my experience and from what I have found with the research that I have done. My most recent projects deal with working with non-profit organizations that serve immigrants, that serve the Hispanic population. I’m doing focus groups with the population to ask them how the organization provides support for them in terms of their wellness. So I’m asking about emotional and physical and social wellness. And sadly, I had to stop that project due to the pandemic. But I’m asking them, like, “what are the things that these organizations get right?” “what are some of the things that they offer?” One of the things that I was able to assess through two focus group was around mental health.


The waitlist for mental health services was like six months. We load of greed associated with that. know that there are some interventions that can be in groups for example, like cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and It comes from a desire to accumulate and hoard wealth. I do commitment therapy, mindfulness-based reduction, where you know that basic human nature is good, but there’s also a degree can have groups of about fifteen, twenty people at a time. If you of selfishness and a survival mindset versus a more altruistic, can do things like that and you have funding to hire one person more empathetic and compassionate mindset. What is bad for that can teach people how to develop mindfulness for like eight your neighborhood is also bad for you and what’s good for you weeks, you could see a lot of effects which down the road can is good for me. We’re all connected. It’s not just a cliche. It’s decrease depression and anxiety and increase actually very real and true. [We emotional regulation. I think this will make a “[we need] compassion in trusting and need] compassion in trusting and huge difference. in sharing of resources and an unin sharing of resources and an understanding of what is good for the derstanding of what is good for the community overall is ultimately tinuola adebukola: How are the complex community overall is ultimately good good for everyone. issues the city faces relating to health fostered through policy? for everyone.” tinuola adebukola: What are some ways that communities with dr. parra perez: The first thing I think of more resources can feel obligated to help their broader ecosysis about the way taxation works. Counties don’t want to share tem? resources with the city. For example, the demands for Forest Park comes from the taxes. When you go to Forest Park there’s not even one basketball court. So there’s a lot of resources dr. parra perez: I don’t want to demonize everyone that is around used by those who bring in the most taxes. Sadly, there wealthy because there’s a lot of people that are doing wonderful is an underlying systemic way of segregation in the way that work with communities and donating a lot of their money and neighborhoods were organized so that only certain people helping others. I do know that the initiative to help with the were pushed out. This also affects the school system. All this combination of the city revenue with the taxes in the county goes way deeper and we need to start addressing some of those and the people that are behind it are people that have a lot of issues. I know that there’s been a lot of talk and initiatives to try needs and money. They do want to see a difference because to combine the taxes, for example, like the city with the county. they understand that if you help a community overall they’re This will benefit the city a lot but there’s resistance on the coungoing to have less crime, and they’re going to have less public ty level to do that. If this could be overcome then taxes could be health costs for the system. used not only to keep resources in an area that is already very well off, but can be used to others that have less and that have We can also make a difference in how people unite and if been systemically segregated for decades. I think it starts with people in those communities don’t wait for help and they start taxes and economic issues. to make a change for example, like this yoga Collective. I know there’s also a lot of community gardens that have been started by the residents. There have also been job opportunities colleen avila: What kind of factors do you see play into the that have been started by the residents themselves that want fact that there is this kind of wealth hoarding? Do you see that to help their community. So I don’t necessarily think help has as a result of cultural ideals? Why do you see that selfishness to come from outside all the time. It can also start within the happening? community to create change. Some examples would be a lot of, like, Black business owners initiatives that are being supported dr. parra perez: Some of it is just the capitalistic model all throughout the town, and the people are actually standing that we all live in. So it’s about maximizing profit and it’s about behind it and helping it and not necessarily just waiting for the putting money above public health and above social needs and outside money or the outside help to come. We have to realize we’re seeing it play out right now. We do know that there’s a


forest park

that we have to do certain things in order for something to be different. If we keep doing the same things over and over again we’re going to keep getting the same results.

colleen avila: You gave a talk about how healthcare can be involved in achieving a healthy city. How could some of those ideals be implemented in St. Louis?

dr. parra perez: In the talk I gave, I was talking about the

healthcare system in Brazil and that came from my experience of evaluating a program that started in a small community in the Northeast. It was composed of free exercise community classes where they had things like dancing, aerobics, and yoga three times a week. They had it sometimes in the morning and in the evening and it was publicly funded. This program was also linked to their healthcare system. So they would screen people for things like hypertension and obesity and would direct people to go to programs that would benefit them. This program was very cost effective and easy to manage. Public spaces needed for a program like this already exist in St. Louis; we have many parks and many community centers so all we’d have to do is pay people like instructors. Volunteers can also teach these classes. The other program that I mentioned during the talk had to do with Bogota where I grew up. We have this program every Sunday and holidays we close the streets for cars and and only people that are biking or walking can use them. It is not directly linked to the health care system, but it is a health promoting activity that is a community wide policy. So, this is an example of how initiatives to better community health don’t necessarily have to come from the healthcare system. It can come from the transportation system and it can come from the economic system. It will ultimately benefit the physical, emotional and social health of the people.

pathways throughout the region, connecting different parts of the city with others to promote bicycling and improve infrastructure. Another thing being done right is the increase in support of farmers and local stores that are selling healthy foods. There’s also conversations going on about the tax system which I think is beneficial. WashU’s chancellor has a new motto “In St. Louis, for St. Louis.” From the academic side, university-wide, there’s a lot of research and resources that are going to be dedicated to stay in the community of St. Louis to benefit it. So I’m actually very excited about that change in mentality and how WashU can contribute to the city. WashU’s School of Medicine also has a clinic called the Saturday Clinic for uninsured patients. They’re really making an effort to work with the people that are going to these places to give council for a healthier lifestyle.

