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White Flight and Reclaimed Memories

White Flight and Reclaimed Memories

IN THIS EPISODE.... Two women, a generation apart, sift through the scars of segregation and returning to a neighborhood that doesn't resemble what they remembered.

Christine Schmiz was a teenager when her family moved from their home in north St. Louis City to south St. Louis County in the 1960s. In the past few years, the retired marketing executive has sought to reconcile her feelings about her family's role in the wave of white flight that's one of the reasons St. Louis is still so segregated today. Photos by CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Christine Schmiz was a teenager when her family moved from their home in north St. Louis City to south St. Louis County in the 1960s. In the past few years, the retired marketing executive has sought to reconcile her feelings about her family's role in the wave of white flight that's one of the reasons St. Louis is still so segregated today. Photos by CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

In one of the country’s most segregated cities, the division seems nearly permanent: that black people in St. Louis live north, and white people south.

It wasn’t always this way.

Back when Christine Schmiz was growing up, plenty of white people lived in north St. Louis. But they left in a wave of white flight. Christine’s blue-collar family was part of this wave — a traumatic move for the then-14-year-old, who said she struggled since then to find a place she truly belonged.

Decades later, during a process of reflection and self-examination, Christine found solace in an unlikely place — a poem written by St. Louis native Cheeraz Gorman. The young black woman also grew up in north St Louis, a generation after Christine, and tells the story of trying to make sense of what has become of her childhood neighborhood.

Poet Cheeraz Gorman grew up in St. Louis' College Hill neighborhood. Her family got there just as white people were fleeing the city, fearful of blacks moving into the neighborhood.In her poem, "Who Moved My Memories," Cheeraz reconciles with returning to her once-stable, idyllic, childhood neighborhood which these days is filled with vacant lots and the effects of institutional poverty. PHOTO BY CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Poet Cheeraz Gorman grew up in St. Louis' College Hill neighborhood. Her family got there just as white people were fleeing the city, fearful of blacks moving into the neighborhood.In her poem, "Who Moved My Memories," Cheeraz reconciles with returning to her once-stable, idyllic, childhood neighborhood which these days is filled with vacant lots and the effects of institutional poverty. PHOTO BY CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Music in this episode is by Kai Engel, Drake Staffors, Art of Escapism and Jahzzar from the Free Music Archive.

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