This article is 2 years old. It was published on April 23, 2021.
Thank you...thank you...thank you…
Good afternoon, Saint Louis!
my name is Tishaura O. Jones,
my pronouns are she, her, and hers,
I am the daughter of Laura and Virvus,
sister to Chelsea and Ida,
mother of Aden,
daughter of the Walnut Park, Wells-Goodfellow, and Hamilton Heights neighborhoods,
and because of YOU, I am the Mayor of the City of Saint Louis.
Sometimes, when I really stop and think about it, I am overwhelmed with disbelief that today’s events are real. Today serves as a reminder of what our City can be when we summon the best within ourselves and come together around a positive vision of change and opportunity for all in our City.
My thoughts also return to this building, 40 years ago tomorrow, a community activist arrived with his wife and 9 year old daughter in tow. She was a scrawny little thing, and her hair was always in two pigtails. Well, that little girl was me. And that activist was Virvus Jones. And 40 years ago tomorrow, he was sworn in as the first Black alderman from the 27th Ward in North St. Louis.
I am aware, as I’m sure the Comptroller, President of the Board, and many of our Citywide elected leaders can also attest, that I am standing on stone that was not built for me. I am speaking in a rotunda that never envisioned my ascent to Mayor. I am going to walk into an office that my ancestors could never have imagined me working in. But, I’m here….
I’m here today because of my grandparents, who migrated from the Jim Crow south in search of a better life for their children, my parents, and their siblings. Eddie and Daisy Whitfield migrated from Louisiana and Mississippi. And Charlie and Angeline Green came from Tennessee and Mississippi.
I’m here today because of my parents, Virvus and Laura, who raised their only child in North St. Louis in Walnut Park, and South St. Louis in Shaw. Whose families lived in Hamilton Heights, Wells Goodfellow, and East. St. Louis, IL.
I’m here today as a product of the voluntary desegregation program, which bused me from North St. Louis to the Affton School District from the fifth grade until I graduated high school.
I’m here today as a proud graduate of Hampton University, one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities, affectionately known by its graduates as “Our Home by the Sea.”
I’m here today as a proud graduate of Saint Louis University’s School of Public Health.
I’m here today as a proud participant of Harvard University’s Executives in State and Local Government.
I’m here today as a proud alum of the Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship, the Council of State Government’s Henry Toll Fellowship, and a New Deal Leader.
I’m here today as a proud member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
I’m here today as the proud chair of the 2020 Bipartisan Justice Center, and chair of the newly formed Black Bank Fund.
I’m here today as a former legislator, assistant minority floor leader, and city treasurer.
I’m here today as a proud single mother of the most adorable 13 year old son, Aden.
I’m here today as the proud big sister of Ida Victoria and Chelsea Alexis.
Most importantly, I am here today because of you. Because you voted, because you got involved, and because you chose to be inspired by a movement of people and a vision for Saint Louis seeking to move our City and our region forward.
When I announced that I was running for Mayor, I said that whether you lived in Penrose or Holly Hills, off South Broadway or Natural Bridge, I wanted to be your Mayor. I wanted to be the People’s Mayor.
My commitment to you is that I will be the Mayor for you and your family -- whether you supported me or not.
Most Saint Louisans share the same core desires, and as a single mom, I know these core desires well myself: I want to raise my son in a safe neighborhood, I want him to receive a quality education, and I want him to be able to envision himself safely raising a family in Saint Louis one day as well.
We all want our children to grow and learn and develop -- play in the dirt, run around outside, occasionally scrape their knee on the concrete or slide, make mistakes, and sometimes stay out too late.
Unfortunately, our City has not always protected our children. We have not always fought for every neighborhood. And often, those neighborhoods, just off Natural Bridge or off South Broadway, and the people who live there have been forgotten and left behind.
I stand here before you today resolved to make change. To transform our City and to transform our approach to safety.
I stand ready to begin putting equity for people -- not equity for wealthy developers -- at the center of our planning and at the center of our development.
Development is crucial to the success of our City, but we cannot abandon our most precious resource -- our people -- in exchange for handouts to the rich and well-connected.
