Ashley Lisenby | KBIA

Ashley Lisenby

Ashley Lisenby is the race, identity and culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. She came to KWMU from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where she was a general assignment reporter who mostly covered county municipal government issues. Before making the switch to radio, Ashley covered Illinois government for The Associated Press in Springfield, Illinois, and neighborhood goings-on at a weekly newspaper in a Chicago suburb. Ashley is a Chicago native (yes, the city not the suburbs). She has a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

More: ​​Sharing America Project

Updated at 1:30 p.m. with comments from Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III.

Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss has plans to leave the position, a city official said Wednesday.

Ferguson City Manager De'Carlon Seewood told St. Louis Public Radio that Moss is leaving his post to return to his native Florida to be with his family.

St. Louis activist and filmmaker Cami Thomas moved back to St. Louis from college a year after Michael Brown’s death. While news of the 2014 shooting and the protests that followed grabbed national attention, she was miles away at school — grappling with the developments and fallout.

When she returned to St. Louis, Thomas said people told her she was fortunate to move back “after the smoke cleared.” In talking with neighbors and friends, however, she wondered if locals weren’t still wrestling with age-old problems — namely segregation and discrimination.

The University City Tax Increment Financing commission approved a proposal Thursday that would release millions of dollars in money for development in the 3rd Ward. The commission voted 10-2 in favor of the financing plan.

But residents remained split on how the city should bring those improvements to fruition.

Much of the redevelopment proposal hinges on the first phase of the plan secured by local company Novus Development. The plans would bring big box retail and high-end living to a location near Interstate 170 and Olive Boulevard.

The door is off its hinges in Farlon Wilson’s bathroom. Wilson said that’s an improvement from when she first moved in, when there was no bathroom door at all. She said she’s putting in work orders to fix the problems nearly every week.

“The tub won’t stop leaking and the floor is about to fall,” Wilson said while demonstrating how the floor bends under the pressure of her foot. “I have no access to my bathroom water, period. I’ve had to turn it off because it’s leaking in my kitchen.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, she motioned to a patch in the ceiling where water once leaked through and later talked about how she and her family’s breathing has been affected by mold. She pays less than $100 a month in rent.

UPDATED at 12:35 p.m. on Aug. 20 with statement from St. Louis Medical Examiner's Office saying the autopsy would take eight to 15 weeks.

Jail-reform advocates are calling conditions at St. Louis' Medium Security Institution into question again after a man collapsed there and later died at a hospital last week.

Police are not identifying the inmate. But a group of people who say they are the former inmate’s relatives told media and local activists the man’s name is Louis Lynn Payton.

Tamyka Brown was perfecting her shot. Her target sheet, riddled with bullet holes, showed she knows what she’s doing. When asked about her time on the gun range, Brown responded with a smile.

“Great. It went great,” she said. “Like, I want to go again, but I think I’ma pass and come back next Thursday.”

Brown comes to the range with her husband often. But on a recent Thursday in July she was bonding with other women of color at Sharpshooter's Pit and Grill over guns and targets.

Bobbi Len Taylor Mitchell-Bey's children were killed at the Clinton-Peabody housing complex in south St. Louis more than a year ago.

On Friday, she asked federal and local law enforcement officials to find out who killed them, and others.

“I’m trying to ask about all the unsolved murders out here,” she said, during a meeting at Peabody Elementary School. “‘Cuz I done lost two children down here. Not saying they was the best of kids, but they weren’t bad, so what y’all doing about that?”

Mitchell-Bey was among a couple of dozen residents of Clinton-Peabody who attended the meeting to demand better policing and better access to city services and resources.

The Natural Bridge location of the St. Louis County Library is a little less quiet than usual. Instead of the occasional rustling of paging through books or the light tapping of computer keyboards, one meeting room at the library is electrified with children’s exclamations of elation. A celebrity is in their midsts.

