Saint Louis Story Stitchers reflect today, Monday, January 21, 2019, the 6th Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday since the Story Stitchers was founded in August of 2013.
Today, as was the story 6 years ago, although a child born anywhere in St. Louis, Missouri may be well-loved, the child does not enter the world of equality of which Dr. King had dreamed.
Dr. Jason Purnell, director of Health Equity Works notes, “There are two St. Louis communities — 9 miles between them yet worlds apart. A child born in Clayton can expect to live 18 years longer than a child born in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood in North St. Louis.”
Eighteen years old is the average age of the youth at Story Stitchers. This is a tragic and preventable loss.
Jeff-Vander-Lou is the home of Story Stitchers partner organization, Tillie’s Corner Historical Project. Tillie’s Corner is located at 1349 N Garrison Ave 63106. Each summer Story Stitchers artists join with Carla and Miguel Alexander and members of the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood to bring health resources to the people during a locally-generated Block Party as part of the Story Stitchers Pick the City UP tour. Jeff-Vander-Lou is a neighborhood marked by history, by love and family, by loss and agony, by children, community gardens and churches, by poverty, hunger, gun violence and suffering. Jeff-Vander-Lou is a neighborhood bursting with note-worthy stories.
A drive through Jeff-Vander-Lou will help one understand the disparity that is the current version of St. Louis. Resources are scarce. Grocery stores are not found here. Children must be in before dark when tires screech and guns are fired. The local elementary school may soon be closed, leaving a massive building in the center of the neighborhood and directly across the street from Tillie’s Corner vacant, inviting vandalism.
A day in Jeff-Vander-Lou will help one understand the beauty of the people who live there and can help one understand what each one of us can do with our neighbors to shrink the disparity of those 18 years of life lost to the child born here.
“Nothing beats a failure but a try.” — Miss Tillie
Pay attention and encourage others to do so
Donate to a charity that works with or supports local youth
Mentor a child or youth
Support and attend activities where youth present
Sponsor a youth field trip, a community garden plot or a Story Stitchers program
Read to a child
Volunteer at a local school
Story Stitchers have been working this month to prepare a new body of work. The program is called “STAND DOWN RISE UP Respect and Redirect.” The presentation features seven young local African American poets who are ages 16-21. The program looks back at African Americans throughout Missouri’s history who have effected violence or the causes of violence such as bias, poverty, self awareness and self esteem, mental illness, police brutality, or segregation.
The February 2nd program will take place at the 23rd Annual St. Louis Association of Community Organizations Conference and will also feature Story Stitchers Artists in Residence Bobby Norfolk, Master Storyteller and rap artist KP Dennis. All programs include a Q&A. The Conference is a good way to learn about our neighbors throughout the city.
This program is presented for Black History Month with support from Missouri Foundation for Health, Missouri Humanities Council, The Incarnate Word Foundation, and Gateway Arch National Park.
February 2, 2019
St. Louis Association of Community Organizations
23rd Annual Neighborhood Conference
St. Louis Community College at Forest Park
February 18, 2019
10:00 -11:00 AM (Private Presentation)
City of St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center
February 18, 2019
Gateway Arch National Park