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  • For my first-ever radio piece, I spoke with Mya Petty about school desegregation, attending a mostly white school district and dismantling everything –

    Since second grade, Mya Petty has taken an hour-long bus ride from Baden, her mostly-black north St. Louis neighborhood, to Chesterfield – where most of her classmates were white.

    The recently graduated 18-year-old is one of thousands of students in St. Louis’ long-running school desegregation program, Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation. Last year, administrators voted to bring the decades-long program to a close.

    Petty is grateful for the education she received in the Parkway School District and will attend Saint Louis University in in August. However, leaving her neighborhood every day for 11 years to receive a quality education has her questioning the stark inequalities in both the public school system and the entire region.

    Listen to Mya talk about the social and emotional toll of being in the deseg program over at stlpublicradio.org.

  • Demonstrators gather outside Senator Roy Blunt's downtown Clayton office on Feb. 1, 2017 to show support for immigrants and refugees and protest Blunt's defense of President Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.

  • Jumira Moore, 8, watches as her mother, Timira Saunders, fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on election day.

  • A few from the past couple of months.

    Ladue Horton Watkins High sophomore Ali Brock speaks to Superintendent Donna Jahnke as students gather to protest racist incidents at the school.

    Bruce Franks Jr. speaks to his supporters after finding out he won a re-do primary election to run as the Democratic candidate for Missouri’s 78th District House seat.


    Brandi Johnson sits with 8-year-old Michael Conner as they observe a moment of silence in honor of Mike Brown during an anti-Trump protest in downtown St. Louis.

    Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander greets supporters as they welcome him to the stage at The Pageant in St. Louis.

  • Father of kidnapped Ayotzinapa 43 student speaks at Saint Louis University

    by Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio

    Mario González Contreras doesn’t like speaking at universities.

    The students who fill the lecture halls and seminar rooms are about the same age as his son, César. He notices his son’s features in their faces. Or maybe, he looks for them. And that’s when it hits him the hardest.

    On Sunday evening, González stood behind a lectern at Saint Louis University’s Center for Global Citizenship. About two dozen students listened intently as he talked about his son.

    César González Hernández turned 19 the spring before he left home to study at Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero, Mexico. He was bright and idealistic and eager to serve as a teacher in Mexico’s indigenous and marginalized communities. Communities like his.

    “He was a human being,” González said in Spanish. “With dreams and with flaws. But with more virtues than flaws.”

    The last time González heard from his son was at 5:35 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2014.

    That night, about 100 students from the Ayotzinapa school commandeered a handful of buses to get themselves to the capital. They hoped to attend a march marking the anniversary of a student massacre carried out decades ago by the government.

    Read more...

  • A church in the proposed NGA footprint: Congregation says goodbye

    by Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio

    In the same pulpit his father had preached from for decades, he clutched the microphone and spoke.

    “You whispered a word.”

    Fresh flowers decorated the lectern. He wore a white suit with a picture of his dad pinned to its lapel.

    “Father, we want to thank you for a beautiful life.”

    The Rev. Jonathan Davis opened his eyes and looked at the dozens of people swaying in the pews. They had all known and loved his father, The Rev. Joel Kelly Davis, and now they were here to say goodbye.

    They stood in the warm, cinder block building that has housed Grace Missionary Baptist Church for most of its 60-year existence. Each of them had a story about the elder Davis, who died two weeks ago at age 101.

    They traded memories, each one distinct except for the little church at Cass and Jefferson Avenues that tied them all together.

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    The Rev. Jonathan Davis preaches while speaking about his father.

    Felicia Davis, Rev. Jonathan Davis' wife, helps a church member's son with his shoelace.

    Members and visitors pray.

    Rev. Joel Davis' grandchildren announce their names for parishioners.

    Bob Hansman first sang at the Rev. Joel Davis' insistence.
  • Ashley Gregory stands with hundreds of other attendees at a St. Louis vigil held in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

  • Mike Mike's 20th birthday

    Balloons are released in commemoration of what would've been Mike Brown's 20th birthday.

    Cherish Turner, 11, with the Get Fit Dance Crew, shows off at a birthday party in honor of Mike Brown.

    A crowd surrounds Michael Brown Sr. as attendees get ready to release balloons.

    Calvin "Cap" Kennedy, with Chosen for Change, reads to children at the start of the party.

    Mike Hassell, with Chosen for Change, hugs Joshua Anderson, with the Get Fit Crew, during a dance off.

