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Richardson Lends Voice to Leadership St. Louis Class

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


Mariah L. RichardsonMariah L. Richardson has lived all over. She attended college in New Mexico, started her career as an actress in Los Angeles, and has had stops in Oakland, Portland, Chicago and Massachusetts.

But her home is St. Louis and she hopes her voice can help make the region develop into a force for everyone who lives here. Richardson, an adjunct instructor at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, takes a step toward that goal this fall when she joins the latest class of FOCUS St. Louis’ Leadership St. Louis, a prestigious and by-invitation-only program.

“It gives a deeper understanding of the St. Louis region, the issues, the institutions and systems and gives us exposure to civic and business and community leaders,” Richardson said. “We will have conversations with them about what’s taking place in the region and how to improve communication and collaboration and decision making.”

FOCUS St. Louis describes its program as an “immersive nine-month curriculum” that delves into topics such as economic development, racial equity, education, criminal justice, poverty, immigration and arts and culture. Leadership St. Louis allows established and emerging leaders from throughout the St. Louis area to have their perspectives challenged, hear new voices and promote discussion and action.

This year’s class of 73 participants come from some of the area’s largest corporations, leading law firms, nonprofit organizations, and several educational institutions along with many other quarters. Richardson’s inclusion is because of her work as a playwright and connection to the arts and culture community in the region.

This March, her play “Suffer the Children” was produced by the Center of Creative Arts (COCA). It’s a story about a girl named Delilah, who is faced with issues such as race, white supremacy, gun violence and immigration.

Richardson is also collaborating with Shakespeare in the Streets to develop a play about Hamlet, a man who inherits his childhood home in The Ville neighborhood and has to decide if revitalizing that community is worth leaving what he established in North County.

Both of those projects center on community. For Richardson, that’s her driving force for wanting to be part of Leadership St. Louis, which begins in September. She wants to see all areas rise, especially north of Midtown where she grew up and north of Central West End where she lives now.

Mariah Richardson and Forest Park students“I want to be able to engage in those kinds of discussions,” she said. “How do we bring back corporations and businesses onto the Northside because north of the Delmar Divide is the last bastion of affordable housing. There’s so much empty lands and abandon buildings and all of that needs to be taken care of.”

The “Delmar Divide” refers to Delmar Boulevard as a socioeconomic and racial dividing line in St. Louis. North of the road, the population is nearly all Black and low income, while south of the road, the majority is white and middle to upper-middle class.

Richardson also wants to use her voice to bring more attention to St. Louis Community College and the value it brings to the region.

She’s served as an adjunct professor since 2005. This summer is teaching Oral Communications and Introduction to Mass Communications. She says she typically carries three classes a semester, mostly in Mass Communications but has also taught in the theater department.

“We have to have people engaged to work toward equity and inclusion,” Richardson said. “If we don’t, we will be missing the population that is most likely to benefit. That’s a problem and that’s the outreach that we all need to do.”

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