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"What The Hell Is St. Louis Thinking?" Project: Artist Addresses Criticisms of Racial Bias

Categories: Arts

Henry_Goldkamp.jpg
Fresh Poetry, Ink. Facebook
Henry Goldkamp and a young author.
Henry Goldkamp, known as St. Louis' buskering poet, has a new project that has been getting a fair amount of attention in the local media lately, called "What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?"

At locations all over St. Louis, Goldkamp dropped typewriters on handmade podiums. There are 25 out right now and they can be found at City Museum, Sasha's Wine Bar, Melt, City Diner and CBGB, just to name a few locations. Anyone is welcome to step up and contribute their thoughts, and Goldkamp will eventually compile the best entries into a book.

This weekend, Goldkamp picked up the day's writings from the City Museum and noticed a comment that stopped him cold: "i think that all these typewriters are located in areas with the same or similar demographics and dont really represent the community, as they will only get thoughts from white hipsters or tourists."

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"It really kind of hit me hard," Goldkamp tells Daily RFT. "It was really disheartening, but at the same time it's been my number-one fear, that this doesn't represent all of St. Louis."

Even before the comment appeared over the weekend, he fretted that he might have trouble capturing a true cross-section of St. Louis, racially and socioeconomically.

"I thought, 'Man, I need black people, and I don't know that many black people, to be honest. How am I going to do this?'" he says. "St. Louis is so segregated, not just by race, but just thinking about the fucking question, 'Where did you go to high school?' There's so many immediate judgments made."

what_the_hell_st_louis_collage.jpg
@WTHSTL
Typewriters and platforms heading off into the world.

So Goldkamp has a new game plan. He's extending the deadline past August and says he'll put a typewriter in all 79 St. Louis neighborhoods for at least a week. He's hoping to place them not just in businesses and tourist attractions, but in places where real life is happening -- schools, nursing homes, strip clubs, casinos. And he says he's yanking some of the platforms from areas that are too...expected.

"I'm actually pulling everything from Cherokee and South Grand by next weekend," he says. "They've already contributed enough. I have plenty."

He's also put out the call for individuals to take a typewriter into their home, keep it for a day or two, then pass it to someone they know. Then that person would give it away after a day, ideally to someone who doesn't know the person who gave it to them in the first place. He hopes this will lead to the typewriter "bleeding through the neighborhood" and may solve his diversity problem.

"I want every aspect. I want every neighborhood," says Goldkamp. "The beauty of it is it puts everyone at the same level."

If you're interested in adopting a typewriter for a day, e-mail Goldkamp at henry@freshpoetrystl.org, or find him on Facebook or Twitter.

Follow Jessica Lussenhop on Twitter at @Lussenpop. E-mail the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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23 comments
Andrew Bohler
Andrew Bohler

Just shows that you can't do anything creative without pissing someone off. Pulling the race card is to easy compared to actually doing something or being a part.

Sarah Walker
Sarah Walker

It's an ART project not a political statement. Also he said he recognized the flaw in his original plan and if you really read what he said, he identifies a really big problem in our area, we are a very segregated city. Unfortunately there are places some people in the city don't go and don't know about. It think that his admission of that as a person he doesn't know about certain parts of this city, should help to start a conversation between others about having the same dilemma he has. Why don't some people go in some neighborhoods? and is that really being a good neighbor and fellow citizen of the city?

dalediversity
dalediversity topcommenter

Wouldn't the typewriters be stolen if they were located in more "diverse" areas?

Crystal Moore
Crystal Moore

the initial conception of the project having a racial bias is not the same as saying the artist is racist. and while the artist was brainistorming how to get 'more black people' (his words), to me it's more a case of unintentional socioeconomic bias. to ask what st louis is thinking only in the hip neighborhoods and tourist spots is similar to a lot of psychological students only being done on white college kids in the western world...

Clyde Rhoads
Clyde Rhoads

He had one setup at City Diner. Ive seen more of a demographic there than "white hipsters". What a pathetic story, continuing the racial divide Washington DC is so hard at work to achieve.

Robin Gray
Robin Gray

Only if they are perceived as racist. I did read it earlier, as I visit RFT everyday because I like it. He's trying to solve his perceived racist problems by changing his plans. Therefore, he is not racist and the post title is moot...

Barry Gates
Barry Gates

robin ur an idiot. to judge without knowing is why u are what's wrong with society. since u won't do a simple thing as click the link, i will explain. the article is about the artist of the project trying to explain why it's not a racial issue to those who have claimed it is. ...derp

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman

Are there watermelon and fried chicken in them boxes?

Crystal Moore
Crystal Moore

how do you know whether the question is valid if you don't read the article? there ARE things that are racist, believe it or not.

Robin Gray
Robin Gray

I'm not going to read the article, just because of this posting. Shame on you for turning this into a racial issue...

Pat Kenny
Pat Kenny

I can already hear the soundtrack to this project - it will be done by none other than.....wait for it......The Black Keys

angeloolegna
angeloolegna

I work at City Diner and we have a pretty diverse crowd. Many days we're happy to say that a very good percentage of our customers are black. The South Side is more diverse and integrated than people think.

Margaret Keller
Margaret Keller

What a man. The comment was pretty right on and I love that he is aware of this and willing to change it up. I've worked in St Louis nursing homes and that idea is my favorite because that is where you will find a huge cross section of St Louisians- administrative types, hard working nurse aides, visitors who are there to visit family in private rooms, medicare rooms.- Volunteers from churches, teenagers who do dietary work in the kitchen etc. Good job, Henry!

fiverx313
fiverx313

it's a case of socioeconomics as well as race, but i think the plan to resolve the initial disparity is a good one, and i admire the artist for owning it.


Tommy Nagel
Tommy Nagel

That photo is from Mary E. Brown Community Center!

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Yeah because you can get soo much money from a pawn shop for a typewriter these days. Dumbfuck.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

No but there is a black dick up in your mom every weekend. Booyah!

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

That's the spirit! Close your mind shut tightly, if you had one to begin with which is doubtful. 

lexi_long
lexi_long

@angeloolegna Blacks, or people of other colors for that matter, from the South side don't represent the folk on the North side. Your patrons at the City Diner don't represent me. Things are a bit different over here in North city, especially economically. Come hang out, bring a typewriter.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

I go there a every once and a while and while I agree that there is a racially diverse crowd there I would also find it safe to say that it is generally a hipster crowd. The thing that too many people don't understand is that being a hipster is not just a white thing, there are just as many black hipsters as white ones. The artist is just re thinking his box and people who are taking offense to his reaction the comments as well as this story are fucking morons. 

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