May 19, 2019

Alliance for Interracial Dignity prioritizes future actions to improve Webster Groves community

By Ava Roesslein and Megan Favignano 

Steve Loher, Webster Groves School District Board of Education member, grew up and attended school in Webster Groves.

“I didn’t go to school with an African-American child until I was in seventh grade,” Loher said.

Loher said that was in 1976.

The community group Alliance for Interracial Dignity met on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Hudson Elementary School. The group discussed possible community initiatives involving race and ethnicity. There were approximately 30 people in attendance.

Sarah Riss places a sticker on a sheet to vote for an area to improve on in the Webster Groves community. At the Alliance for Interracial Dignity meeting on Thursday, Nov. 15 at Hudson Elementary School, residents discussed diversity. PHOTO BY MEGAN FAVIGNANO

The group’s mission is to increase community relationships with government, cultural, racial and faith groups to work on community initiatives.

Steve Loher’s wife, Janet Loher, said she didn’t see true diversity until she was in college.

“I think you need to be with the world,” Janet Loher said. “The real world is everybody together.”

The goal of the meeting was to share personal stories and discuss possible improvements to eight aspects of the Webster Groves community:

—Business and employment

—Housing

—Faith

—Parks

—Family and neighborhoods

—School

—Government

—Communication

Those in attendance divided into eight groups. Each group discussed one of the eight community aspects. After the discussion, the eight groups each wrote down six possible actions for improvement in the community. The actions were then hung on a large piece of white paper on the wall of Hudson’s gym. Everyone in attendance voted for two of the six actions they felt were most pressing for each of the eight categories.

Attendees also filled out worksheets, which asked them to consider how people in their lives, media, faith and schooling affected their perception of diversity in society.

The worksheet listed eight labels including Asians, African-Americans, Europeans, homosexuals, Hispanics, Native Americans, those with disabilities and those who live in poverty. Participants then talked about the labels in their groups.

Steve Loher said he believes race is noticed less and less throughout each coming generation.

“Our kids are better than we were, and we’re better than our parents were,” Steve Loher said.

Dave Buck, Webster Groves resident, said children are “colorblind.” His small group said children talk about each other without putting emphasis on race or ethnicity.

Steve Loher used his daughter as an example. He said if he had never met his daughter’s classmates, he wouldn’t know if they were black, white, tall or short.

“(For children), it’s about your character. It’s about how you treat other people,” Steve Loher said. “You may not remember what people say or do, but you will always remember how they made you feel when you were around them.”

The Alliance for Interracial Dignity’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2013. The group also hopes to include a student panel of Webster Groves High School and Webster University students at the next meeting.

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