Andrea Y. Henderson | KBIA

Andrea Y. Henderson

Andrea Henderson joined St. Louis Public Radio in March 2019, where she covers race, identity and culture as part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America. Andrea comes to St. Louis Public Radio from NPR, where she reported for the race and culture podcast Code Switch and produced pieces for All Things Considered. Andrea’s passion for storytelling began at a weekly newspaper in her hometown of Houston, Texas, where she covered a wide variety of stories including hurricanes, transportation and Barack Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inauguration. Her art appreciation allowed her to cover arts and culture for the Houston African-American business publication, Empower Magazine. She also covered the arts for Syracuse’s Post-Standard and The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.

Andrea graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and earned her master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University. For three years, she served on the board of the Houston Alliance of Fashion and Beauty as the media chair, and she is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. When the proud Houstonian is not chasing a story, she enjoys catching up on her shows, getting lost in museums and swimming in tropical waters.

Follow her journey through St. Louis via Twitter and Instagram at @drebjournalist.

Teachers and education advocates have long called for school districts to include more lessons on Black history in the K-12 curriculum. With the recent protests to save Black lives and the urgent request from white people to understand the Black experience, that call is gaining attention.

To help reimagine teaching Black history, the University of Missouri’s Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education will host a virtual Teaching Black History conference for educators that starts Friday.

Black history should not only discuss the traditional narratives of oppression, but it should provide context on African people and the contributions of Black people throughout history, said Lagarrett King, the center’s director.

Many Black St. Louisans are exhausted by the coronavirus pandemic and the fight to end systemic racism.

To help Black people manage mental and physical stress of troubled times, the Collective STL is offering the free five-week wellness series “Just Breathe STL” at the Missouri History Museum beginning Wednesday.

Black people need a space to breathe and release tension after seeing a Minneapolis police officer kill George Floyd and the many protests that have followed, said Ericka Harris, one of the Black-owned yoga studio's four owners.

Members of the Ethical Society of Police expressed frustration with St. Louis County on Monday for its lack of urgency to acknowledge the police union and the racial discrimination its Black officers face. 

The African American police union said it sent a memorandum of understanding to County Executive Sam Page more than a year ago to try to build an open relationship with county officials. Page signed the document Monday, which the union felt was long overdue.

Thousands of people across the St. Louis region gathered Friday to commemorate Juneteenth, the day when the  last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free.

But the day of celebration reflected the sadness of Black Americans who still yearn for equality more than 150 years after the Civil War ended — and their hope that a renewed struggle will lead to lasting change.

Juneteenth exists because some truth that was hidden was finally uncovered, and it's a celebration of that truth being liberated,” said the Rev. Michelle Higgins, senior pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ.

For generations, June 19 has been a day of celebration of heritage and liberation for many African Americans. Family and community gatherings across the nation, particularly in the South, commemorate the day when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free

As the nation enters a new era in the struggle for equality during weeks of protests aimed at stopping police from killing black people, Juneteenth celebrations are taking on greater significance, said Sowandé Mustakeem, an associate professor of history and Africa and African American studies at Washington University. 

After decades of protests against police brutality, 19-year-old Kenidra Adams thought stopping officers from killing black people would be a top priority for the country by now.

Then she saw how a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd last month when he pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes.

For Adams, that was a painful reminder that little has changed.

“I’m angry. I’ve been angry, and the fact that I’ve been fighting for almost seven years now and we are still here,” said Adams, of St. Louis. “We came a long way, but we still have some way to go.”

The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis is speaking out against racism and pledging support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Sunday, the foundation placed a full-page ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Under the banner “Standing For Racial Justice Black Lives Matter,” the foundation decried inequality and injustice.

Many members of the Muslim community in St. Louis were dismayed by the video of a Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd and understood the wave of protests that followed, foundation spokesperson Ghazala Hayat said.

African American ministers in St. Louis are upset about the looting and the violence that followed protests against police brutality this week.

They want people in the region to know that the looting that occurred late Monday, the shots fired at police and the slaying of former St. Louis police captain David Dorn have no place in the movement against police brutality.

People in St. Louis have joined demonstrators across the nation this week expressing outrage at the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and those of other black people.

Vivian Dudley was watching the news late Saturday when she noticed that fires were burning near the Epicenter, the retail space that houses her community center.

