East St. Louis Oral History Project: Neighborhood Activism and Community Change

NARRATOR: Herbert Reed

INTERVIEWERS: Drew Rackow, Edward Field, and Philip Banea



"Education don't come cheap.  You know, this is what our area in Emerson Park is going through, costing us, you know, a lot of time, time is money."

"…what goes around, comes around.  You know, and it's really how you feel in your heart about it, about things."

"But when things get rough, people tend to go the other direction.  It's hard to get support when you are trying to get things to better.  You know, if I wanted to get a group together to go vandalize Mr. Jones property over there, I'd have thirty, forty, fifty people in no hesitation.  But if we need to go clean a ditch out to keep our sewers from blocking up…not going to get any help!"

"…you can't get too much money for education…you can't get too much for senior citizens…children, their the ones that are really struggling."

"…you have to participate, you are rewarded for your deeds."


Mr. Reed has been living in the Emerson Park community since 1967.  Around that time, he married a woman named Pinky and had kids. Back in 1967, Mr. Reed had neighbors living next to him.  Currently, the houses between his are vacant.  Throughout his time at Emerson Park, he lived in a mortgaged house that was finally paid in full in 1996.  He is also a retired member of the community, does not gamble, and has a brother who goes with him to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to watch Cardinals games every once in awhile.  Mr. Reed joined the Emerson Park Development Corporation in 1988.  Since then, he has participated actively in the organization, particularly in the weed and seed program, smoke out program, and the citizens' police academy.


The information and stories given to the interviewers by one of the community members of Emerson Park provides an invaluable look at the struggles and triumphs of one of the neighborhoods within East St. Louis.  Mr. Reed's point of view gives the audience a look into one man's life.  His life represents the hundreds of men who live there and continue to struggle for a better living.  Mr. Reed's many stories indicate that he has been involved with Emerson Park and East St. Louis, and is willing to share his experiences.  At the same time, he continues to be involved with the community and its organization, converting many non-believers.  The candor and sincerity of his words speak a lot about his continued hope to make people outside East St. Louis understand the struggles, especially for the interviewers.



Document author(s) : Drew, Ed & Phil
HTML by : Drew, Ed & Phil
Last modified: 12/1/01