colleen avila: What are your final thoughts? dr. parra perez: One of the main reasons why we have a lot

of these problems is because we work in silence. This is the culture too in academia. Health comes from all places and from all sites. When we have teams made up of people that are coming from all different areas, our results are going to be much better and much more effective. So finding some sort of intersection of some of those initiatives and programs that are taking place will work better if we have support from all fronts in an intersectoral perspective.

tinuola adebukola: What is St. Louis doing right, and what should people give more attention to in order to make the city healthier and better?

dr. parra perez: I think that one of the ways I mentioned was that there’s more organizations now that help the immigrant community and integrate them as also part of the city. There’s also Great Rivers Greenway, for example; they’re building green


education Adam Layne

is an education advocate who has been driving toward educational equity in the city of St. Louis. As a Teach For America Corps Member, he taught math for three years at the high school level. In 2014, he joined InspireSTL, an education access and support nonprofit serving students in the city of St. Louis. Adam continues the mission by doing diversity consulting in education and serving as an elected school board member. He currently serves as the Executive Director of his own nonprofit, the Young Griot Society, which increases youth literacy through creative writing. A native of Boston, Adam received his BBA in Finance from The George Washington University and his M.Ed. from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


tinuola adebukola: What are some issues that plague St. Louis dealing with inequities in education? How do you see these issues play out across St. Louis?

pened. I think there are definitely some points of learning that we can take from those time periods, but trying to go back there is not going to help.

Geographically, everyone will talk about the difference between North and South St. Louis. People say that there are vary by place. The biggest inequity in St. Louis around educamore resources South when it comes to education but that’s not tion is access to quality education. When you look at the edunecessarily true. If you just look at the public schools, it’s true. cational opportunities for students though, why it’s such a big But it’s not true just because of the location. With the location, gap is because there are really high performing schools that are you have a lot more wealthy White neighborhoods south than in the St. Louis Area. There are a lot of high-performing private north. So the location matters, but also with that, a lot of the schools which are predominately White and are in areas that high performing schools are south. And again, it’s very hard not everyone has access to. It’s very hard to get from North St. for students to get from North City to West County. But it’s also Louis to places in West County just by taking the bus. I worked a big barrier for students to even go north to south in certain in an organization that supported getting students into these schools. And then those schools have limited access for the maschools with funding and transportation. With one of those jority of St. Louis. So when people say there are more West County schools one of our students had to take “one of our students had to take a resources south, it’s not that there are more resources, it’s that the resources that South City currently has a bus and a train and then bus and a train and then we had to outperform the ones in North City and no one’s trying we had to get them an get them an uber from that last stop to create a balance. Uber from that last stop

adam layne: There are a lot of inequities and they definitely

to be able to get to their school. to be able to get to their school. This is how they this is how they got to school every colleen avila: Do you see any kind of inequities that occur within schools, dealing with teachers or got to school every single single day.” those kinds of resources, apart from more structural day. So I think what makes things like transportation? St. Louis unique is that I feel like it’s definitely very intentional to have those educational adam layne: I would say if I’m looking across just school inequities. But St. Louis almost goes the extra mile to make sure buildings, when I taught in St. Louis Public Schools, we really that those things stay in place or goes the extra mile to make didn’t. Of course, I think all the teachers still went out of their sure those things aren’t combated. So locational inequities way to buy different things for their students and for their classaround education are one thing. room to make it a space that was welcoming, and most teachers do that. I don’t think teachers should have to do that. Their I think the other thing that fuels the inequity is the gap in eximpact has been in terms of necessary supplies. Our teachers perience. A lot of older generations that went through St. Louis felt like we had everything that we needed so that really wasn’t public schools always talk about the different opportunities the biggest issue. Most teachers in my school — and it wasn’t they had. A lot of those people grew up in St. Louis and they necessarily a high-performing school by any means — had haven’t traveled, so that’s the only experience they’re familiar smart boards, but I think at least when I was there, there was with. They might not have explored schools in other parts of a generational gap where most of the younger teachers were town or they might not have seen how other school systems are trying to use technology and a lot of the old ones were not and how it looks in other cities. They believe that we need to trying to use it. They felt like it was unnecessary but it wasn’t continue doing what we’re doing or get back to what they were just because they were older. Whenever you have a big bureaudoing in 1980. This mindset isn’t going to help us move forward cratic district, there are always these mandates that come from at all because it doesn’t necessarily translate to the world that the central office. Along with the mandates there’s the timing of we’re in now. So there’s a dissonance between what they think all the tests that students have to take along with the fact that should happen because it has this shroud of what already hap14