About two dozen children, ages 11-14, met St. Louis rapper Chingy on Thursday. The hip-hop recording artist helped kids at Hip-Hop Architecture Camp — a week-long program that combines music and urban planning. The project focused on imagining a new North Hanley Transit Center.

Yellow police caution tape barred people from entering the Gas Mart at the corner of Delmar and Goodfellow boulevards on Tuesday. No one could buy gas. No one could shop at the store.

The temporary closure came after a woman was kicked by two store employees outside the business on July 24. The woman has been identified as Kelli Adams. Protests ensued a few hours after a video of the incident went viral on social media.

Ava Battelle leans into her camp counselor at the back of a big cafeteria called Miller Hall at Wonderland Camp. Parents, including Ava's mom, are registering their kids for another week there. Ava’s counselor, Sydney Dungan, dangles her arm across the girl’s shoulders.

“You don’t get any other experience like this than to live with someone with disabilities for a whole week, getting really close with them, and then just seeing them as a real person and not just as their disability,” Dungan said later.

The Arch grounds reopening is happening again after photos of the initial ribbon-cutting on Tuesday showed a lack of racial diversity.

As the common saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The photos showing city officials and guests cutting the ribbon at the ceremony organized by Gateway Arch Park Foundation were worth three: “Arch So White,” or #ArchSoWhite on social media.

Gravois Park has an unlikely advocate for inclusive development in a 12-year-old girl who wants to see the vacant buildings and lots on her block be transformed into safe, liveable places.

Deyon Ryan’s passion for the issue is partly influenced by her father, DeAndre Brown, who has been vocal on the issue. Deyon wrote about the vacancy problem in school and it caught the attention of local groups.

Updated June 20 at 4:30 p.m. with additional comments from County Executive Steve Stenger and a local housing expert. - A key recommendation from the St. Louis Fair Housing Conference in April is prompting action in St. Louis County.

The county has assembled a task force to develop recommendations for promoting housing "equity, fairness and inclusion in our region," St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger announced at a news conference Wednesday morning. 

Updated at 10:50 a.m. with statement from Rachelle Aud Crowe.

The mayor of Edwardsville says he believes a decade-old photo of him wearing blackface makeup released Monday was an attempt to harm his chances to become a state senator.

The Belleville News-Democrat published a photo Monday it received of Mayor Hal Patton wearing a T-shirt, a bandana on his head and dark makeup on his face. The newspaper reported receiving the photo from a Democratic operative.

Residents and business owners in University City are split over whether the city should spend taxpayer money on a plan that would bring a big-box retailer and other amenities to Olive Boulevard.

The divide was apparent at a Wednesday meeting, where city leaders tried to make a case for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to revitalize the area known as Olive Link.

Black drivers are more likely to be stopped by police than other groups in Missouri. That’s what a report from Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office shows from data collected in 2017.

The annual Vehicle Stops Report shows black drivers were stopped at a rate of 85 percent higher than white drivers throughout the state. Black and Hispanic drivers were searched at higher rates than average as well. In cases of searches, white drivers were reportedly found with contraband more often.

Updated June 1 with "St. Louis on the Air" segment – St. Louis Public Radio reporter Ashley Lisenby joined the show to talk about her locally focused reporting around implicit bias as Starbucks conducted company-wide training earlier this week.

Original story from May 30:

Employees at thousands of Starbucks stores went back to work Wednesday after a half-day seminar on Tuesday focused on company policies and discrimination.

The anti-bias training that closed Starbucks stores across the U.S. for a few hours Tuesday is over. Will it change anything?

That’s what one St. Louisan is asking after he was recently racially profiled at a local Nordstrom Rack. Mekhi Lee, 19, and his two friends were shopping at the store in early May when employees accused them of stealing. Lee said they had receipts to prove they paid for items.

The incident happened a couple of weeks after two men in Philadelphia were arrested after waiting in a Starbucks, an incident that led to nationwide anti-bias training for company employees.

