After reading a recent New York Times article featuring a north Saint Louis neighborhood and the violence that it’s citizens live with daily, I realize that I see my neighborhood with different eyes. I am a born and raise resident of the same north Saint Louis neighborhood. Like most of my neighbors, I have witnessed or been a victim of crime in our neighborhood. Folks always ask my family and me “Why don’t you move?” We always reply, “Why? What will happen when all the good folks are gone?”
Two generations of both my parents’ families have been reared here. My husband and I are raising the third generation, my 8-month-old son here. After the tender first moment I looked into my newborn son’s eyes, I experienced a bittersweet wave of emotion that followed. I felt the joy of adding another beloved son to our family, then the bitter aftertaste that my husband and I will be raising a black male in the city of Saint Louis, where there are far more dangers than opportunities.
The young man featured in the NYT article exposed a reporter to his daily life as a black male living in the north city neighborhood, College Hill. I found his story of violence, hopelessness and loss all too familiar. I watched my brothers and male cousins navigate a world designed for them to fail. Many of them “loss” the game and some lived long enough to get out of the game. This story is one of many major cities across the country. It is not a story unique to Saint Louis, but it is unique to the experience of the black male in America.
After reading the article a second time, I came to the conclusion that my experience being raised in North Saint Louis is not summed up by the violence, but a wealth of memories of the great things that happened- marching in the neighborhood annual Annie Malone parade, the park I first played tennis or the time I found $20 in the winter snow. We have decided to raise our family in the city of Saint Louis in the hope that we can change things, even if it is just within the walls of our home.
I look upon my son’s face and wonder what we can do as his parents to help guide him through this world. I have already had many sleepless nights devising future plans for our son. The sky is the limit as they say.