This is what community looks like…

Artists painting plywood covering broken windows, Delmar Blvd., St. Louis
Artists painting plywood covering broken windows, Delmar Blvd., St. Louis

Rachel and I enjoyed our first date thirteen years ago at a special restaurant on the Delmar Loop in St. Louis named Riddles. Today, the place is named Three Kings. It’s still good. We visit the Loop almost every weekend for a quirky movie at the Tivoli, a visit to Plow Sharing Crafts, and lunch at one of the locally owned restaurants. We don’t have tattoos, but if we did, I’m sure they would come from the Iron Age tattoo studio. The Delmar Loop has been recognized as one of the top ten streets in America. We were saddened to hear the news this past Sunday that a small group of late-night protestors/vandals had chosen to break the windows of several store fronts along the Loop. I guess they figured that vandalizing a tattoo studio, bookstore, free-trade gift store, and frozen yogurt shop would make a poignant political statement. The mostly peaceful protests around the city had been in response to a white police officer being acquitted of a murder charge in the shooting of an African American man.

As we talked about it Sunday morning, Rachel and I decided that it was an important time to support the businesses that we had been frequenting for more than a decade. All are locally-owned and employ a very diverse group of people. We weren’t sure what would be open, but our plan was to walk up and down the Loop and offer our patronage. The trip turned out to be a wonderful surprise.

The first sight that we encountered was a reporter and camera crew set up near the statue of Chuck Berry. This is across the street from the Blueberry Hill restaurant. The reporter was interviewing a handsome young man dressed in a white dress shirt. There were lots of people on the sidewalk, but no one seemed to be paying attention to the interview. The young man was Missouri’s Governor, Eric Greitens. He had been on the news during the week trying to balance support for peaceful demonstrators and for law enforcement personnel, trying to maintain safety on the streets.

Rachel and I had seen photos on the internet of broken windows in front of many businesses that we knew. News reports said that there were more than twenty businesses that were damaged. As I looked around, I did not see any broken windows. The stores and restaurants all looked open and most looked busy. The entire scene felt energetic. When I commented that I was surprised how quickly everything had been fixed, Rachel pointed out the plywood covering parts of most storefronts. The plywood was painted white and blended in with each building’s fa├žade. Filling the sidewalk in front of almost every piece of white plywood were people with paint brushes and containers of colorful paint, creating beauty where there had been destruction just a few hours earlier. Like the Delmar Loop itself, the artists were a diverse group of characters. There were kids, teens, young adults, and older folks. We saw African American, Caucasian, and Asian artists. There was an even split between men and women. The paintings were big and colorful. They captured the emotions of the day, reflecting themes of peace, harmony, and diversity. We stopped to talk with a few of the artists. Two women shared with us that they were a mom and daughter from the neighborhood. They had seen a post asking artists to come down and help transform the Loop.

I’d like to say thanks to the thousands of individuals who made their voices heard this week in peaceful ways. Thanks to the Loop business owners and workers who showed resiliency during an unusual time. And especially, thanks to the men, women, and kids who picked up a broom or brush and transformed a special neighborhood.

This is what community looks like!

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