“People’s Ribbon Cutting” Responds to #ArchSoWhite

By MCNS Staff

The "People's Ribbon Cutting" held last Friday emphasized inclusivity.

The “People’s Ribbon Cutting” held last Friday emphasized inclusivity.

St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson found herself in an optics nightmare as she tweeted a picture of twenty-one white officials cutting a ribbon at the Arch on Tuesday.

Later on Friday “The People’s Ribbon Cutting,” so named by Treasurer Tishaura Jones, was a second event organized to be a more inclusive ceremony than the reopening of the Arch museum event held the previous Tuesday. The diverse gathering of officials and leaders included the treasurer, Rep. Bruce Franks and Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed.

Friday’s ribbon cutting was the result of an outcry at the lack of diversity at the earlier gathering, highlighted by the hashtag #ArchSoWhite. The tag line immediately went viral and is reported to have been created by Franks.

Some speakers at Friday’s event talked about how Black residents were displaced from their homes to make way for the Arch during its construction.

Local reports state the Gateway Arch Park Foundation issued an apology. A statement from the group said they invited “political leaders from the St. Louis region at the federal, state and local levels to participate on stage at the event.” That statement went on to say that “we did not invite some elected officials who represent the park to participate on stage at the event and we should have done so.”

Twenty-one officials including St. Louis city mayor Lyda Krewson, County Executive Steve Stenger and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)  and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) lined up for a ribbon cutting photo op in front of the Gateway Arch last Tuesday. The problem is that there was not one single Black official or other leader of color in the photo.

According to local reports, several Black elected officials – including Comptroller Darlene Green, Treasurer Tishaura Jones, and President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed – said they were not invited to participate in the ribbon cutting. A staffer for U.S. Rep Lacy Wm. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) said Clay was invited but had already scheduled a vacation with his son.

This isn’t the first time controversy has surrounded the Arch. In July 1964, local activist Percy Green II climbed about 125 feet high on the structure and *refused to leave as an act of civil disobedience. He and white ally Richard Daly were protesting that no Black workers or contractors were hired for the Arch project. The action and legislation sponsored by Ald. Terry Kennedy (D-18th) has led to an increase in minority inclusion in city projects.

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