This is East Saint Louis, Illinois, an all Black city, where the American Dream took a wrong turn, leaving an entire city without resources for over 30 years. For Black American’s, in a country that profiles their failures with staggering statistics, effecting positive change on the local level is a daunting task.
The African American population of East St Louis has witnessed extreme racial prejudice, isolation, segregation, abandonment, lower pay, poor schools, wide spread poverty, corruption and joblessness, yet, a spirit has survived, a spirit of culture and community and an example of grassroots efforts that deserves to be honored and taught.
What has survived in East Saint Louis speaks to the depths of the human spirit, the fundamental need for human dignity, and the right to belong within a community, no matter what the circumstances.
East Saint Louis today may have one of the rarest genuine cultures of our time, something uniquely authentic, with its own voice and logic and worldview. No melting pot of people and cultures, no capitalist/corporate infrastructure –instead a monoculture, born out of a nation’s racial ignorance and the fundamental need to belong; where surviving and thriving are heroic efforts. Sleeping under the blanket of poverty, hidden from the view of a racist nation, there is a city that holds within it’s cultural bounds a most striking truth.
By acknowledging the importance of this cultural phenomenon and fostering a spirit of good will and hope we have an opportunity to bring to light some of the accomplishments, true history, and intrinsic value of a culture whose American experience has been vastly misunderstood and overlooked.