Past Events

Black History Month Closes with Renowned Author

This story was written by Jorge Riopedre, Executive Director of the Delmar DivINe.

Sharon Stevens (left) moderates a discussion with Vivian Gibson, author of The Last Children of Mill Creek (right).

As a capstone to our Black History Month activities, Delmar DivINe, in association with the Clark-Fox Policy Institute, welcomed St. Louis author Vivian Gibson, where she discussed The Last Children of Mill Creek, a memoir that the Library of Congress selected to represent Missouri’s literary heritage at its National Book Festival.

In her moving memoir, Gibson vividly illustrates the everyday life of her family as members of the tight-knit Mill Creek community. The Missouri History Museum has hosted an interactive exhibit on her family as part of the Reflections Gallery collection for 18 years.

Gibson was raised in Mill Creek Valley.  She started writing short stories about her childhood memories after retiring at age 66. Her work has been produced as part of 50in50: Writing Women into Existence at the Billie Holliday Theater in Brooklyn, and published in The St. Louis Anthology.

At the event, which took place in the Berges Family Foundation Conference Center at Delmar DivINe, Gibson spoke about growing up in the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood, which was razed in 1959 in the name of “urban renewal.” Her family, friends, church community, neighbors, and over 20,000 Mill Creek residents were displaced by this act of systematic discrimination to hinder African American progress.

“I’m not a politician. I just wrote a book about being a kid,” Gibson said to the capacity crowd. “And I was worried it came across as too idyllic, but it just shows how the community protected us.  I had to go back and do the research and I had to put in the background what was going on in our society and I had to trust people to see what was not always so direct.

“I think people need facts I think people need the information, we need the history before we can even start having conversations about equality…[how] my father couldn’t be more than a truck driver, couldn’t be a musician [even thought] he became a choir director and nurtured his own love of music and still managed to raise his family.  We have to have these real honest conversations about that happened..and  how it has marginalized so many people. “People have to have some hope, and we can figure out how to make people hopeful.”

Vivian Gibson’s memoir beautifully and truthfully documents the life and death of one African-American community in mid-twentieth century St. Louis. Childhood is, for most of us, where our true home resides, and The Last Children of Mill Creek is a tribute to Gibson’s, one told with deep generosity, humor and love.

Angela Mitchell, author of Unnatural Habitats and Other Stories

This event was co-sponsored by the Delmar DivINe and the Clark-Fox Policy Institute.