St. Louis: A City With Two Tales

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  • Life has a way of helping us keep things in perspective.  If we aren’t cynical and listen to its lessons, hopefully we can learn and grow. For months, a high school friend was preparing for me to come back to St. Louis, not far from my hometown, for a book signing party.

    You can imagine how excited I was when she told me the event would be held at one of city’s iconic locations: Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust, the restaurant featured on the OWN reality show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s. My marketing mind kicked into high gear with ideas to promote the event.  The last thing I wanted was to arrive with lots of fanfare only to find three people in line!

    I was happy and humbled when old friends from high school, new friends from social media, my entire immediate family including my nephews, nieces and cousins, people from my old neighborhood who know more about me than I care to think about, Tom Joyner Morning Show listeners and Sweetie Pie’s proprietor, the legendary Miss Robbie, showed up to support me.

    The love I was shown was overwhelming – from people who I knew could have put that $20 to buy my book toward all kinds of other things – to my niece, a recent high school graduate, actually videotaping me signing her copy.

    Coming back home can be daunting. I’ve heard stories of people who’ve achieved certain levels of success who are made to feel less than special when they return home to visit the people who “knew them when.”

    I owe so much to the village that shaped and prepared me for adulthood and a career first as a teacher, then a morning radio personality on WGCI in Chicago, to the senior producer of the Tom Joyner Morning Show and now, as a best-selling author.

    It had been many years since I’d been back in St. Louis and more specifically, the suburb of Rock Hill, Missouri. I took a quick tour through the old neighborhood to take photos of the park named for my dad, former mayor Kennard Whitfield, stopped at my favorite pizza joint and visited our old family house. It brought so many fond memories flooding back. Though everything was smaller than I remembered, the smiles and hugs were bigger than ever.   

    Now it feels surreal that while I was my getting hair and makeup done for the book signing and looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends, just a few miles away, a young man was gunned down by police.

    His death sparked protests, rioting, looting and lots of unanswered questions about the fate of Black teenagers at the hands of law enforcement in this country.

    Yep, things are in perspective now.

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