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One St. Louis couple strives to end racism ‘block by block,’ starting in Tower Grove

One St. Louis couple strives to end racism ‘block by block,’ starting in Tower Grove

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ST. LOUIS — Groups of neighbors chanting “Black Lives Matter” lined Compton Avenue on Friday evening under a gray sky and falling mist. East of Tower Grove Park and south to Dutchtown, groups cheered with passing cars and held up signs.

AJ and Jessica Winingham live in Tower Grove East and invited neighbors under a large umbrella in front of their home on Compton Avenue. They handed out produce and shared conversation with neighbors.

AJ Winingham began standing on this corner almost two months ago. The experience started something new for the neighborhood.

“I just came out here on a Saturday the first time and a ton of our neighbors were really moved,” Winingham said. “I had a couple of neighbors that stopped and were crying ... so I did it for 30 nights in a row.”

The effort caught the attention of fellow resident Richard Dalton, director of the Joshua Transformation Project, a community development organization. Dalton said he got to know the couple and said their work in central St. Louis could be a momentous start to ending racism in the region.

“People themselves, on their street ... in their neighborhood, (if they) start building relationships, start being kind to one another, treating each other decently — then you’ll see racism end,” Dalton said. “It starts street by street, block by block.”

Dalton continued: “It’s easy to curse the darkness, it’s better to light a candle. You can’t just keep accusing people of racism ... yes, it’s there. But we have to light a candle.”

On Friday, a group of neighbors from Dutchtown also gathered along Compton Avenue with a similar goal, many from the crowd said: to show solidarity with people of color living in the neighborhood.

Staci Lindsey, from Dutchtown, helped organize the event and said she was inspired by the Wininghams’ consistent demonstrations just five minutes north.

“We’re here tonight to stand in solidarity. We’re here to fight against the injustices, the disparities within the Black and brown community,” said organizer Latasha Smith, also from Dutchtown. “If we can use our voices to help, that’s what we’re doing.”

“It feels like it’s something that is necessary,” said Dutchtown resident Amanda Fair. “To me, it’s not a choice — because I am a white woman, I have a lot of choices. In this instance, it’s not a choice. We need racial equality, equity. We are currently fostering a little girl and she is African American. I am doing what I can now to make it a better future for her.”

The Wininghams in Tower Grove East say they plan to continue to show up on Compton Avenue the last Friday of every month. Organizers in Dutchtown are following the couple’s example.

“This isn’t a problem that’s gonna go away overnight, so we feel we need to show up and have a presence in our neighborhood for as long as we have to,” Lindsey said.

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