    Dashawn Moore, 8, places toy glasses on Michael Brown Sr. during a birthday party held in honor of Mike Brown.

    Marcellus Buckley, with Chosen for Change, comforts Trinetta Walker, Michael Brown Sr.'s daughter, after attendees released balloons.

    Dashawn Moore, 8, raises his fist in the air as a drone takes a picture of partygoers at a 20th birthday celebration for Mike Brown.

  • Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss is greeted by both supporters and protesters after being sworn in as chief.

    Activists, including Keith Rose, right, approach the Ferguson police department with a sign calling for police reform.

    Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss speaks with residents on his first day as chief.

    David Whitt, head of Ferguson's Copwatch, argues with Ferguson City Manager De'Carlon Seewood.

    Demonstrators stand in the street outside Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Karr's house to demand her resignation.

  • After the shooting of Jorevis Scruggs: Prayers and mourning

    by Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio

    Clergy members, activists and community members gathered Thursday to mourn the death of 15-year-old Jorevis Scruggs, who was fatally shot by police earlier this week. Police say the teen was shot after he pointed a gun at an officer who gave chase as Scruggs jumped out of a suspected stolen car.

    About three dozen people attended the vigil, placing teddy bears and “Black Lives Matters” signs in the residential alley where Scruggs died near St. Louis Avenue and Bacon Street. They lit candles, prayed and called for changes in community-police relations.

    The interfaith group held hands near a laminated photo of Scruggs tacked to a utility pole as Rev. Robert Scott led a prayer. Many wiped away tears. 

    “There’s a family that has lost a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew,” Rev. Scott said.

    “I am sick and tired of going to prayer vigils for young black men and women who are being shot by police. We're sick and tired of having to come together and deal with the same thing over and over and over and over and over here in the St. Louis region.”

    “There are some who just look at this as another day on the job and it would be my prayer, oh God, that you will temper their consciousness. So that they can understand that you don’t just shoot anyone cavalierly and then go on about your business.” – Rev. Robert Scott

    “If the economic conditions were a level playing field, we wouldn’t have to worry about this young man being in a stolen car because he would know that by the time he turns 18, he can get one of those … Because the opportunity would be there. See, we have to look at this thing as a broad spectrum. Not just a murder in the street. There’s a reason why our kids do what they do. Because you have not leveled the playing field.” – Beverly Jones

    “There are times where I want to raise the question ‘Why?’ This is our lament. This is our pain. A mother is hurting somewhere. Siblings are hurting somewhere. An uncle came down. He couldn’t even stay because he’s in so much pain.” – Rev. Robert Scott

    “I was here the day it happened. I saw that young man running for his life and shot in the back … This is not my first vigil. This is not my first time standing in an alley mourning a black life and what’s happening around here is there is no regard for humanity … The officers pronounced him dead and threw a sheet on him before the ambulance even arrived.” – Myron Winston

    “I heard Syreeta [Myers] say once: VonDerrit [Myers] wasn’t perfect. But he deserved to grow up. How many of our kids make mistakes? … I’m not sure that enough of us are outraged. That enough of us have shed our tears. Because the blood of our children calls out from the ground again.” – Rabbi Susan Talve 

    “We need to grow a generation that sees a future. Not a generation that doesn’t think they matter, doesn’t think that they have a future. We have to lament the future that this young man lost. And maybe didn’t even think that he had.” – Rabbi Susan Talve 

    “Whatever happened that caused this encounter – Was it really worth risking bullets in this neighborhood? Was it worth the little kids that could’ve been playing in their yard … and could’ve been hit by a stray bullet? Was it really worth that? Is a car worth that? Are there material possessions worth that kind of recklessness? We have to get outraged about the devaluing of life.” – Rev. Traci Blackmon

    “We charge you to build relationships with folks that don’t look like you. That don’t act like you, that don’t think like you, that don’t worship like you. Build a coalition. That’s how we change things. Put aside our differences. And understand that my child is as valuable as anybody else’s.” – Rev. Karen Anderson

    “What they say is you have the right to remain silent. I say today: You have the right not to remain silent. We have the right to lift our voices in protest. We have the right to cry out in lament. We have the right to cry out in disgust at a system that proclaims that we are all free and equal and we are not.” – Rev. Karen Anderson  

  • Aden Jones Jeffries, 8, son of St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, sits alongside Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen, while listening to celebratory speeches at St. Louis Public Schools headquarters last night after citizens voted to pass Proposition 1, a tax increase that will funnel money toward city schools.

