Episode 2 of an interview series with local activists about their work in Missouri.
Tell me about your work and your organization.
Recently I began getting involved working on homelessness in St. Louis as an independent citizen, not as part of an organization. I am a registered nurse and I worked at a community-based mental health organization in St. Louis City. Many people who are experiencing homelessness are uninsured or underinsured, they sleep outside, lose their meds or can’t afford them. I see the effects that structural problems have on real people and our politicians aren’t vocal enough. I don’t understand it, because everyday people are in dire need of support. It goes beyond housing and we lose sight of the big picture. We are failing some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
How’d you get started?
Growing up, my dad was involved in politics. I learned from him and the seeds were sown young. I am ordained as a pastor and that increased my involvement with community work, feeding people and being very active in the streets. My commitment to the work also strengthened when Mike Brown was murdered.
Thoughts on the recent election at the federal and state level?
Mortified to say the least. I can’t believe we will have five conservative statewide officials. And when you think about the regression all the way up to Trump it’s overwhelming. I can’t picture Missouri under Greitens and I anticipate heavy law and order rhetoric and expansion of police.
How do you mobilize people?
It depends on the task; we have a strong activist community. I am active on social media and use it as a mobilization tool. I have a good network and know who to call so I can put stuff together. I also reach out to clergy and elected officials.
What’s your issue personally?
I don’t have one. Its homelessness right now, but I work hard for marginalized communities, whoever it is. Silence is violence and I refuse to be a part of the injustices that run rampant in our society.
Advice to other activists?
Follow your passion, let it drive you and never back down. There is no activist god, no one is ordained. You just have to be active and do the work. It’s a learning by doing process.
Thoughts on the state of progressivism in St. Louis?
I love it. So glad I could join, meet wonderful people and contribute. Despite the recent election results we kicked butt and made our state recognize the progressive community. I’m excited to keep working and fighting for justice with these people.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Where do We Go from Here by Dr. King, Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Dr. Angela Davis and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
How do you stay inspired and engaged with the work?
I was fighting back tears on the way here tonight because I saw people who needed help. The work is never done, so it’s easy to stay engaged. Just by seeing people who need help and seeing people being active in their communities. My heart breaks when I see injustice.
If I were in charge in St. Louis, I would…
Work to ensure that marginalized communities are taken care of with continuous resources: jobs, homes and training. We can’t move forward while leaving some people behind.