Thank you to everyone who came out in the middle of snow and cold to Venture Cafe's Sustainable Development of Cities week to learn about 3 NSTL organizations who are the village around our youth and families. These organizations are paving the path forward for St. Louis - investing in building people and our environment as the keys to local and regional economic development.
Thank you Andre Maurice Alexander (The Tabernacle Community Development Corporation), Charles Barnes (Fathers, Families Support Center), and Bobby Bonner (BM3 Technology/Afterschool Labs) for all you are doing for our city.
We covered a lot of ground - defining sustainable development and the work of building communities as integral to sustainable and thriving neighborhoods.
Each of the 3 organizations - The Tabernacle Community Development Corporation, Fathers & Families Support Center, and BM3 Technology/Afterschool Labs explained what life was like in NSTL from the 60's to today and the history of disinvestment that led to the deterioration of the tax base, public services, including street care, environmental protections, funding for education, grocery stores, transportation, employment opportunities, housing, and more.
They explained how that disinvestment affects how people feel about themselves - and the tremendous array of coping skills needed to navigate this much loss.
They explained how mid-century in the midst of people, businesses, and jobs relocating to the county, and in the midst of decreasing housing options for black and brown people who could not access mortgages, welfare was used to remove fathers from their homes, which meant fathers had to choose between employment and living separated from their families and unemployment.
They explained how despite these obstacles, black and brown families and communities were making the most of every resource they could find, were building their own businesses, hospitals and entertainment districts and were a village around every child.
Furthermore, Bobby explained how Busch stadium brought black and white communities together in the 60's and brought a slew of resources that provided enough for everyone and helped strengthen relationships among white and black families. When the stadium moved to downtown, these resources moved with it. And competition set in. White families who experienced the loss of resources that came with the stadium began shutting down black-owned businesses by cutting off distribution so they could build their own stores.
There is so much more to the story of how resources moved away from North St. Louis and to the story of each of these organizations and how they are rebuilding people and opportunities and hope through partnerships with every sector of society and through the development of affordable and green housing, one step at a time.
They are employing NSTL residents in rehabbing homes. They are providing sustainable trainings that equip families with the knowledge and communication skills needed to navigate every area of their life and every sector of society. They are using and disposing of materials in ways that do not harm construction workers or the environment. They are building every resource needed for NSTL and placing it in one central location where communities can access everything in one stop. They have youth leadership programs and are forming partnerships to build in cutting-edge resources to our public schools.
They are promoting the development of people and environments as crucial to the development of our local and our regional economies. They are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
There is so much more to share. Please share the story of North St. Louis with your friends and families as we continue to fill in more dots. Please share the work these organizations are doing. Please help educate people in your communities about what took place in our region and in North St. Louis and about what community-centered development that sustains communities entails -
We can support the organizations who are rebuilding these resources one step at a time. They are non-profits. Please share them with your companies and start conversations about how to honor every person and increase diversity, access to employment, and respecting our differences as integral to learning how to serve all communities.
Please consider donations. Please help start and sustain the conversations that lead to change in our region.
Stay posted as we continue to share and unpack the path forward for St. Louis and how we build ourselves as a region rooted in our regional history and in the organizations who have supported the resilience of NSTL residents over time and today.
Learn more about the work of Community Allies here https://www.communityalliesconsulting.com - to provide the ethnodramatic approach Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ as a means to building connected change-making communities in our schools, businesses, and communities and to coordinate regional partnerships to ensure as a region we are investing in all of our schools, youth and families - NSTL and East St. Louis especially and undoing years of disinvestment.
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. is a community researcher and specialist in the design of collaborative processes that foster cross-cultural communication that leads to informed collective action.