Protesters gathered outside the nearby Ferguson Police Department to express outrage that George Floyd, a black man, had died as a Minneapolis police officer pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck.

As the protesters decried Floyd's death and those of other black people in front of Ferguson officers, chaos erupted. Someone set fire to the beauty business next to Dudley’s center. Looters began breaking the windows of nearby businesses, some of them black-owned. Dudley is upset that her business was damaged. But she, too, was horrified about how Floyd died.

After years of ups and downs, Drake's Place in Ferguson was beginning to turn a profit in recent months, thanks to the many customers who kept coming back for its savory shrimp, potatoes and green beans. But when St. Louis County issued stay-at-home orders to stop the coronavirus from spreading, owner Bridgett Lewis had to cease dine-in services. 

That brought back bitter memories for Lewis. Six years ago, she had to limit the restaurant's hours after a police officer killed Michael Brown Jr., sparking chaos. But even that didn't prepare her for the hit her business has taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some days are pretty sad, very sad,” Lewis said recently. “Like yesterday we made $300. You can’t live off [that] and run a restaurant.” 

Updated at 5:35 p.m. with information on additional businesses

Customers lined up Monday morning outside a dozen MERS Goodwill locations in St. Louis and St. Louis County before stores reopened at 10 a.m. As the Florissant store quickly reached its 50-person capacity, other people waited outside on X’s marked on the ground — eager to get inside now that businesses can reopen.

Many wore cloth masks, and the few who didn’t were upset that they could not enter the store without one, said Tori Basile, Goodwill’s district retail manager.

“More than anything they’re just looking for that little return to normalcy and what they enjoyed doing before we closed the stores — coming in to treasure hunt and get some supplies that they may have needed while we were closed,” she said.

Businesses and consumers throughout the St. Louis region are preparing to resume their severed relationship in a few days.

For several weeks, officials required many businesses to close to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Restaurants could only offer drive-through or carry-out service.

On Monday, many businesses are expected to open as city and county officials will lift many of the measures they put in place. But retailers, restaurants and other companies will have to follow some restrictions. At restaurants, for example, employees will have to wear masks and customers will be encouraged to. Businesses will have to limit the number of customers allowed inside.

On April 8, St. Louis health director Dr. Fred Echols penned a column for the St. Louis American, in which he revealed that the first 12 COVID-19-related deaths in the city were African Americans.

At that time, no detailed racial data about who the virus was affecting was readily available to the public.

The St. Louis County NAACP chapter and Epworth Children and Family Services have launched a food distribution program to feed families hurt the most by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meal distribution will begin at 11 a.m. April 24, at Epworth’s Normandy campus at 7520 Natural Bridge Road. The two organizations plan to provide 1,000 pre-packaged, healthy lunches a week.

Like restaurants in the St. Louis region, local fashion businesses are either downsizing or shutting down indefinitely because of the pandemic.

Although many fashion designers and boutique owners have moved to online sales or are mass producing stylish face masks, the unexpected downturn in the economy has left designers and fashion entrepreneurs in limbo.

Alderwoman Pam Boyd, D-27th Ward, recognized the need for coronavirus testing stations in north St. Louis at the beginning of March. 

In meetings with local officials and fellow aldermen, Boyd found the city was on alert but seemed unaware of the impact coronavirus would have on the region. Specifically, Boyd sensed predominantly black north St. Louis would be forgotten in the city’s COVID-19 preparations. 

Nearly half of the St. Louis residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday are in predominantly black north St. Louis communities where health disparities are greatest and access to doctors is lacking.

City data shows there are 440 positive cases, with the highest number, 52, in ZIP code 63115, which includes the Mark Twain, Penrose and Greater Ville neighborhoods.

North St. Louis’ first COVID-19 testing site opens Thursday in the Carr Square neighborhood. 

Affinia Healthcare's 1717 Biddle St. location will begin drive-thru and walk-up testing in its parking lot for individuals who are experiencing symptoms and need to be tested for the virus.

Kendra Holmes, the center’s chief operating officer, said having a COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis is vital because African Americans in low-income areas often don’t have access to necessary health care. 

As foster care administrators in the region try to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus within their agencies, they are preparing for what could be an extremely trying time for children in their care.

Annie Malone Children and Family Services provides intensive care for children with extreme behavioral issues, so the enforcement of social distancing and school closures will significantly impact the foster children they serve.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition met Thursday with Mayor Lyda Krewson at St. James AME Church to ensure the city does not overlook its most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to discuss the social and spiritual impact that social distancing has on churches.

