May 14, 2009
April 21st marked my 44th anniversary in the St. Louis area. It was a pretty uneventful occasion. Since then, many things have changed in our communities and societies. I was amazed at the stark contrast of the City of San Francisco, where I had recently departed and the urban environment of The Gateway City. I also noticed the dissimilarity of the City of Chicago, where I was raised.
The first difference that caught my attention was the crisis with the city public schools. In 1965 the board of education was promoting a bond issue asserting that if it did not pass, the city schools would have to close. I could not imagine a community that was in such distress that the public schools might close. Apparently I was wrong in 1965 and I am equally disturbed and surprised in 2009. The unprecedented and unthinkable of more than four decades is now a reality. How can this be?
I at once become aware of individuals who took a leadership role in helping to make this a great city as I melded into the customs and traditions of the community of which I soon learned to admire and respect. I met Norman Seay, Charles Coen, Diane White, James Buford, ACTION, the Black Liberators, Percy Green, members of the Black Press and the other organizers that had transformed the scenes and shaped the mind-set of the region, as well as the many politicians that contributed to the renaissance of the area.
As an announcer and disc jockey at KATZ, I was proud to be a member of a medium that provided information and entertainment to a city that was on the move. A modern city with hospitals to care for the regions health needs and services and neighborhoods opening to citizens that were once restricted. There was Homer G. Phillips Hospital that was built to serve the city's black population by black physicians who could not be employed elsewhere. There was DePaul Hospital and Faith Hospital, also located on the city’s North Side.
The city had Malcolm Bliss Mental Health Center, and Max Starkloff Hospital. The poor and indigent had St. Louis County Hospital providing health care for the region.
The black radio stations, KATZ, KWK and KXLW were playing the music of Motown, Stax, Atlantic and other labels that were popular with the masses. They competed against KXOK and WIL, not only for listeners, but also for advertising dollars.
We had the Black Circle and Soul Brotherhood television dance shows on channel 30, and the preachers would make sure the music we played did not offend our audience, especially women and children. At that time we welcomed the challenge of an open St. Louis and we interacted with art and culture.
Eventually the people elected an African American mayor, African American school superintendent, African American police chief and African American Fire Chief.
Then something happened. During this period, we were inundated with Superfly, The Mack, Dolemite and other Blaxplotation movies, and the music changed to a medium of promoting drugs, sex and misogyny. This was no accident. These changes were deliberate and well planned and we fell right into the well laid trap of the media magnates and their political allies. We were lulled to sleep.
The community landscape is very different now, which requires us to take a new dimension into account in our personal and private relations. It is worse in some areas than it was in 1965. We have lost most of what we had gained. Our children are becoming murderers and wannabe ‘gangsta’s.
Complacency is not acceptable. Imagine what the area would be like if we had continued with the development we were making in the 60’s and 70’s. This is why we today must take stock of the progress achieved and lost and agree on the future priorities for making our communities safer, taking into account the developments that are dividing our neighborhoods.
We must endure and develop by the talent and ability of our people. It is a matter of survival. We have now come full circle and it is now time to develop and walk a straight line.
I can be reached by fax at (314) 8373369 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.