Housing experts say goals to build more moderate-cost housing to St. Louis County could founder without incentives. Developers are less likely to build properties for low-income renters without them because the cost of development could outweigh profits.

The 2018 For the Sake of All report, “Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide,” shows how neighborhoods a few miles apart vary in unemployment, poverty, income and life expectancy rates. It identifies how a few changes in housing policies in the region could give low-income households greater access to areas with more opportunities, such as employment. Several organizations, including ArchCity Defenders, Empower Missouri and Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, helped produce the report. 

Michael and Danielle Abril are active members of the Meacham Park Neighborhood Association. They show up at meetings. They volunteer. They help inform others in the community.

“Meacham Park is a blessing to us because it allowed us to be relatively close to my work and in a great place, a great community,” Michael Abril said.

The neighborhood is a mostly black area of Kirkwood that had been segregated from the rest of the city for years. But that’s changing.

Whitney Gipson was one of three women bailed out of jail before Mother’s Day thanks to the efforts of St. Louis activists. Expect Us raised nearly $3,000 through an online fundraiser. 

Members of Expect Us met with other advocates at the St. Louis Justice Center on Saturday. The event included food, children’s activities and short speeches by local demonstrators and leaders, including Democratic Missouri Rep. Bruce Franks.

Gipson, 26, told a small crowd about her experiences while staying at the city’s two jails.

About 2 percent of architects in the U.S. are African-American. That’s a statistic Michael Ford wants to change by inspiring young people to think of new ways to solve urban development problems that segregate and marginalize low-income communities.

Ford wants to achieve this goal using  hip-hop music and culture. He created The Hip-Hop Architecture Camp in 2017.

Hari Kondabolu is not afraid to talk about the topics that make people uncomfortable. Sexism, racism, colonialism — all the “isms” you can think of — are fair game at his shows.

To that he says, why wouldn’t I?

National and local artists will explore the past, present and future of city life in an upcoming exhibition in St. Louis.

Organizers of Dwell in Other Futures: art/ urbanism/ midwest say the event will expose attendees to the ways urban development constructs and reinforces how people engage, or don’t, with public spaces and the people around them.

Forward Through Ferguson is encouraging locals to imagine a St. Louis devoid of racial inequity by the year 2039.

That year will mark 25 years since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The non-profit group released a preliminary action plan on Wednesday, in which community leaders and residents considered benchmark goals for the next three years. A full report will be available in June.

St. Louis once had a thriving hub for Chinese immigrants moving to the city. Historical records show in 1894 there were about 1,000 people of Chinese heritage living in St. Louis, many of whom had moved to the region from California in the middle part of the century.

A St. Louis Public Radio listener wanted to know how so many Chinese businesses came to exist at Olive Boulevard near Interstate 170 in University City. The listener also wanted to know why hasn’t there been more expansion of Asian businesses there. 

On March 14, students Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School walked out of their school and through their Grand Center neighborhood in St. Louis, stopping on the steps of St. Francis Xavier College Church.

Among the Cardinal Ritter students who took part in the walkout, were two members of the school’s student council: Deja Brown, 17, is senior class president, and Darius White, 16 who is a sophomore class officer.

The 2020 census is still two years away, but there is plenty of buzz about what the federal survey will ask, including questions about citizenship and country of origin.

For the first time, people will be able to write in their origins in a blank box on the census instead of just checking a race.

The survey, which happens every ten years, is designed to count the population so federal funds can be allocated across the country. But the new questions about where people come from can generate confusion or suspicion — especially from African-Americans, who may not know where their ancestors originated, or immigrants who believe their responses might be used against them in the future.

St. Louis public safety officials want city residents to know people jailed at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution are treated humanely despite allegations to the contrary.

In March, the mayor’s spokesman invited reporters to tour the jail — commonly known as the Workhouse — after weeks of requests for access from local press. A pending lawsuit against the jail by ArchCity Defenders alleges inhumane conditions, including poor ventilation, rodent and insect infestation and problems with black mold.

Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass fended off the claims in the lawsuit.