teachers are responsible to make sure that they hit those benchmarks. With all that, teachers that had been there awhile just felt like this is just a new thing that they say they’re doing, but not being intentional about the implementation and support. So whereas some of the younger teachers saw it at the time like, oh, well, they’re just older they don’t want to use the technology, it was more like, well, they don’t really have a plan for how the technology is going to be fully integrated into what we’re doing. So it’s just something to do. So why do it? Because it has no long term vision or impact associated with it. Additionally, within the schools, we have about eighteen hundred teachers in the district and I would say a majority of them are White female teachers. A lot of them don’t come from the city of St. Louis but from St. Charles or St. Anne or from other rural places. Their student teaching experience is also not in the communities that they serve. So a majority of the teachers don’t reflect the student body. There are many studies out there about how representation does matter, so it’s not that White teachers can’t teach students of color. If I’m in a school that’s predominately Black and most of my teachers are White, it says something about the world that I perceive, especially from spending most of my time in school. These are people that I consider smart and intelligent and if all those people don’t look like me and I go back to neighborhoods where people do look like me and I don’t see any teachers, what does that mean? So I think there’s definitely inequities in that. I wouldn’t place that solely on the school district, but also on the pipelines to educational careers and how people of color get weeded out all along the way leading up to that. For the last thing I’ll say about resources, I’ll use the north and south. Schools that are south that have gifted and magnet programs have a parent population similar to that of a private school, so their Parent Teacher Organizations are able to give more money. This means a lot because they can do more for the school where as if I had a school in a typical school in North City, even though there might be a strong PTO, it’s not a strong fundraising PTO. I’ve talked to parents on both sides. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they think because the PTO is predominantly White and wealthy and can raise more money means that they care more about the school than a PTO that’s probably Black and doesn’t have a lot of money. But talking to parents at that wealthy White school, parents have literally told me, “I’m not involved at all ,I just give money to the school.” So

there’s like this false narrative that’s put out there that they care more and that’s why they raise more money.

tinuola adebukola: Are the problems in St. Louis schools an issue of public vs private?

adam layne: Not exactly; it’s super complicated. You have

public, you have private and then you have charter and parochial schools too, like the Catholic schools as well as more divisions. Then you have the county public vs. city public schools. People have this notion in St. Louis that county public schools are much better than the city public schools. On paper if you look at the numbers, they are, but the county public schools are also predominantly White and predominantly more affluent. So if I’m looking at Kirkwood, the average income in Kirkwood is tremendously higher than St. Louis. With income differences come different amounts of access to educational opportunities. Student families in St. Louis City feel like if they send their kids to a county public school, then they’ll get a better education. When you dive deeper into the data, students who go from the city public school to the county public school don’t necessarily perform any better because those schools are predominately White, and those students have a different level of affluence. So a lot of their achievement is tied to that affluence and not necessarily just being in that school district, but not a lot of people know that. I would say I don’t think there’s really competition between the private and public schools. I don’t see it as competition. I would say there’s more competition in terms of when we lose students in the city. It’s like losing students and families because they think the county provides more opportunities. With the private schools, people are knocking down the doors to get into them and there are inequities in terms of the financial aid that they give out. In St. Louis, there’s this meritocracy, like if we said yes to you, then what do you mean you can’t pay twenty six thousand dollars? If we let you, we let you. They see it as they’ve handed you this silver spoon and you should be grateful to want to come there. They don’t even consider the fact that this is a complete cultural shift and might be a complete financial shift. So even though students are capable of performing and succeeding in the high performing school, they don’t have the resources to be able to walk into the door. I would say most of that competition is really around the county public versus


city public because it’s just a battle for students and a battle for bodies because they’re both public. So they get funded based on how many students are in seats. The city population is shrinking. A lot of people believe that’s because we have a lot of thriving businesses in the city. A lot of people believe it’s also because of the education system. Families think they can get a better education from county public schools because the numbers look better overall.

colleen avila: How has working on the board of St. Louis

public schools made you think differently about educational inequities that plague St. Louis?

adam layne: What’s helped me think differently is I think a

lot of questions that people ask generally are like “what are our schools doing about X, Y and Z, or why can’t we do this?” I have the same questions that I get to ask directly to the superintendent and to my fellow board members and to administrators downtown. What I believe and I hope that most people in St. Louis understand is that the issues that the district is facing, it being a predominantly Black district of 80 percent Black students, is systemic issues. They’re not issues that were born of the school system, these are deep seated historical issues rooted in systemic oppression. We’re not just competing with county schools, we are not just competing with private schools or not just trying to give kids an education. We have to be an anti-racist organization and also fight against systemic pressures as well as giving kids a great education. There are so many barriers too like housing insecurity, food insecurity, economic insecurity. When you have a district that’s about 80 percent in poverty those are going to be the issues that come along with that. A student might get evicted in North St. Louis and have to move so what does that mean for their schools? People will be surprised that a student’s family can get evicted or have to move seven times in a year. That’s seven different schools that a student might go to which affects their ability to get a quality education. So being on the board has allowed me to keep having those questions and having those conversations with community members. I’m able to direct those questions in a way that it’s not just asking “what are we doing about our kids education” or “why are we failing?” It’s more like what is a question I can ask with the understanding that there are systemic pressures. How

is my question going to get an answer and get some action started around moving in the right direction? I feel like we are moving in many directions, but I don’t know if all the directions are the right direction. It takes collective action and input. I think one way my perspective has changed is not just trying to ask questions, but trying to make the community more informed and involved. I think the other way is just learning about the things I didn’t know about. So I knew about things from the classroom perspective and the community, but there are a lot of things that I didn’t know about the state legislature perspective that helped frame questions.

tinuola adebukola: How have you seen different sectors

and/or policies be able to positively or negatively affect the education situation in St. Louis?

