Ask anyone what America’s most dangerous city is and they’ll probably tell you it is Chicago. While the national media’s attention has been trained on the Windy City’s high murder rate and the outbreak of multiple shootings that seem to occur any given weekend, “Chiraq” is not the deadliest city in our country. That dubious title belongs to East St. Louis, Illinois, a small township nearly 300 miles away from Chicagoland.
Contained in just 14 square miles, East St. Louis’ homicide rate is 17 times the national average. Moreover, nearly half of its 27,000 residents live below the poverty line and only one percent of adults work full-time all year round.
Between the high rates of violence, infant mortality, and generational poverty, East St. Louis, once a boomtown, is now a “war zone.”
“That’s got to concern us as a nation. We’ve got a city fighting to survive, cope, and make it every day, and no one hears their cries. No one hears their call for help,” Goldie Taylor told TakePart.com. “You have to start to ask yourself, Why isn’t this a story that gets told? Why isn’t anybody listening?”
Fed up by the lack of attention communities like East St. Louis receive, Taylor decided to tell the complicated story of her hometown in the upcoming documentary The Other Side of Grace.
“What made me want to do this story is my belief, my convictions that we have to get deeper to get better,” Taylor, who’s currently raising $55,000 on Kickstarter to finish the film, explained.
“All the things we would consider wrong about America—gun violence, poverty, lack of access to meaningful health care, environmental justice—all of them are wrong in East St. Louis.”
Taylor blames an unholy alliance of failed policies, inequality, and a lack of options for East St. Louis’ decline, but she doesn’t let those most affected off the hook either.
“We cannot say, ‘I have to live like this until they fix it.’ We can’t wait until we have clear equanimity in the justice system [or] equal public education. We can’t wait until we have the necessary reforms in healthcare. Our work has already started. We still have to put one foot in front of the other and navigate this road.”
Learn more about, or contribute to, Taylor’s documentary on the film’s Kickstarter page.