I am not naive in my pursuit of reform and progressive public policy.
I am aware that I am walking into an office that is tasked with working to solve some of our most pressing challenges: lack of opportunity for our most vulnerable, a broken criminal justice system, and a fractured region.
I ask for grace and time as my team and I work to combat decades upon decades of disinvestment. Our City stands at a pivotal moment in our history -- the decisions we make over the next four years, during my first term as Mayor, will begin to chart the course for our future.
Decades of problems will not be solved by days or months of solutions.
My colleague to our west, County Executive Sam Page, put it like this when we met this past week.
Sometimes, when addressing an incredible challenge, it takes six months to see progress and a year to see real change.
My team and I have collected input from the people of Saint Louis to inform our first steps in re-envisioning and re-imagining public safety, reforming our broken and regressive tax system, and working to eradicate and finally dismiss the powerful forces of racism and inequity that have held us back.
The work ahead of us will be challenging. It will not be easy, and the conversations will not be comfortable.
Vice President Kamala Harris frequently says that our dreams of what we can be cannot be burdened by what we have been.
Moving forward, I will make it my task and mandate to begin convening my partners in City government, our leaders to the west and to the east, and you, the people of Saint Louis, to have tough and uncomfortable conversations.
Why is it that our politics are so divisive?
Why does racism become magnified during an election year even as it rides the underbelly of strategic messaging?
Why do we live in a City whose police department is supposedly understaffed but is larger than almost any other city our size?
Why do people who look like me, my son, my dad, have a life expectancy that is a fraction of our white neighbors?
Beginning to answer these questions will be crucial to our shared success.
When we realize that the success of Black communities and white communities….
and the success of our Hispanic and our Asian communities,
and the success of our Muslim and Jewish communities…
and the success of our gay and straight and trans communities…
and the success of ALL of our communities are linked, we will move forward.
We will move forward when we recognize our shared humanity; our shared, core desires. And our common resolve to make our City a better, safer, and healthier place to live.
Here is my dream for Saint Louis. It is ambitious, yes, but it is possible.
Our children will play as I did when I was a child -- riding their bikes around the neighborhood, playing double dutch and hopscotch, laughing with friends, and going to good, quality schools.
Our communities will be rich and prosperous -- from north to south -- and they will be hubs of culture, opportunity, and access to jobs, healthcare, and education.
Our public safety department will be staffed with many types of professionals so that when you call 9-1-1, you get the right professional most capable of meeting your needs.
Our COVID-19 vaccine will get into as many arms as possible, and our outreach to vaccine-hesitant communities will take priority.
Our recovery from the crisis we are facing will be equitable and people-focused.
My dream is for a public discourse that is characterized by debates of public policy and not debate of personality.
So, yes, you may say that I, like Dr. King did, have a dream. I have a dream that I know that we can achieve.
I have a dream that my son -- I have a dream that your son and daughter and your nonbinary child will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, or the expression of their gender, or the way in which they love.
I have a dream that Saint Louis will break the chains that have held us back and build a new Saint Louis -- a Saint Louis that is strong, confident, equitable, united, and inclusive.
I have a dream that one day, as we rise to new heights of freedom and equity, we instill a new faith in those who have been knocked down, but who have refused to be knocked out, that their government is working for them.
Amanda Gorman, the young woman who delivered a poem at President Biden’s Inauguration said this:
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn't mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us.
Saint Louis. There is a challenge before us. But, I know, that together, we will solve it.
The forces of good will always shut out and shut down the forces of evil.
Light will drive out darkness.
I am ready to get to work.
So, to any single mother wondering how they will make ends meet, I have seen you, and I’m ready to work for you.
To those in our City who are looking to City Hall for help, I have seen you, and I’m ready to work for you.
To the LGBT+ youth thinking about whether Saint Louis has a place for them, I’ve seen you, and I’m ready to serve you.
To all of you -- I have seen you, and I’m ready to serve.
My name is Tishaura Oneda Jones, I use the she / her pronouns, and I am the Mayor of the City of Saint Louis, and I am ready to serve.
May God bless you and your families, and may God bless the City of Saint Louis.
Office of the Mayor