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Mar 2001 / sights and sounds :: email this story to a friend

Give a Look and Listen Up
By Thomas Crone

"Victory Without Violence: The First Ten Years of the St. Louis Committee of Racial Equality (CORE), 1947-1957"
Mary Kimbrough and Margaret W. Dagen
University of Missouri Press, $22.50
Buy it at Left Bank Books

Victory Without Violence

A rather slim volume, "Victory Without Violence" spins a fascinating and needed tale for all those interested in community-building and social change. That it does so by telling a story with a positive local twist makes it all the more intriguing.

Simply told, the members of CORE attacked the issues of race and inclusion through the stomach. And, by extension, the pocketbook. The head and the heart would follow. By instituting lunch counter sit-ins in major downtown department stores and dimestores throughout the city, the group was (slowly) able to attract results. Unfortunately for those brave enough to take part, the path towards that success was littered by taunts, overt racism and the occasional punch or kick.

But the route of non-violence was always the preferred method of the founders of CORE, whose plans and tactics are dutifully explored in this book. Included are a number of newsletters, magazine commentaries and other correspondence that provide some of the best material. There's nothing like reading documents from a past era, and the ones contained here give a sense of time and place that's not necessarily fully-explored elsewhere in the book; they give the language and "feel" of the City and make the whole project come alive.

The role that CORE played obviously impacted local merchants, with familiar names including Famous-Barr, Walgreen's, Stix Baer & Fuller and other business of St. Louis' past and present. The national angle, meanwhile, comes from the fact that St. Louisans were engaged in this type of peaceful protest more than a dozen years before the Greensboro, NC, strikers of 1960. And that's not to suggest that their work was less valid. Instead, this work sheds some light on our town's role in the civil rights struggle, well underway before the more-acclaimed events of the 1960s.

Another interesting sidenote is the fact that CORE members were constantly looking for more support. (The more things change, the more they remain the same.) In some cases, they'd even crack the color-barrier of a restaurant, only to not have people take advantage of the situation; in those cases, they'd have to cajole people to go through the now-opened doors in order to support the new policy.

A relatively quick read, "Victory Without Violence" is a welcome addition to the growing catalog of titles dealing with St. Louis activist history.

(A mild aside, one that'll only be given a moment's pause by those who make their way in the media. When books of such a local, specialized nature are released, authors should make themselves available, particularly to alternative press sources that would find their stories the most interesting. It's a courtesy that should be extended. It might even cause some extra book sales. Sermon over.)

Wanderings in the Night
KDHX 88.1 FM
Thursday nights, 10 p.m.-12 a.m.

Critics constantly come up with tricks on a similar, descriptive theme. "This is perfect rainy day music." "This is perfect roadtrip music." "This is..."

Kent Blalock's "Wanderings in the Night" is perfect Thursday night music, how 'bout that for vague? It's a blend of styles and sounds that's ideal for its timeslot, a smooth urban soundtrack. On the community airwaves for nearly a decade, Blalock, a.k.a. "The Wanderer," has seen the show "change from folk and folk-related to jazz to acid jazz to acid techno into trip-hop and a couple other types of titles."

Asked to name some of the acts that might appear on the show, Blalock pauses. There are a few that recur, but cuts generally appear only once, giving each show a unique quality. "Everything that I play is new," he says. "Most of the time I play a cut once and never play it again. Maybe a second time, but that would be it."

An ideal urban soundtrack, the show's newish time slot allows the non-nightowls a chance a catch Blalock's singular style. Tune in and bliss out.

"The Look and Feel of Sexicolor"
Delicious Chocolate Egg Records


If I never hear another song with tampon references, I'll live a happier life.

Nonetheless, this is crackling rock'n'roll: aggressive, loose, loud. Ex-Phonocaptors and Johnny Magnet members. Well-recorded. Nine songs, less than a half-hour. Enjoy.

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