By Pancho Rucker
Dear North St. Louis,
You have been the most impactful thing to ever affect and influence my life. You’ve raised a boy and showed him how to be a man in so many ways.From the sweet smell of the Hostess bakery every night at 7 p.m. to knowing what colors to wear on what streets during the gang wars of the ’90s to keep from getting shot. You have provided me with many joys and pains in my world that I wouldn’t ever dare replace.
The people you’ve created have been a colorful array of shades creating the greatest tapestry that only a god could construct. The make-or-break mentality that you provide has introduced some of the best hustlers, athletes, artists, wheelers, dealers and everything else you could imagine.
The Mathews-Dickey Sundays, Natural Bridge May Day Parade and O’Fallon Park parking sessions will forever be embedded in my heart.
I was even conceived, cultivated and born on your sacred grounds. Most people say they were born at Barnes or Jewish hospital, but I can proudly say that I was delivered at Central Medical Center on Newstead and Carter.
From the orange street lights to the filth on the pavement, I am yours and yours fully.
However, that may be a problem in the same breath.
In the same way that you taught me how to survive and stand as a man with “morals” and “ethics” aka “The Code,” many have been prematurely and savagely taken away because of this same code.
I don’t know if it comes from generational curses passed down from the forefathers and mothers who dwelled in the Pruitt-Igoe projects, or we just came up with these ideologies while being manipulated by the dreams and smoke of the crack-filled ’80s. Either way, in the millennial ’20s, you are a shell of what you once were.
The sense of security you provided evaporated like the aroma of the bread factory on Broadway. What were once streets filled with laughter and endless possibilities, have turned into tear-soaked teddy bear-drenched memorials for the slain, and heroin-coated resting places for those dreams to transform into nightmares.
Many choose to migrate away and are ashamed to say that they are a product of you. Outsiders fear you and slightly grimace at those who still lift your banner and shield. Even news slanders you and says that the crimes committed on the west side are yours to own.
You now adorn vacant lots and buildings, where beautiful homes and businesses have fallen to ancient Rome-like ruin only to be remembered and storied about through the memories of ‘hood griots waiting for the next stranger to pass in hopes of tokens of generosity so they can cop their next fix of escape.
Those same desolate lands have become prime real estate for developers to swing their mighty ax called eminent domain which, in return, will completely erase “The North” like what Brooklyn and Harlem are starting to do in New York.
No one cares anymore, and that saddens me to the point of sheer frustration and maddening.
BUT I STILL BELIEVE THERE IS HOPE.
I believe that with a little pride, self-love and community unity we can rebuild what was once was.
Scratch that, WE CAN BE BETTER THAN BEFORE!
We can make our schools brighter, homes happier and streets safer if we put in the effort. My dear North Side, I believe that, just like you’ve created me, you can create more greatness to provide more evidence of your glory.
I believe that if we take a little time to show you that we ALL love you, you will show us the same love back.
In spite of the government officials who have forgotten about us, the police who assault us unjustly, the lost hope of its residents, the violence, the hurt, the drugs and pain, I STILL REMAIN HOPEFUL and will do everything I can to show you that admiration and reverence that you so rightfully deserve.
I will forever love you.
Sincerely Your Son,
– “Andrew “Pancho” Rucker is a best selling author, award-nominated artist, published photographer, entrepreneur, community organizer, and producer from North Saint Louis.