Marissanne Lewis-Thompson | KBIA

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson joined the KRCU team in November 2015 as a feature reporter. She was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri where she grew up watching a lot documentaries on PBS, which inspired her to tell stories. In May 2015, she graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in Convergence Journalism. Marissanne comes to KRCU from KBIA, where she worked as a reporter, producer and supervising editor while covering stories on arts and culture, education and diversity. 

In 2014, after Michael Brown Jr. was killed by a police officer, Aloni Benson took to the streets with other protesters.

But the Berkeley native found simply protesting wasn’t enough. When former St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar urged more people to become officers, Benson leaped at the chance, joining the department in 2016.

It was one week after George Floyd had been killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, and protests calling for police accountability over treatment of African Americans were growing around the country.

Antoine White, who took to the streets in Ferguson more than five years ago, was among a sea of protesters in downtown St. Louis on June 1. This time he brought his fiancée and young kids along ... and his registered rifle as a statement.

Church bells will be ringing on Sunday more than usual in communities throughout Missouri.

Several faith groups have called on churches to ring their bells for two minutes at noon to recognize essential workers and memorialize those who have died of COVID-19.

The Rev. Deon Johnson, bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, said that in addition to prayer, ringing bells is one way he hopes people can show their support for people in their own communities. 

As the region slowly returns to some semblance of normal, many churches are preparing to reopen in June.

In an effort to keep congregations healthy, the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, the Baptist Minister’s Union, and 24:1 Clergy Coalition are distributing more than 125,000 masks to St. Louis city and County churches that plan to resume services next month.

The Rev. Darryl Gray, the political advisor for the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, said the groups have been distributing masks since Tuesday, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. More than 150 churches throughout the region showed up to claim masks.

Memorial Day this year will be a time of recognizing all who are serving or have served on the front lines, even if observing the day will take place at a distance.

Scott Air Force Base will honor health care workers with a flyover on Monday. 

The 932nd Airlift Wing will fly over six hospitals in the region, including Belleville Memorial Hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Memorial East Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center at Jefferson Barracks.

BELLEVILLE — Drive-in movie theaters have become a nostalgic throwback.

But in the midst of this global pandemic, the built-in social distancing of watching a movie from your car is one of the few ways people can enjoy entertainment outside their homes.

Belleville’s Skyview Drive-In, the region’s only outdoor movie theater, reopened on May 8, and cars were lined up at the gate two hours before the box office even opened. Opening weekend featured fan favorites “The Goonies” and “Beetlejuice” on one screen and “Grease” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” over on the second.

The last living child of a St. Louis couple who broke residential segregation barriers has died. Chatlee Williams died last Wednesday at the age of 88. 

Her parents, J.D. and Ethel Shelley, made history when they brought their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court’s decision put an end to legalized residential segregation in 1948.

Monica Holmes, Williams’ granddaughter, said her grandmother always took pride in the historical legacy her parents left behind.

Rudi Heider, a retired chemist and professor, has seen a lot in his lifetime. At 107, he’s lived through the Spanish Flu, two world wars and now the coronavirus pandemic. 

In fact, Heider is currently recovering from the virus in his room at the Friendship Village Chesterfield Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the oldest person thought to have survived COVID-19 in the U.S.

Like many religious groups, Muslims are having to shift how they observe Ramadan. 

Traditionally, the month of Ramadan is a time for prayer, fasting, community and reflection. Typically during this time mosques are filled, but the pandemic has closed them. 

“We’re missing that big communal connection,” said Mojda Sidiqi, a local community activist and the former executive director of the Missouri Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “But that’s OK, because we’re safe in our home, and we’re able to get rest and we have quiet time to read the Quran.” 

Missouri inmates are cleaning SSM Health’s hospital linens and scrubs.

SSM Health contracts out its laundry services to Missouri Vocational Enterprises, an inmate labor program, through the Missouri Department of Corrections. 

Five years ago, Pamela and Jeffrey Blair embarked on a mission to ensure all children of color would be able to see themselves in the books they read. 

Since then, the couple moved their EyeSeeMe African American Children's Bookstore in University City to a bigger location, held book fairs at local schools and had plans to open a cafe in their store. 

But like many small businesses, their plans came to a screeching halt as the coronavirus spread throughout the region. A countywide stay-at-home order led them to close their doors to the public, lay off workers and cancel book signings and author visits. School closures brought an additional hit, with dozens of canceled book orders, as well as field trips and book fairs.

While many churches will be holding their Easter Sunday services online, one Metro East church is taking a nontraditional approach.

Copper Creek Christian Church in Maryville, Illinois, will have a drive-in service right from its parking lot. Congregants who choose to attend the service will have to stay in their cars, which will be staggered throughout the parking lot. 

The International Institute of St. Louis is working to provide up-to-date information about the coronavirus to those who don’t speak English. 

The nonprofit, whose mission is to help immigrants and refugees, is sending out robocalls in several languages including Farsi, Arabic and Spanish, as well as providing translated documents and a list of resources on its website.

Barbershops, beauty and nail salons are places where people can meet with friends and relax. They’re also a staple in the black community.

But the coronavirus pandemic has brought such small-scale beauty services to a screeching halt. Barbershops, nail and hair salons are included on a list of businesses that were forced to temporarily shut down because they’re considered nonessential. 

The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri will soon have a new bishop. The Rev. Deon Johnson officially will become the 11th bishop of the diocese when he is consecrated on June 13. Johnson’s transition into the role is historic: He’s the first openly gay bishop to lead the Diocese of Missouri. 