adam layne: The education system is operating like a not-

well- oiled machine. There are a lot of things that we see that make us wonder why education is lagging behind. It seems like it’s intentional that we don’t want education and catch up. A couple of things to note is that when it comes to philanthropy, St. Louis is constantly rated in the top 10 in philanthropy. So you have the business community thinking about how these things fit together. You have schools and then you have the neighborhood communities. When it comes to city government, right now, we have a mayor who is on record saying that she basically feels helpless around education and this is not a good start for the city government. Education and the neighborhoods that schools are in are very heavily tied, but those two entities don’t communicate. So we think about the Board of the Aldermen who basically run or manage the neighborhoods where the schools are and they manage the development of the neighborhood. The more a neighborhood can develop — and I don’t want to confuse or blend development with gentrification, which a lot of people do — but the more neighborhoods can develop, the better opportunities for people. And then more people want to move into that neighborhood or stay in that neighborhood to feel safe. Then the more children there are that can go to the schools. But again, a lot of north city neighborhoods are losing population fast because of safety, because there just aren’t any buildings there for people to live in. So you have a lot of rundown dilapidated buildings that haven’t been fixed and the city can’t get


kiener plaza

any contracts from developers who want to fix that because they’re not getting a bigger return on investment as a gentrified neighborhood. So that really hurts the numbers of students that are available to go to the schools. School closings on the north side and lack of resources on the north side are because their funding is tied to how many students they have. A lot of people think like, oh, you get more funding, you get to have like iPads and stuff. But really most of the funding goes to paying teacher salaries. So the less students you have, the less teachers and support staff you’ll have in a school in addition to the flashy stuff. Going with the policy, I feel like one of the biggest issues with the policy is the fact that the money a school gets is tied to how many students are in the seats. What I’ve been noticing in terms of policy from my time on the board, is that people aren’t asking the right questions. So instead of asking “is this a good policy?” or “do we have enough policies?”, it’s more like when we make a policy or a resolution or when we evaluate policies that we have to ask are they equitable? So are we looking at our policies through an equitable lens? We have this state funding formula, and formulas are supposed to be long standing, but it literally changes every six months to every year in a way that school districts actually get less money. So the formula is not equitable at all. It’s a combination between how many students are in the neighborhood and go into the schools and also the amount of property taxes that you can get from that neighborhood as well. But again, if you have 20 houses on a block and only three of those have people in them and 10 of them aren’t even the property of the state and no one’s living in them or you’re not collecting taxes off of them, then you’re at a significant disadvantage. Then again, in a well-resourced neighborhood that has a lot more of a population and the housing values are higher, you’re able to pull in more taxes and support that local group of schools. So that inequity in and of itself really hurts the district because a lot of the money comes from property taxes. And it also puts an unnecessary inequitable burden on houses that are north. So I would say that state policy around funding is probably one of the biggest ones that hurts. In terms of the business community, there really isn’t a big partnership between all the businesses in St. Louis and the schools. [But] these students are supposed to be the future workers

at these businesses. These businesses are not developing the future labor force or giving the future labor force an opportunity to see what goes on in their organizations. For example, if Purina funded an animal nutrition program at a school or something to get students interested and thinking whether it might be a career that they could go into. There aren’t a lot of businesses that are doing that. I think part of the reason is the blessing and curse of St. Louis being a small city, so a lot of people do know each other. So if I know someone that’s at Wells Fargo, I might be able to create a program with my school, but if I don’t, then Wells Fargo isn’t reaching out to me as a business. We should be doing something for our community. The problem is, it’s a lot of who you know and because it’s small, there are a lot of people who know people that they don’t want to work with, so they will intentionally not reach out. I think that the biggest disadvantage comes to opportunities for the students. There are some schools that are able to circumvent district partnerships and build individual partnerships which work for some schools, but it doesn’t work for all schools.

colleen avila: As a member of the board of St. Louis Public Schools, you work within the system. How do you feel about addressing the problems in education both within the system and outside of it?

adam layne: I think that it’s very important to work both

within and outside of the system. When I started teaching in St. Louis public schools, I could have my expectations and rules within my classroom. The students can follow the rules in my classroom and understand the expectations and value education in that space. But I have to also understand that if I look at one student, they’ll see me Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday for an hour. So that’s three to four and a half hours a week. As soon as they go into a different classroom, if expectations are different and if they’re not held to a higher standard, they’re not being challenged. If they have four classes a day and I’m the only class doing that, then seventy five percent of their experience tells them to act, behave, and expect one thing and only twenty five percent is different. So, yes, I think there definitely has to be a push both on the inside and outside and we need people working toward a similar vision both within the system and outside of the system. And what does that look like in St. Louis? I think definitely the


school board, and we also need advocates at the state level, at the state board of education, to lobby for more equitable state policies. Then, we have our parents and we have teacher groups. I wish we had more teacher groups, but we have parents, we have teachers and then independent community development organizations that are looking at education and looking to improve educational equity outside the system and all. So even if you look at, for example, colleges, there’s so much that a college like WashU can do. They are there to develop students and educate students. Then you have supplemental programs like Aspen Institute that says “OK, it’s great that you’re getting your degree and everything, but can we dive deeper into leadership?” I love supplemental programs like that. When I started teaching, it was you go to a supplemental program that worked on leadership for high school students that’s addressing what it means to be a student of color from St. Louis.

gram that was designed for low-income first-generation students as opposed to most public and private schools that take a one size fits all approach to college counseling. So I would say there are definitely some issues in St. Louis on both or all ends of that when it comes to college counseling. The biggest thing was them feeling like they had someone who was supportive and someone who would be like “here are some opportunities that I found for you, we’ll talk through which ones you like and then you can apply.” This was valuable to the students to have someone by their side to keep them on track and also set high expectations for them to push themselves. One simple example is I’d have students say “yeah, if it wasn’t for my InspireSTL coach, I probably would’ve started that essay the night before or the day of, but because they stayed on me to start it, or at least get an outline and talk to my teacher about it a week before, I was more successful.”