Krewson advised a group of about 10 clergymen that their churches should adhere to the 10-person-or-fewer rule for gatherings — which the city announced on Tuesday — while conducting services, because there are confirmed cases of the virus in the city as well as in St. Louis County. Others may have COVID-19 and unintentionally pass it on.

Updated March 27 with Missouri attorney general’s decision about the Jonathan Irons case

Less than one month after a Cole County judge overturned Jonathan Irons’ conviction, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt this week appealed the decision.

Schmitt filed a writ of certiorari in the case. Court documents say Cole County Judge Daniel Green “exceeded” his authority and “abused” his discretion in the ruling that overruled Irons' conviction.

Original story from March 16:

Since the spring of 2019, WNBA All-Star Maya Moore has not missed a single one of Missouri state inmate Jonathan Irons’ court hearings. 

For decades, white women have been the face of yoga across the nation. But inside a yoga studio in Old North St. Louis, the atmosphere is worlds apart.

At the Collective STL, yoga is taught by black instructors and the floor is filled with black educators and other professionals, community activists and students — many of whom are there to release the stress of trauma, family struggles and depression.

Since the studio opened in 2017, it has focused on improving the wellness of African Americans in St. Louis.

In professional sports, female athletes continue to fight for equality. They are pushing for equal pay, combating sexism within their particular sport and demanding maternal protections from sponsors. 

Three U.S. Olympic track stars — including Allyson Felix, Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño — voiced their opinions last year about sponsors who released them from their contracts because of their pregnancies. (After public outcry, Nike had a change of heart, announcing a new maternity policy that guarantees a sponsored athlete’s pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy.) 

Michael Burns remembers his parents using a booklet with a green cover to help direct their road trips from St. Louis to Chicago in the late 1950s and early '60s. 

At the time, he did not understand why they had to depart before dawn, but he did know the black-owned businesses listed in the booklet would keep African Americans free from harm while traveling. 

The booklet his family relied on was "The Negro Motorist Green Book" — more commonly known as the Green Book.

Darryl Diggs Jr. only had two African American male educators in his school years.

He met the first one, a physical education teacher, in grade school — and then another, a physiology teacher, in high school. At college, he only had one black male professor. 

Today, Diggs, 37, finds himself in a similar position. An assistant principal in Manchester at Parkway South High School for eight years, he’s the only black male administrator in his district. 

Every February, schools around the nation commemorate the accomplishments of African Americans by highlighting them through Black History Month lessons and programs. Some celebrate with school plays, guest speakers or hallway exhibits of locally and nationally known black figures.

Educators like Jameca Falconer, adjunct professor and director of Webster University’s Applied Educational Psychology and School Psychology program, believe it is the duty of parents of all races — as well as the community — to not limit interest in black culture to February.

Poverty and racism should not be discussed separately in St. Louis, author Wes Moore said.

“You can't look at a region like this, and you can’t look at places like my hometown of Baltimore and think that the reason that we have the racial wealth gap is just simply because one group isn't working as hard as the other,” Moore said.

Moore is CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, and the author of several young adult novels, as well as his bestselling biography, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.” 

Before being released from prison, Melvin Hill Jr. was doing everything in his power to secure a sustainable job that would allow him to fulfill his lifelong goals. 

Then a friend told him about the local nonprofit Concordance Academy of Leadership. Hill applied while he was still incarcerated. Last May, he was accepted into the program that supports reentry into society after prison.

Recently, the academy received $1 million to advance its mission of reducing recidivism in Missouri and Illinois with a holistic approach to reentry into society.

As a child, Nichole McHenry envisioned herself broadcasting the news, just like famed St. Louis anchor Robin Smith.

Although her dreams of becoming a reporter did not come to fruition, she found a different way to tell stories.

For the past 28 years, McHenry has been sharing the stories of national parks and other connected sites for the National Park Service. McHenry began working full time with the park service right after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

A Midwest nonprofit and a financial institution are partnering to invest $25,000 in one small energy business to help provide exposure, economic support and mentorship.

The CleanTech Inclusion Award was created to support minorities and women in the white, male-dominated energy space. It focuses on founders who have a product or service that mitigates harmful emissions, reduces carbon or positively impacts the environment. 

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