He and his husband and their two kids moved to St. Louis in February with hopes of getting adjusted to the region. That was put on hold as the coronavirus pandemic grew. St. Louis Public Radio’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Johnson about his new role and how he’s approaching the position in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Funeral services are joining a growing list of events that are being affected by the coronavirus.

In both Missouri and Illinois, public officials have limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer, making it virtually impossible to hold traditional services. 

Many funeral homes now are suggesting small graveside services or offering livestream services instead.

Growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have led many schools in the region to close. However, some day cares and child care centers are choosing to remain open.

University City Children’s Center is one of them.

The decision to stay open was a tough one, said center director Laura Millkamp. But ultimately she chose to keep the center open for parents that don’t have the option to work from home. 

Black churches in the St. Louis region are grappling with whether to hold church services this Sunday as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow. Some have already shifted to online streaming options.

The decision could be made clearer Thursday, when St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page are set to meet with the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition to discuss coronavirus at 11 a.m.

But for Andre Alexander, pastor of the Tabernacle in north St. Louis, the decision to halt in-person services has already been made. Sunday was the last day his church had regular services, and it came with a list of restrictions. 

State and local organizations have been ramping up efforts for months to make sure all Missourians are aware of the census. 

From the fliers in mailboxes to the countless ads on social media, TV, radio and billboards, the state is working to explain what the census is and why it’s important. But on a recent day outside St. Louis City Hall, it’s clear the message hasn’t been heard by everyone.

"I kind of don't know what it is,” Rachel Baltazar said. “Like, I have an idea that it's something with knowing where everybody is or where they are. But I don't know the exact details."

The Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O’Fallon, Missouri, is celebrating the 150th anniversary since immigrating to the U.S. with a fitting donation. 

The sisters gave $150,000 to the International Institute of St. Louis, which occupies a building in south St. Louis that was once St. Elizabeth Academy, a school founded by the sisters.

International Institute CEO and President Anna E. Crosslin said she was surprised by the size of the donation but not the sisters' generosity.

Faith & For the Sake of All is inviting the community to join in a discussion with local faith leaders this weekend to find ways to tackle racial equity issues in St. Louis.

The local nonprofit focuses on improving the health and well-being of black St. Louisans through faith-based social action. 

The organization’s director, the Rev. Gabrielle Kennedy, said the organization grew out of the For the Sake of All report. Kennedy said the report highlighted several community needs including early childhood development, stabilizing neighborhoods, investing in mental health awareness and helping low-income families. 

The first ordained Presbyterian minister of gun violence prevention is headed to St. Louis to teach elected officials and parishioners about ending gun violence. 

Washington University and Webster Groves Presbyterian Church will host a weekend-long event that will include a lecture, sermon and workshop with the Rev. Deanna Hollas. Hollas was ordained a minister of gun violence prevention through the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship last year. 

Trinity Episcopal Church is receiving national recognition for its contributions to LGBTQ history in St. Louis. 

The Central West End church became the first and only site in Missouri and the Episcopal Church to be named on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the LGBTQ community.

The church became an early supporter of gay rights and LGBTQ parishoners in the 1960s and people living with AIDS in the 1980s. Trinity was ahead of the game, said the Rev. Jon Stratton, the rector at the church.

Prosperity Connection, a St. Louis nonprofit financial education provider, has launched an initiative to help people with their credit scores. St. Louis Builds Credit aims to build credit scores and wealth, while also teaching people to become financially resilient.

Paul Woodruff, executive director of the nonprofit, said good credit is often the gateway to more opportunities.

“When you think about opportunities for employment, for housing, for transportation, and for insurance," Woodruff said, "the common denominator in being able to access all of these things that provide quality life is rooted in strong credit history for families.”

New Northside Missionary Baptist Church — a predominantly black Jennings church — is a welcoming space on the inside. 

But on the outside, it’s fortified.

Armed security guards monitor the perimeter from the church’s parking lot, while there are several security cameras along the building's exterior.

The city of Hazelwood is teaming up with Somera Road Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate firm, to award grants to local entrepreneurs.

The grants offer up to $10,000 for startup costs and free rent in the Village Square center, a retail property at Lindbergh and Interstate 270. The goal is to support local entrepreneurship, while revitalizing the commercial retail space.

To apply, visit the Village Square Small Business Grant website.

Freddie Lee James Jr. has long been a sauce man. 

His home-whisked Ghetto Sauce made him the king of cookouts. Family and coworkers would clamour for the zesty, sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. After years of their encouragement and five years before he was to retire from his construction job, he decided to take it to the next level.

While many in the St. Louis region will be opening presents on Christmas Day, a group of volunteers will spend the day giving back to the community. 

Missouri is joining 20 other states in a nationwide initiative to attract students who’ve put a hold on their college education back in the classroom.

Degrees When Due, a program of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, offers colleges and universities tools to work with students who hit pause on their higher education. 

In Missouri, more than 75,000 people have two years' worth of college credits under their belts but don’t have a degree. Officials with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development hope the initiative will change that.

Congregation Temple Israel is hosting its annual Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday. For more than three decades, the synagogue has served Thanksgiving dinner to those in need.

The tradition stems from an act of kindness. Ernest Wolf, a non-Jewish German national, was a student at Washington University in 1935 when he received a letter from the German military to report for duty. Wolf didn’t want to return to Germany, because the Nazi Party was rising to promenience.

Wolf planned to seek asylum in Mexico, but he didn’t have the money to get there.