colleen avila: You mentioned supplemental programs for

Teachers are already doing a lot in our under-resourced schools, and students have a lot going on. In most of our public schools, the student-teacher ratio is like twenty-two or twenty-five to one, so a lot of seniors don’t have the ability to get one-on-one advice from a teacher every single week. A teacher might not be able to even call twenty-five parents, let alone assist twenty-five students on setting goals for the week and things like that. There are a lot of things that schools just aren’t equipped to do with the resources that they have. Supplemental programs can come in and be able to provide that and that’s super helpful. I think a lot of schools in North St. Louis have Mentors in Motion where they have male mentors come in and talk to their male students of color. Could some teachers do that at the school? Yeah, but they’re grading and doing a lot of other things. If a supplemental program can come in and provide that experience for students at the school, it really builds on what they’re getting so they can see school as a place that cares about their growth and development as a person.

youth. How have you seen those impact students in the St. Louis community? What benefits do they have for education?

adam layne: I have a lot of experience there. When I left the

district, I started working at a program called InspireSTL. The goal was for it to be a 10 year program that recruited students in seventh grade and supported them all the way through college completion. The heart of the program was one-on-one coaching. So all of our scholars would have their own support coach who would meet with them weekly in their schools and they’d set a game plan to learn how to reflect around their goals. We had seven pillars, one of the biggest one being self advocacy and how they can learn over time to advocate for themselves in a positive and healthy way. But of course, this takes a lot of coaching and a lot of development, especially when talking about seventh graders and even high schoolers. So it was basically like a big accountability tool. Someone was always there to guide you and talk through things with you while you were struggling to just acknowledge that, yes, the struggle is real but also, how do you come out of the struggle on top? We knew that they were dealing with a lot and the system wasn’t set up for them to be successful. It was a way for them to make the most of the situation that they were given. It gave them tools and resources that they would’ve had to find on their own. As for the things we did, we had our own college access pro-

tinuola adebukola: Throughout your overall experience

being in St. Louis, have you seen things change for better or for worse in education?

adam layne: In terms of my experience with education, things haven’t really changed. I feel like the district is pretty much the same. The only thing that’s changed is the numbers keep going down. The number of students that we have and the number of


residents that we have in the city continues to go down. One of any results behind it. the issues that I see with the districts is it being super bureaucratic. For example, like if a principal fails at one school — and I think that consistency can also be seen as a challenge because we can measure what failing is in many ways — usually what people get comfortable with consistency. We’re not moving forhappens is they 2just get shuffled to another school. So unless ward. A big challenge is not moving forward in the way that we they do something completely egregious, they’ll just give them should. A lot of people will compare public schools to private another opportunity at another school and they can really do schools but a teacher in a $26,000 a year private school is that the same thing at the other school. It’s much different from a high performnot like, “oh, this wasn’t the right fit for ing teacher at a public school. There “it would take a holistic look at you”; it’s more like, “you have strong ties all the inequities that we’re dealing are certain things that teachers are to people downtown so we’re going to get allowed to do in private schools with with along with the strategy that you a job somewhere or keep you on staff more freedom around their curricusomewhere”. It’s just a testament of being lum and with more support to do that. we have for trying to address the in a small city. You’ll start to see the same inequities so that education can be They can go further with students. people in the education field and there are But also acknowledging that what something that moves forward.” only so many educators and the regents students are showing up with and will start to overlap. bringing in terms of trauma, in terms of lived experience in the classroom in In terms of improvements on the district, I think the only posa public versus a private school is different too. So those teachitive one is consistency. That’s what everyone will say too, like ers have to deal with that as well as classroom size and whether “we’ve had the same superintending for 10 years.” They see that students had a meal that morning or day. It would take a holisas progress. I think progress is also based on experience. So the tic look at all the inequities that we’re dealing with along with experience before the current superintendent was like a new the strategy that we have for trying to address the inequities so superintendent every six months. It’s like four different superthat education can be something that moves forward. intendents in the span of three years or two and a half years or something. Then people saw that as a problem, which it was. tinuola adebukola: Any final thoughts? Now they base success on how long someone’s been there and not necessarily how effective they’ve been. So I think there adam layne: We’re all in this together. My plea is that when needs to continue to be a shift in that direction. I think another it comes to education in St. Louis, I want people to understand positive is that the elected board regained governance power. that they can’t think they don’t have anything to do with it. 19 Before that, it was the state appointed board that took over For example, If I’m working at Edward Jones or if I don’t have because they thought things were too chaotic and not moving a student in the city public school then I think I have no obliin the right direction. There are different statistics that the disgation to help the public schools. So a lot of people take this trict will say show growth. One of them is that our scores aren’t approach. I would urge everyone to take up this issue as if it declining, but they’re not really increasing. The metrics change does directly affect them. I feel like it’s always going to directly every year so we’re not measuring the same things from year to affect us because that might affect who your co-workers are in year. One of the biggest things is that when the state took over, the future and the limited exposure to a diverse workplace that we had a budget deficit and now we have a budget surplus. It you might have. It might affect your interactions with strangmeans we’re not in financial doom, but we still don’t have the ers in the street. It might affect where someone chooses to live. money we need to do what we want to do or think we need to There’s definitely a benefit to working across different sectors do. Then we have the same superintendent, which is great. It to address issues in education. So when we think about educashows consistency. But again, if we’re not moving forward with tion, it’s not thinking about it at school, but thinking about it as our superintendent, then are we really being successful? I feel our community. It’s not just thinking of the community that we like the district will say a lot of things that they’re trying to do currently exist in, but the community that we want to exist in. and say initiatives that they started, but I don’t think there are


activism Brianna Chandler was born and raised in St. Louis. During her time

at Nerinx Hall High School she became involved with and interested in a variety of social-justice causes. She is now a member of the WashU class of 2023 and is heavily involved with Sunrise St. Louis, a local chapter of a national youth-led Climate Justice organization. Brianna cares deeply about her community and is always looking for ways to get involved.


