by Michael R. Allen
Perhaps my experience of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in St. Louis was epitomized by watching a lone wrecker. The man was palletizing bricks and stoking a bright orange barrel fire fed by millwork and door casements of the building he was wrecking. The cold did not deter his determination to get in a day’s work. The building he was wrecking? A commercial building on Martin Luther King Drive.
The scene was a reminder of some harsh realities of this city. North side laborers, even with skills, are far more likely to find work tearing down their own neighborhoods than rebuilding them. Our city is one of many American cities who renamed a downtrodden thoroughfare for one of the greatest Americans to live, and then did nothing to staunch the decay that dishonors the name on the street. Our city’s leaders, black and white, found time on the holiday to pander and squabble while many citizens were busy earning money for food and shelter.
Further west on the street, past Kingshighway, I encountered the relatively vibrant street culture of the Wellston Loop. People were out walking, traveling from store to store. A barbeque restaurant was crowded, with patron’s cars spread out over an adjacent vacant lot. New sidewalks were in the middle of construction, and several buildings were amid major renovation projects. That’s reality on MLK, too.