Statement from Sen. Karla May Regarding Homer G. Phillips Hospital
JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, issued the following statement regarding the use of the name “Homer G. Phillips” on a new medical facility in St. Louis:
“Fighting back against the closing of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital is one of my earliest memories of activism and racial injustice. As a young girl, I joined my community as we marched in parade fashion around our neighborhoods to protest the city’s decision to close the only African American hospital in St. Louis. I vividly recall the feelings of frustration and betrayal in learning the closure of the hospital would be permanent. Watching my city turn its back on African American families — on their health, on their jobs and on their future — was a defining point in my life.
“I wish I could go back in time and tell that little girl with her dark blue Homer G. Phillips shirt, white gloves and poms, that her efforts were not in vain. I wish I could tell her that the spark of activism and social justice she found marching the streets that year would grow into a fiery passion for change that continues to this day. I wish I could tell her that one day she would serve in the Missouri Senate, fighting every day for the city and people she so deeply loves.
“Above all, I would tell her that the legacy of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital and its closing was not – and will not – be forgotten.
“The original Homer G. Phillips Hospital created careers, community, wealth and good-paying jobs for African American people. It provided care to African American families and was a place of peace in a deeply racist world.
“That is the standard to which any facility bearing its name must meet. Such a place must honor and uphold African American history – not blindly appropriate it.
“Right now, there is a deep debate over the use of the Homer G. Phillips name by a new medical facility, and whether such a meaningful name to the African American community can be appropriated by an outside group.
“I stand with the individuals and activists who oppose a hollow appropriation of the name Homer G. Phillips Hospital.
“These past several weeks, I have done my best to practice patience and hear from those involved and those concerned. I recognize this facility is not in my Senate district, and the Missouri General Assembly is not involved in the naming of local entities. And while my elected office does not have the authority to intervene, as a child of St. Louis, I am proud to lend my voice to the chorus of people calling for justice. I am also careful not to overshadow or overpromise those on the frontlines, as some may tend to do.
“The truth is, women and men in our community still need jobs. Families still need health care. And we all need places of peace in a deeply racist world. I challenge those involved in this project to raise themselves to the high standard established by the original Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Honor and uphold African American history. Create the better future for today’s St. Louis that was stolen from our families generations ago when the hospital closed. Do not open a new Homer G. Phillips Hospital in-name-only. Open a real facility that serves the African American community the way its predecessor did for decades.
“Make the next little girl or little boy who is starting to learn about their community proud of what they see. Spark the next fire of passion that changes our City for the better. Train the next generation of African American doctors and African American nurses. Open a facility truly worthy of the name and legacy of Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Do these things and help heal old wounds in a community that deserves real care.”