temic issues that don’t have the resources they need know the problems that are affecting them. They may not know all the change over the years? super complex fancy lanbrianna chandler: I went to a grade school a “people who are in communities that guage that academics might use, but they know what the couple blocks away from WashU on Waterman, it’s are more affected by systemic issues problems are. I think people also a couple of blocks down from the loop as well. that don’t have the resources they in the more affluent commuIt’s a predominantly White grade school. I rememnities know what the probber there were quite a few families that lived in need know the problems that are lems are, too. It’s just easier to the neighborhood and going to school there I was affecting them. they may not know not acknowledge them. For never aware that those apartments across from our school were WashU students. From my under- all the super complex fancy language me, it’s been hard to walk that line as someone who has had standing of the neighborhood now, since I’ve gone that academics might use, but they a very privileged education back to that neighborhood to visit some WashU know what the problems are. i think but has experienced being dorms that are now there, people who live in the people in the more affluent commu- part of those more under-reneighborhood have all said that it’s kind of benities know what the problems are, sourced communities. You come less of a family neighborhood and more of a don’t want to go into a comWashU neighborhood. So that stuff was something too. it’s just easier to not acknowl- munity and have a savior I noticed. In high school, I went to a Catholic all edge them.” complex, and I think that’s girls predominantly White high school in Webster where a problem can crop up, Groves, and my family lived in Overland, but we when you have a community moved out to Webster Groves for the four years I that is so separated not only by race but also by socio-economic went to high school. Then, finally we moved back to the neighstatus. borhood in Oakland, where we live. It’s changed a lot. Demo-

tinuola adebukola: How have you witnessed St. Louis

graphically, there are more people of color and the upkeep of the apartment complex has gone down so those are of things that I can attest to.

colleen avila: Based on your knowledge and experience in

activism, what kind of problems do you see St. Louis dealing with and what do you find to be focal points of the issues in St. Louis?

brianna chandler: I’d say I’ve noticed our education system

is really, really broken. There are some schools in the city that just got their accreditation back a few years ago, and it’s especially frustrating to see schools in predominantly Black areas that don’t have the resources they need. Then you go to schools like LeDoux or Kirkwood and see that they have like an abundance of resources. I’d say that’s a problem, but that problem is directly linked to like housing discrimination and redlining. That’s just historically been in the city as St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in America. People who are in communities that are more affected by sys-

I think another issue St. Louis faces would be career politicians. There are certain families that have been in politics for a long time in St. Louis. St. Louis has a lot of old money, a lot of generational wealth. I mean, that’s gonna be a huge problem everywhere. Specifically in St. Louis, the Clay family holds a large chunk of the city as they have been in politics for so long. The constituents are seeing that all their needs aren’t being met but since the Clay family has been in politics for so long, it’s hard for anyone new to get in. St. Louis is small and there are certain people who have a lot of money. Their families have a lot of money and they have a lot of influence. Like, even when you look at WashU people that are on the board, they have very deep roots in St. Louis and it’s all interconnected.

colleen avila: In your work around activism in St. Louis and in your relationships with other youth voices, how has your experience been?

brianna chandler: As mentioned earlier, I went to a Catho-

lic, predominantly White grade school, and knowing that circle



of activists is a lot different from knowing activists who went to a school that is majority POC, or who went to city schools, and I just want to acknowledge that distinction. Most of the things that I’ve done have been centered around marches and coming up with a framework for ideas. But the hard thing about being fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, like how much can you really accomplish given the way that academics are set up. When you’re in high school your main goal has to be to go to college. When I was a junior, I helped create this small organization called St. Louis Students for Black Lives. We did a small march downtown and we came up with a mission statement of some problems that we saw in the STL area. Then we posted it just to get people thinking about it. After that I did a few other marches. When I was organizing I was really able to get to a place that I felt comfortable with. It was when I got to college in the beginning of my freshman year that I was able to get involved with an organization called Sunrise. They are a national youth-led climate justice movement. I was drawn to them and felt comfortable with them because their whole framework is centered around intersectionality. It has an anti-capitalist lens and it’s about centering frontline communities who are gonna be hurt the first and worst by climate change. Being with them gave me an opportunity to learn about St. Louis from older activists who know more about the history and have more connections, and who are able to teach me more. In Sunrise pre-Covid, we were working on housing injustice and examining how climate justice and injustice go hand in hand, and really examining the housing crisis in St. Louis because it’s pretty bad. At the climate strike in September, Corie Bush gave a really compelling speech about environmental racism and how as a Black person, We aren’t taught that climate change is something you should be concerned about. We aren’t taught that we have a place in that movement. In St. Louis, specifically, Black people are way more likely to go to the emergency room for asthma because of all the illegal dumping and air pollution that takes place. She had a really good way of drawing the lines from environmental racism to to the greater climate justice movement.

colleen avila: There’s the idea of working within the system and organizing outside of it, so the power of election versus the power of collectivism. What are your thoughts on this within the St. Louis community?

