Dear Lou: Demetrius Grooms

Dear Lou,

I wish we viewed both parts of our region as complementary rather than as two separate constructs. When I tell people where I’m from, I say St. Louis. I love where I live in Hazelwood, but I identify

Dear Lou,

I wish we viewed both parts of our region as complementary rather than as two separate constructs. When I tell people where I’m from, I say St. Louis. I love where I live in Hazelwood, but I identify with the city. Growing up, I lived in the county with my mom but spent lots of time with my grandparents in the city. I have fond memories of the safety and stimulation of my school during the day and of riding bikes and playing sports with families on my grandparents’ street in the evenings and on weekends.

Today the dynamics of those two worlds are different. I feel very comfortable in the county because I’m surrounded by people who look like me. But I also know that many of them have been pushed out of their neighborhoods in the city. The people who lived on my grandparents’ street weren’t able to create generational wealth and pass it on to their children through their property. Too often, the lines separating the city and county are drawn because of race.

It seems like we don’t even recognize the advantages that our collective strength could have. And until we get over those issues, our region will continue to suffer. But even though it hurts my heart to hear city and county leaders fighting about what they think they’re giving away in regional turf battles, I am optimistic for the future. Our business community knows how to create opportunities—and opportunities change mindsets. Now we have to figure out how to ensure equitable access to those places and spaces. We know how to attract people-first large businesses that can lead the way when it comes to financing and technology.

We know how to grow small businesses and entrepreneurial thinkers. Our region has plenty of resources. Now we need to decide that our common humanity is more important than divisiveness—especially in education. Our kids can lead the way forward, if only we can stop dividing up our assets in ways that sabotage them. Our residents have the same goals for good jobs, for safety, and for fun stuff to do on the weekends. I believe we know how to prioritize and reimagine public safety for residents in all parts of the city and county. We just need to implement it. I know the systemic issues in our region are solvable.

My prayer for St. Louis is that we can maintain a holistic focus on issues that improve families and communities, that we can think more like one group and not multiple pieces. I have three children, and I don’t want them to feel they have to leave to pursue their dreams. My oldest child is a little pessimistic because he’s starting to understand the challenges. My second child knows she’s going to change the world.

My youngest not only knows she can change the world, but she thinks she has already figured out how to do it. Like me, they’ve been born and raised here. In the future, when they say where they are from, I hope their proud answer of “St. Louis” will represent a strong and successful metropolitan area where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Demetrius Grooms Principal, Client Onboarding Operations at Edward Jones

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