Economic justice

Black Wall Street Festival Aims for Economic Justice in North St. Louis | St. Louis Metro News | Saint Louis

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Courtesy #BlackWallStreet314

The Black Wall Street Festival returns tomorrow for its sixth edition.

The Black Wall Street Festival returns tomorrow for its sixth edition. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, #BlackWallStreet314 will bring together a large collection of local vendors, musicians and other festivities that will stretch along Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. from Skinker Boulevard to Hamilton Avenue. Highlights of the day will include the Young-Black-Gifted Talent Show, car show and scholarship.

But for lead organizer Farrakhan Shegog, the most exciting part will be unveiling the band’s plan to undertake a $9 million community development project in Wellston, starting with 5955 Martin Luther King Drive, a single-family home.

At first glance, 5955 Martin Luther King Drive doesn’t seem like much. The land itself is completely vacant except for a stretch of fine grass that struggles to stay green in the summer heat. An abandoned nightclub sits across from it, a wasteland from an abandoned JCPenney. In fact, nearly all of the structures surrounding the address have been salvaged by the City of St. Louis.

For Shegog and his team, however, the lot represents hope, a step towards accomplishing the goals of #BlackWallStreet314.

#BlackWallStreet314 is a joint campaign of Young Voices with Action, a group dedicated to empowering St. Louis area youth through community service, and Easton Development Corporation. The inaugural festival was held seven years ago in a backyard in Wellston but has since grown to accommodate nearly 5,000 people, according to their website.

While the movement has grown, its goal remains the same: to restore and revitalize the Wellston Loop, a once bustling economic corridor in the 1950s and 60s that declined with the advent of urban renewal and white flight. in the 70s. . Its ultimate goal is to re-establish a business district parallel to the Delmar Loop.

“When we think of Black Wall Street, we think of the ability of young people to own and control the most vital asset within their communities, which is home ownership and entrepreneurship,” says Shegog, who is president of Young Voices with Action. “This Black Wall Street Festival shows that these young people are capable, engaged and skilled enough to not only generate their own wealth, but also to maintain and protect the wealth they are building within their own community.”

For the past three decades, the Wellston Loop has been grossly underfunded and neglected by the private and public sectors. While government cooperation is vital to Black WallStreet’s financial ability to implement its plans, Shegog stressed the need to empower young people to take charge of the fate of their community.

“Historically, the government has never provided financial freedom for African Americans the way it has for other races,” he says. “We can’t depend on the government or some charity or some benevolent white philanthropic group to save us from poverty, save us from school failure, save us from people losing their homes and declining businesses. .”

Shegog also pointed to the institutional nature of the change that Black Wall Street is trying to implement. Simply establishing a business in Wellston would not change the fact that an incident could cost an entrepreneur their livelihood without the comprehensive support of institutions that complement economic development, such as housing, education and security. public.

Aniya Betts, Young Voices with Action Ambassador Supervisor, echoed that sentiment.

“This is the institution we need to develop and build to produce young people who want to be financially free,” she says.

To make this vision a reality, Black Wall Street has worked to build a coalition of local vendors and sponsors dedicated to the cause. They have also gained support from various local politicians and state officials – Rep. Cori Bush and Gov. Mike Parson are both expected to make appearances tomorrow.

Saturday’s event is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and funds raised will be used to purchase and develop the vacant land that borders Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. and strengthen YWVA’s ability to serve both its young members and its community. The campaign also aims to provide business education to entrepreneurs and young adults.
Shegog pointed out that at the heart of Black Wall Street is the desire to improve the community and reduce reliance on external factors to do so. Funding is key to realizing this vision.

“All of this vacant land, minus the one we purchased from our government, belongs to the city of St. Louis. We’re taking those issues out of the city’s hand and developing them, and putting those properties back on the tax roll,” Shegog said. “We need money to carry out this project.