brianna chandler: My view of electoral politics is that it’s a

means to an end. It is a way of waging a little crack on the systems in power so that it’s easier for people to burst through and make change. At the end of the day, we can’t rely on electoral politics and we always have to have that people power ready to go. I think also that local elections are a lot more important and effective than national elections. I would just say firstly I would never throw my money or resources behind elections. It’s just not effective. I think we should put money and resources towards educating people about problems in their communities so we can get a lot more done. The Board of Aldermen announced this new initiative a while ago about how we’re going to make STL Green, and like all this stuff. The initiatives were not really what the city needed, it just sounded nice. So I think that’s where the problem lies in local politics, where we have people in office who say things that sound nice. They come back to communities because they know they need the Black vote, and then they’ll say things that they think we want to hear, but there’s no real substantial action.

tinuola adebukola: How do you feel about neglected

communities in St. Louis that have been trying to enact change through policies or some form of a community collective?

brianna chandler: I think that people are trying to do both

[work within and outside the system] and I think it’s hard because now I feel people are taught that they have to buy into an electoral system in order to enact change, and the problem is that’s all you’re gonna do until someone tells you differently. So I think we do have a good collection of people who have a really strong belief in the electoral system and people who know we have to pressure our politicians in order to get them to do things that we want them to do. An effort in St. Louis that I’m really passionate about is the Close the Workhouse campaign. I think they’re a great example of what people in power can do and a good example of how the elected officials don’t really care about the citizens they claim to care about. I think examining the workhouse, just that whole dynamic and narrative would just be really useful for getting an understanding of the dynamics of St. Louis: the racial dynamics, the class dynamics, everything.


colleen avila: Something I know I struggle with and was

interested in hearing your thoughts on is grappling with your place in academia. There’s the paradox of believing in these issues of equity while being at an institution that can perpetuate these issues; could you speak at all on that?

brianna chandler: Yeah, I really struggled with that, espe-

cially being someone who is from St. Louis. Just to give a little backstory, WashU has this program called the WashU College Prep Program. It’s basically a summer program for low income first generation college students who are high schoolers. The idea is that you come for three years, spend a couple weeks on campus, every summer and you do programs and take classes for a couple of credits. If it hadn’t been for that program, I would not be at a higher institution like WashU right now. It doesn’t track students into WashU, but it gives you a lot of exposure to it. Prior to that program, I didn’t think that I’d be able to get into a college like WashU. I just wish programs like that were more widely accessible to more students in St. Louis. And so bring it back to your original question. I know how big of an institution WashU is in St. Louis. It’s such a big influence and I think that for me, it’s been important to understand that I had to do these things to survive. It’s not like I have super rich parents that can just give me a job. It’s not like I can go to Mizzou and not take my academics seriously for four years, then get a job at my parents company. That’s not how my life is set up. So I have to work my hardest and do my best to get A’s much as I can, so that I can get an influential job and work to dismantle those systems. When I say influential, not talking about getting a job with a big corporation, I’m talking about maybe working for ArchCity defenders. They’re a big civil rights firm in St. Louis, and I’d want to take my WashU education and degree and use that influence that the institution gives me to dismantle their power afterwards. So that’s kind of how I feel about it. And it is hard. I struggle with it and I feel like a lot of us struggle with it, but I refuse to be made guilty for being forced to survive in a system.

tinuola adebukola: How can youth activists in the St. Louis

when you come from a more marginalized background. You want to go out and be an activist and gather all those people who have power and all that stuff but like, it’s hard and it’s also kind of dangerous. So I think that if students are given more freedom and ability to connect with each other and if they’re able to kind of overcome that thought of like, “oh, you come from this area and I’m from that area” kind of biases, then I think that St. Louis really could be a hub for youth power. Part of what I like about the organization Sunrise is that it’s supposed to be for young people. So we’re working really hard to kind of bridge the gaps between different high school communities. We want to get really influential youth together and not just for the sake of climate justice, but also just for the sake of teaching young people organizing skills. It’s kind of hard to make high schoolers understand that it’s not all about getting the picture at the protests. It takes real hard work. And I know they want to put in that work. There’s just so much unlearning that has to be done. It’s also difficult because they’re experiencing the brunt of all these issues. It’s a lot for a young person to handle in terms of emotional labor and learning harsh realities about the world.

tinuola adebukola: You mentioned breaking through the

gap or barrier of different communities in St. Louis and changing the they vs. us mindset. I know you are aware of the failed attempt of the Better Together campaign that tried to bring the city and the county together. Do you think another initiative like that would be really beneficial to have in order to get people from two sides of very different realities to come together and help the STL community?

brianna chandler: I’m in support of it because businesses

and people in the county capitalize off the labor of people in the city, and the city should be getting some of those taxes. I just don’t see it happening, because even though I’ve only been alive for 19 years, I’ve lived here for 19 years and adults that I’ve spoken to said they’ve seen so many initiatives like that come and go. It’s just not happening because of the racism, fear, and selfishness of the more wealthy people.

community bridge the geographical divide to unite their communities?

colleen avila: Can you think of what St. Louis is doing

brianna chandler: Being in high school is hard, especially

brianna chandler: The beauty of St. Louis is that we’re such



the delmar loop

a neighborhood city, and I love that about St. Louis, but it’s also one thing that can be typical. We have places like Shaw, Cherokee Street, the Grove, the Hill, like the Central West End and those are all beautiful places. I know that a lot of those communities are fighting to keep them historic and to keep them unique. I’d say that’s one thing that St. Louis is doing well at right now. The people of St. Louis are trying to be resistant to gentrification and losing their communities. So I’d say that fighting just for the culture and diversity of St. Louis is something that it’s doing well. There are a lot of stereotypes about neighborhoods not being as safe as others. I mean, obviously there’s some truth in the numbers, but it’s also like yeah we see that this neighborhood has a lot more violent crime. What are we going to do about that? More police is not the answer. The right question is how can we support those communities and get them what they need? And again, I’m not one who is big on policy and electoral politics but that’s the system we live in. We still acknowledge that since this is the power structure, we need to use it to our benefit.

