To St. Louis, Ferguson-Florissant, Columbia, KCMO, SEMO, Maryville, Mizzou, Normandy, Hazelwood, Bingham Street, and North Side:
From York, the slave of Lewis and Clark, to Dred Scott, to Mike Brown we have been leaders. Our Black men have been trailblazers to furthering the cause. They have been counted out, beaten down, and left out of our history books. Missourians know we have a long way to go because we have seen where our brothers and sisters have led us from.
Only in the Midwest can you see a Klan rally and a Crip post up across the road from one another. Only in the Midwest do both groups yell, “What, nigga?!” Our cornfields have hidden lynched bodies. Our campuses have been covered in cotton by bigots. Our corners have born witness to tarred bodies and burnt buildings. When they say we live in a post-racial America, we think they must have forgotten about little old Missouri.
Our parents were the first Black kids on the school buses to desegregated schools. Our older brothers were the first to fail the MAP test. We have seen well-off white public schools successfully vote to deny our education in “their” schools. We have seen schools blame this on a lack of funds; yet, schools found funds to keep star athletes on their grounds. Now at Mizzou—a school almost every Missouri student has been recommended to attend—even the prized athletes are reminded that Midwestern hospitality comes in shades of color. Being reminded that being young and gifted has its limits if you are black.
So, my fellow Missourians, we have to keep our heads up. When you’re riding home and 2pac’s “Changes” comes on the radio at 2am (like it does every Saturday) remember to be inspired. We come from a long line of pioneers. These are just more growing pains. We were the gateway to the West, and now it’s time to be a gateway to progress.
A special thanks to the St. Louis American for publishing this article in print and online under the title “We Are Pioneers”