  • School newscast empowers Riverview Gardens students to tell their own stories

    by Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio

    Fifth-grader Saniya Bryant sits at a desk at Koch Elementary, meticulously studying a set of questions. Behind her, a lime green cloth hangs from the ceiling. Across from her, a fourth-grader swivels a video camera in her direction.

    “Quiet on set.”

    Saniya is prepping herself to conduct an interview for Koch TV, the school's student-run online newscast. Originally a public speaking course for fourth- and fifth-graders, the class morphed into a news operation this year.

    Every Thursday, students gather in a converted teacher's lounge at the Ferguson-area school to do research, prepare questions and write scripts. They record each other in front of the makeshift green screen with Principal Howard Fields’ personal Canon equipment and an iPad teleprompter.

    They often interrupt the show to burst into song – a “Hello?” spoken into a mic becomes a quick Adele impersonation – and crack jokes – “You sound like some chicken without seasoning!” – but Fields is quick to point out the valuable skills they’re learning while having fun.

    “They’re working on critical thinking, literacy, listening – components they’re being assessed on outside of Koch TV,” he said. “Everything we do is about impacting student achievement.”

    A former high school basketball coach, Fields brings a coaching mentality to the news team. He reminds students to play their part – producer, anchor, cameraman – and work together.

    “Mr. Fields steps back and lets us do what we’re capable of,” said fifth-grader Myauna Hayes, who Fields describes as a star reporter. “We’re all in this together.”

    Read more...

  • A couple of portraits from a recent series looking at the toll a homicide takes on families, neighborhoods, first responders and the legal system.

    Mary Pat Carl, lead homicide prosecutor for the city of St. Louis.

    Mike Mahon, an attorney with Missouri's public defender system.

  • A few from my first month in St. Louis.

    U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, greets Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, during a Hillary Clinton campaign event in St. Louis.

    Anaya Chenna, 5, of St. Louis, participates in a candlelight vigil aimed at raising awareness of the toll of gun violence in St. Louis at Saint John's United Church of Christ.

    Murphy Lee poses for a portrait at Vape Ya Tailfeather, his new vape shop, in St. Charles.

    Grace Kenyon walks her dogs, Lhenny and Brown, near the Ashley Street Power House, a city landmark that developers have said could become a team store in the proposed stadium plan.

  • Estero High kicker Emily Culvahouse kicks during football practice on Oct. 29, 2015.

    Ashley Ward, director of the Next Level Leadership Academy at Next Level Church, prays during a vigil for those injured during a shooting at ZombiCon at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. 

    Rene Calambu, of Fort Myers, and 10-month-old Jaylin Amador Diaz, of Naples, look onto the runway while waiting to board Choice Aire flight 908 to Havana on Nov. 2, 2015. Southwest Florida International Airport began direct service to José Martí International Airport on Monday afternoon.

    Emily Culvahouse, right, watches teammates run drills during football practice at Estero High School on Oct. 29, 2015.

    Emily Culvahouse watches teammates run drills during football practice at Estero High School on Oct. 29, 2015. Culvahouse has been a kicker at Estero since her freshman year. 

  • Richland Balsam. Blue Ridge Mountains, N.C.

  • Ben and Alyson. Nashville, Tenn.

  • Around Town: In the elderly pockets of Naples, Bob Shea searches for healing

    He is Bob Shea. He is 57. With purpose, he wears ridiculous hats. His colorful Hawaiian shirt tucks into his bluejeans. He holds a beige C.F. Martin and strums simple chords.Shea does about 40 of these sessions per month, playing guitar for residents of nursing homes. Some would call it music therapy. Shea, who lives in Bonita Springs, calls it something more than that.Read more here: http://bit.ly/1IPfRUE

  • Top: Gloria Sellers tears up as Bob Shea performs "Amazing Grace" at HarborChase of North Collier, an assisted living memory care center, on July 22, 2015. A nurse by trade, Shea now spends his time performing dozens of shows a month for patients with dementia at memory care centers in the area. Bottom: Residents sit in the main common room at HarborChase of North Collier as Bob Shea performs on June 25, 2015. The assisted living memory care center aims to provide socialization and stimulation for patients with dementia.

  • Susan Homan, center, sister of Marilyn Spiegel, is comforted by her husband, Richard, as the verdict is read in the case against her sister's killer, Michael Spiegel, in Lee County court on Aug. 21, 2015. A jury found Michael Spiegel guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Marilyn, his ex-wife, and Harry Carlip, her soon-to-be husband.

