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.

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The Housing Authority of St. Louis County found water leaks, defective porches, bed bugs and electrical issues among the problems at Park Ridge Apartments in Ferguson over the last three years.

Agency records show inspections at Park Ridge Apartments increased between July and October of this year. At a Ferguson housing meeting in November, Park Ridge Apartments residents asked Housing Authority of St. Louis County director Susan Rollins about what they believed to be a surge in inspections after years of perceived neglect by the property owner.

The inmate who died at St. Louis' Medium Security Institution (MSI) in August died of an accidental fentanyl overdose, the autopsy report shows.

Louis L. Payton, 48, was the latest inmate to die at the facility known as the Workhouse this year. He was the fifth inmate to die in custody at a city jail this year, according to records St. Louis Public Radio received in August from the city.

Lawyers and people who allege to have been victims of police misconduct during a series of protests in 2017 said they anticipate a federal grand jury indictment filed Thursday against four St. Louis police officers to lead to additional investigations.

The charges against three of the four officers include using excessive force during an arrest of an undercover officer. The officer was arrested during a night of protests related to the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in September 2017. Allegations against all four officers also include obstructing justice.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. with comments from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner — Four St. Louis police officers were indicted on federal charges Thursday in connection with the assault of an undercover officer during protests related to the Jason Stockley court ruling in 2017.

The four St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers named in the indictment are Dustin Boone, 35, Bailey Colletta, 25, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27. All have been suspended without pay.

Would people be put off? St. Louis entrepreneur Sarita Moody wondered this when she and co-creator Anni Jones of Mesa Home developed their new idea. Could they pull off a local Black Friday event if they only showcased black creators?

“One day, [Anni Jones] said, 'I’d love to do a pop-up shop in my store with you and other artists,'” Moody said.

Moody, the maker behind Feeling Moody knitwear, quickly discovered that black-owned Black Friday could be done quite successfully.

Updated Nov. 19 at 4:20 p.m. with response from T.E.H. management. 

Hundreds of residents in Park Ridge Apartments in Ferguson are concerned about where they will live next month because of mass-eviction notices sent to them by the landlord in November.

Housing advocates say people who live in nearly 400 units in the low-income housing complex received letters from the company T.E.H. Realty asking them to be out of their apartments by Nov. 14. Some tenants say they were asked to leave by the end of the month.

Immigrants contribute more than a billion dollars to state and federal taxes and account for billions more in spending power, according to Betsy Heller Cohen of the St. Louis Mosaic Project.

On Wednesday, Cohen moderated a panel on the economic impact of “foreign-born Missourians” at the International Institute of St. Louis.

Updated Nov. 13 at 4:15 p.m. with comment from St. Louis Lambert International Airport — St. Louis City NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt said Tuesday the decision to add St. Louis Lambert International Airport to an NAACP warning list came after the group received documents about race-based complaints going back at least several years.

“Our intent (of the advisory) is to let folk know that those folks working at Lambert Field that their civil rights are in jeopardy, and maybe in some cases null and void, unless the city takes some proactive means of addressing it,” Pruitt said.

If you were a baroness trapped in the house of a jealous baron and had the opportunity to flee, would you do it if you knew your fate was death should you be caught?

That's the fictional dilemma, Lorren Buck presents attendees of a sex trafficking discussion in St. Louis on Saturday. The “drawbridge” exercise was intended to help people understand the kinds of choices and challenges a victim of sex trafficking might experience. In small groups, participants discussed who in the story could have helped the woman along the way and what her options might have been.

John Gaskin III, the new St. Louis County NAACP president, says there are two local civil rights issues he wants to address: community policing and employment.

Gaskin, 26, announced Friday that he would be become president of the branch. He replaces longtime President Esther Haywood. The former Missouri legislator is 78.

It's a common sight at the Fairmont City Library Center: Students discussing the grammar and syntax of English sentences in small groups.

On a recent night, the teacher wanted to know what another word for “per” is. The word got lost in translation. Some students suggested “for,” but in the sentence the teacher gave the correct answer is “each.” It was a confusing answer for one student who offered the Spanish word for “each” instead. It’s “cada.”

The class is just one of the night English language classes the library offers adult native Spanish speakers in the area who want to perfect their second language.

Despite shrinking income and education gaps between white and non-white families, black families in the United States still trail others in wealth accumulation, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said in a recent report.

Although black wealth increased at a faster rate than white wealth in 2016, blacks still owned less than 10 percent of whites’ wealth, according to the Fed.

Some black women entrepreneurs in St. Louis see starting their own businesses as an avenue to closing the wealth gap within their families and communities.

More than half of Missouri’s poorest residents are paying more than half of their yearly income in rent. Non-profit leaders at two Missouri organizations say this level of rent burden prevents families from being able to afford other basic necessities, such as food and health insurance.

Empower Missouri released a report Thursday on the nearly 800,000 Missourians living in poverty, and nearly 2 million Missourians living near the poverty line. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the state population is about 6 million.

Updated at 4:35 p.m. on Oct. 12 with details about the police chief's departure.

Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss said Friday his last day on the will be Nov. 16. The announcement comes after officials said Wednesday that Moss would be leaving to take care of his family in Florida. Ferguson City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said Assistant Police Chief Frank McCall will be interim chief while the department holds its search for a permanent replacement.

Seewood said the city will conduct a national search for another chief. The search will include citizen input, he said, noting the importance of having a person at the helm who not only knows how to police well but also has a connection with the community.

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.

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