"He has no soul," she said, explaining why she had no misgivings about wanting the black man who had robbed her incarcerated. As she recounted the horrifying story, my mind flashed to a recent conversation with a cab driver, whose seventy years on the planet made him remark: "the black community has lost its soul." And with the community's future at stake with the upcoming mayoral election, the thought then came that maybe only a black woman could restore it.
"It was late evening, and I had just gotten off the Metro," she said, her voice shaking in recalling the incident. "I called myself being cautious, going home before it got dark, and walking in a lighted area after I got off the train."
"I know I maybe sound like an old fool," he said, "but back when all you heard on the radio was songs with love lyrics - like Stevie Wonder - instead of this cussin' and fighting and fuckin' you hear today, black folks weren't shootin' and killin' each other."
"Before I knew it, from out of nowhere, he was walking beside me," she continued, "saying 'Hey sista, you sho' looking good.' Next thing I know a gun is pressing against my stomach."
St. Louis has never had a woman as its mayor, and the only woman in recent history to vie for the position was a black woman, Irene Smith, who was soundly beaten by the incumbent mayor.
"I heard him click the gun chamber," she went on, and I could only imagine her fear, which vividly showed when she recalled his words: "Bitch, don't look at me! Get on the ground! Gimme every fuckin' thing you got - your purse, your cell phone, and whatever you got in that damn bag!"
"You can have everything, please don't shoot me, I ain't got nothing but three dollars on me, I swear," she pleaded, lying face down on the grass, the gun against the back of her head. "In the bag," she said to me in detailing the terror, "I had some construction paper for the children I tutor to write on."
"Remember when black people used to call each other "soul brother" and "soul sister?" he asked me while steering through the streets. "Well, soul ain't just about being black. It's about the conscience inside you that makes you respect and care about other folks. These young folks have lost they soul."
Irene Smith had grown up hard, a product of the projects. She had gone on to become the first black woman to graduate from the law school of the University of Missouri. Having meager funds, her run for mayor was a bridge too far. Undaunted, she sought to give the black majority populace power, describing her campaign as a mission.
"It was only by God's grace that I lived, and that they caught him," she said, while showing me on her phone a Facebook posting. "You see these four young and beautiful black women, they were all murdered in the past month. At first I thought about not trying to come down hard on this brother because I know how black men are mistreated by the system. But then I thought about what he had done to me, had done to women before me, and what he would do if he was set free."
Maybe this kind of attitude is how our crime crisis should be dealt with, I thought. And maybe, I thought, no person could better have this attitude as mayor than a black woman.
Eric E. Vickers, Attorney and Activist.