  • William Collins, 5, sits in a reading corner in his new kindergarten classroom as his parents fill out paperwork for the upcoming school year during an open house at Poinciana Elementary School in Naples on Aug. 13, 2015. Collier County public school students head back to school Monday morning.

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    IMMOKALEE, Fla. - Wearing dusty cowboy boots and a crisp button-up shirt, Brianna Blocker coaxed her 17-month-old steer, Handsome, out of his pen.

    Tugging on his harness, she led Handsome to the dirt road outside her home in Immokalee. Her brothers, Scott and Justin, brought their steers out too, for one final photo. The siblings had spent the last year raising the animals and handled them with ease.

    Soon, they would show their steers at the Collier County Fair’s livestock show before putting them up for a market auction. In one week, they would be butchered.

    Brianna, 12, slung her arm around her 1,372-pound steer and smiled for the camera.

    She had begged her dad to let her show a steer for years. Once she qualified to show big animals at age 8, Brianna was ready to move on from the hogs she started working with as a 5-year-old. They compromised — Brianna would show a heifer. She did well three years in a row, winning Grand Champion in the division in 2012.

    “So last year I spoke up,” Brianna said. “I finally said, ‘Can I finally show a steer?’”

    Her parents drove her to a farm in Alachua County and she picked out Handsome. He was black and white and finicky. For a year, she fed him every day. She walked him to build his muscle. The more time she spent with him, the more calm he became. At prospect shows across the state, she’d lay down with him in his pen.

    Last month, amid the bustle of the Collier County Fair, she clipped on Handsome’s harness and rubbed his brow. She gave him a few quick kisses before nudging him out of his pen and onto the floor. Together, they won Grand Champion in the steer show.

    A week later, he sold for $4.50 a pound.

    “This year, I was — I don’t know,” she said, of selling off Handsome. “I was upset. But you know what’s gonna happen at the end.”

    On a recent afternoon, Brianna got home from school and slipped off her backpack. She traded her sneakers for a worn pair of boots and walked out back with her older brother, Scott. They measured out feed and poured it into a bucket for Whiskey.

    Whiskey is seven months old, with matted light brown hair. Brianna bought him two days after she sold Handsome.

    Every afternoon, she wraps her fist around his harness and leads him to his feed. He pulls away with all 530 pounds. She furrows her brow and sighs. They’re still getting used to each other.

    Over the next few months, he’ll grow calmer and they’ll grow closer. Soon, Brianna will lay in his pen with him.

    - Carolina Hidalgo, staff

  • Kathy Lowers, center, of Naples, prays with her daughters, Izzy, left, 10, and Maggie, 18, right, outside the Collier County courthouse in recognition of the National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2015.

    Joshua Tatum, 11, of Naples, prays with a crowd Thursday afternoon outside the Collier County courthouse in recognition of the National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2015.

  • Sgt. Danny Salls, with the Collier County Sheriff's Office, fits second grader Christine Belizeire, 8, with a new helmet before the start of the school day in Immokalee on May 6, 2015. Students were encouraged to bike to Pinecrest Elementary Wednesday as part of National Bike to School Day.

    First grader Junior Sanchez learns how his new helmet should sit on his head from Cpl. Michael Taylor, right, with the Collier County Sheriff's Office, in Immokalee on May 6, 2015. Sanchez was one of many students who biked to Pinecrest Elementary as part of National Bike to School Day.

  • The Naples Bears, made up of high schoolers from half a dozen local schools, practice at Palmetto Ridge High School on April 7, 2015. The team is headed to the state rugby championship game this weekend with eight championships under its belt. 

  • Kaneisha Atwater, center, celebrates with Whitney Knight, left, after FGCU beat NKU 60 to 43 to win the Atlantic Sun Women's Basketball Championship tournament at Alico Arena on March 15, 2015. 

  • Danelle Downs, of Fort Myers, left, Jamia Curry, visiting from North Carolina, center, and Kami Peoples, also from North Carolina, right, take instructions from a booth worker as he gives them extra chances to make baskets at the Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair at the Lee Civic Center in North Fort Myers on March 4, 2015. 

    Janiele Garza, 5, of Immokalee, surveys an ice cream cone on the last day of the Collier County Fair in Naples on March 22, 2015. 

    Omar and Anabelle Hendricks, ages 3 and 4, of Naples, share an ice cream at the Collier County Fair on March 13, 2015.