(1.5 minute read)
Forest Park recently unveiled design plans to build basketball courts in the city's (and one of the country's) largest city parks. Let me just say, this is long overdue!
I am not originally from St. Louis. In fact, I moved to the city in 2017 after landing my first job after college here. My introduction to the city was warm, but strange. I noticed a few things - dilapidated buildings and a vibrant culture, diversity and racial tension. All for good reason. The city has a complicated history to say the least - one filled with decline due to white flight and suburbanization. Like many American cities, St. Louis has had its fair share of racism. Much of it was institutionalized through law (i.e. redlining) and much has been a result of benign neglect (i.e. lack of investment in the city's core and primarily black neighborhoods). Read more about this history here.
This history has implications, many of which have neglected the need for proper community development, however, this is fairly one-sided in St. Louis. St. Louis is literally a tale of two cities - one for those who have and one for those who have not. The experience for the average wealthy St. Louisian, who is generally white, is much different than for the poor St. Louisian. I noticed this right away when I moved here. Parks with tennis courts and pickle ball, private schools and golf. Given my own experience growing up in an impoverished neighborhood, I could have never dreamed of having these amenities near by - let alone accessing them and learning how to play or participate. Still to this day, I can barely hold a tennis racket or golf club.
Nonetheless, one sport I do have experience with is basketball. Our neighborhood had one court called, The Rock Park. Although it was simple, it showed the true power of basketball - an inclusive, team-focused sport. It brought everyone together - young, old, black, white. Everyone was welcome.
This is one of things that has influenced me the most in life. It taught me to view humans as humans rather than another number or an "other."
More than ever, St. Louis needs basketball. It needs the power of this sport and the community development that comes with it. Not only that, but St. Louis needs to ensure these courts - and any other courts the city supports - are inclusive, accessible and available to all. Basketball can break barriers. It should never build walls.
We as city residents must ensure this.
Note: If you do want to opine on the basketball courts or the designs, head to the public open houses. See the schedule here.