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


Interview with LaTonya Webb from Lansdowne Neighborhood

This web page will give good information to people about the problems of East St. Louis, IL. It narrates the political failure in the area, along with the continuing poverty and narrowing of its population.  While the ideas are subjective, Latanya Webb has a key understanding of the area from a resident’s point of view, and that of a skilled professional.  Latonya Webb is a valuable asset to the community, with her work as planning consultant to the city of East St. Louis, and her work with NTAC.  This combination allows her to see the problems from the residents, and relay that information into action by the local government.  The information sharing of the narrator could be characteristic of her personality, with outspoken views on issues and motivation to act.

Nina Klekner
Tim Lodolce
Charlotte Adams
Aaron Masliansky
Chris Mathias

NARRATOR:  LaTonya Webb

Birth date:  1975
Spouse:  Married
Occupation:  Narrator/Planning Consultant, City of East St. Louis

Latonya Webb was born and raised in East St. Louis.  From her experiences in this impoverished community, Ms. Webb proceeded to participate in community action groups during high school.
After high school Latonya attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She received a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois.  With this degree
she has become an important part of NTAC and the ESLARP.  Ms. Webb also functions as the main planning advisor for the city of East St. Louis.  At the time of this interview, Latonya is in the process of completing many projects for NTAC and the community of East St. Louis.

Quotes from the Interview:

LaTonya:  ... so I wasn’t around when the time but my mother tells me stories of how things were, how they didn’t have to us..they didn’t used to have to go all the way up to Fairview Heights to go shopping they could go right down here to Sears but after the transition after... pause, sigh, things started changing, just everything start’d closing down and leaving you know white flight occurred.  Businesses start’d leaving and you know as a result you have alot of decline that you see now.

Nina:  What are your thoughts on revitalizing the downtown?

LaTonya:  I think that (pause) its important for us ta ta you know to revitalize the downtown.  I think that its important to uh to build up our river front, but I think that its more important to deal with our neighborhoods.  Um because you have people who are living in a city who need basic services.  And they’re not gettin’ em.  Now, I think that if they do the proper planning within the neighborhood in addition to the downtown and the riverfront ah it’d be there'd be a great impact on the city.  Ah, yah, I think that its a great idea.  But, I think that they should not plans for the downtown or the riverfront and neglect the rest of the city because there's a lot of things and not, not everything is gonna happen on the river front, or the downtown.  The downtown may not be the best place for economic development, to occurr.  Ya know, maybe over on 25th Street where we have all the development going in now -- you know, you know?  To focus on one area of the city, is, is to me is a bad idea.

LaTonya- I got involved with the East St. Louis Action Resource Project as a high school student at the East St. Louis Senior High School. It was back like in 91’, when the project first started. And what happened was, uuuhhh, representatives oh, state representative from  Illinois, from East. St. Louis, I’m sorry. Challenged the University to basically do what its missions says, it says what its gonna do. You know to be an asset to the community, to provide services for the community, and she challenged him specifically  to work in East. St. Louis, to use all the resources that they have, the knowledge that they have, specifically in East St., Louis.

LaTonya: You don’t necessarily have to have any planning expertise. But there’s a lot of people who are motivated. I mean this community, community organization here, they’re motivated. They’ve been beating the pavement for years. And no matter how long it take they’re gonna see some results.

Go to the Interview