“there are a lot of stereotypes about neighborhoods not being as safe as others. i mean, obviously there’s some truth in the numbers, but it’s also like yeah we see that this neighborhood has a lot more violent crime. what are we going to do about that? more police is not the answer. the right question is how can we support those communities and get them what they need?”

tinuola adebukola: Do you have any final thoughts or anything that you want to highlight?

brianna chandler: Something to take a look at is the Envi-

ronmental Racism Court that WashU put out; I think that’s interesting. I think it’s ironic that WashU is invested in fossil fuels, but they also put out the environmental racism report of how fossil fuels are basically just ruining the lives of Black people.



Our three interviewees have discussed the issues that plague St. Louis, how they see thos ing out in different parts of St. Louis, and factors that exacerbate inequity as well as ways improve these systemic problems. This section consists of a condensed synthesized analy views.

Through examining the history of St. Louis and listening to the three people interviewed obvious tie between race and socioeconomic status and the quality of life a resident of St Due to the knowledge of the racially segregated undertones present in the history of St. L surprise that the segregation score of St. Louis is higher than that of the United States.1 T has a segregation score of 65.5, while St. Louis has a segregation score of 71.2.2 The presen regation in St. Louis creates a divide across St. Louis City and St. Louis County. The racia of St. Louis City are 46.2% Black and 46.2% White3, whereas the racial demographics in S are 68.2% White and 24.9% Black.4 Delmar Boulevard marks the dividing line between th of North St. Louis and South St. Louis and is often referred to as the Delmar Divide. Whe in St. Louis has such an immense impact on that person’s health that residents on opposi Delmar Divide have up to an 18 year difference in life expectancy.5

Dr. Diana Parra Perez discussed inequities that communities of color on the northside of and County face regarding their health. She spoke on the fact that these communities are health risks, have less access to medical facilities than some other parts of the city, and ar be in poverty than predominantly White neighborhoods on the southside of St. Louis Ci Relating to this, education has been proven to be one of the strongest predictors of health life expectancy. When communities of color are deprived of educational opportunities an ple barriers to accessing education, they suffer negative health effects. Adam Layne discu education that communities in the northern region of St. Louis continue to face, focusing

1 Segregation scores are used to measure the degree to which minority groups are distributed differ 2 Barker, Jacob. “Racial Disparities in Income and Poverty Remain Stark, and in Some Cases, Are G in-some-cases-are-getting-worse/article_9e604fc3-c47d-581e-95a2-5a2166011a17.html. 3 “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: St. Louis City, Missouri.” Census Bureau QuickFacts. Accessed M 4 “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: St. Louis County, Missouri.” Census Bureau QuickFacts. Accesse 5 LaCapra, Véronique. “Report: Racial Health Disparities Affect Everyone In St. Louis, Not Just Afri one-st-louis-not-just-african-americans#stream/0.

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the inequities surrounding education in St. Louis City public schools. He mentioned that for students, transportation is a serious barrier in their access to education. Mr. Layne explained factors that exacerbate these barriers and inequities, and also provided suggestions for ways to combat them. On this topic of combating inequity, Brianna Chandler shined light on the power of activism in producing change for communities. She provided the perspective of a resident of St. Louis who has seen the effects of the education system and other systematic issues in St. Louis, and has witnessed the ways in which the region is divided. All our interviewees were able to list various ways in which St. Louis needs improvement, but they all were also able to identify ways in which St. Louis is progressing for the better. As for possible directions for the future, Dr. Parra Perez mentioned the importance of initiatives within communities as opposed to solely seeking for aid from outside the community. Brianna Chandler echoed a similar belief of encouraging the community to find other avenues of affecting change. Dr. Parra Perez provided examples of effective, low cost initiatives to make the community healthier, in order to reduce the public health issues that Black and Brown communities face. She stressed the importance of an intersectional perspective which aims to holistically resolve issues that are affecting the St. Louis community. Dr. Parra Perez also spoke heavily on having a more altruistic and empathetic mindset when approaching community issues to understand that “what is good for the community overall is ultimately good for everyone.” This exact idea is replicated by Mr. Adam Layne in his final thoughts saying “we’re all in this together […] I would urge everyone to take up [issues] as if [they] directly affect them.” All our interviewees are aware that when people within the St. Louis area feel a sense of obligation to their greater community and not just their small pockets of neighborhoods, the entire community will change for the better. Most importantly, the interviewees mentioned the benefits of approaching the issues that affect the St. Louis community through a trauma-informed lens. We must always keep in mind the history and the people of St. Louis when solving problems, and recognize the generational traumas of poverty, racism, and inequity which exist in this city.

rently than Whites. Getting Worse.”, August 7, 2019.

May 7, 2020. ed May 7, 2020. ican Americans.” St. Louis Public Radio. Accessed May 7, 2020.


Articles from St. Louis Perspectives: Interviews on Inequity