2017 Summer Research Program Reflections – St. Louis Bus Tour

June 12, 2017

The blog is following the student participants in this year’s Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program. Each student will be providing their own reflections from a Summer Research Program Seminar Series event.

By Delphine Zhu, neuroscience and anthropology undergraduate, Smith College

After getting to know one another on the first day of the program, we had the opportunity to learn more about St. Louis on a bus tour. The bus tour was led by Dr. Robert Hansman, Associate Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Beforehand, we were asked to read a few articles written by Dr. Hansman, highlighting his and his community’s perspective on gun violence, poverty, and racial divides – both as an advocate for and resident of the Clinton-Peabody housing projects.

The tour started at the Taylor Avenue building, where we gathered around Dr. Hansman as he shared his thoughts on our introductory biographies. It was a brief moment where he not only encouraged our various passions in global health, but also implored us to care wholeheartedly. His message was clear – change requires action, as complacency allows injustice to prevail.

The remnants of Dickson Street that divided the two sides of Pruitt-Igoe.

With the use of personal anecdotes, historical events, and supplemental images, Dr. Hansman’s famous bus tour took us across space and time. In a way, the tour reminded me of Ms. Frizzle’s time-traveling field trips on the Magic School Bus. We stood at the remnants of the segregated Old City Hospital, and watched the story of Pruitt-Igoe unfold on Dickson Street. Through Dr. Hansman’s tour, we became witnesses of the rampant and persistent racial and economic inequality that continues to poison St. Louis to this day.

Here is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., that Dr. Hansman shared in his 2010 MLK Celebration speech titled, “A Decision to Care” that sums up his message quite well: “…but the white liberal who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice, who prefers tranquility to equality….The suburbs are white nooses around the black neck of the cities….  It is not enough to say, ‘We love Negroes, we have many Negro friends.’  They must demand justice for Negroes.  Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all.  It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than what one would have for a pet.”

This post is part of the “Summer Research Program” series of the Institute for Public Health’s blog. Subscribe to email updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive notifications about our latest blog posts.

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