Stephen Houldsworth began a life in activism and community organizing decades ago, during the AIDS crisis. He was part of movements in New York and other major cities, and now calls St. Louis home. NPR Illinois previously spoke with him during a visit to Springfield to perform his original one-man show, "Protests & Punk Shows While Making Other Plans: Musings of a Grumpy Old Gay Man."
He admittedly does not speak on behalf of all those organizing in the city - of which there are many people from diverse backgrounds. However, he remains an active presence on the ground and on social media.
He recently took to Facebook to criticize the city's handling of its homeless population. Houldsworth and others say the closure of a 24-hour, walk-in shelter and the inadequacy of its replacement have made a dangerous situation even worse for many. On January 1st, a man who was apparently homeless was found dead in the freezing cold. Houldsworth contends the issues of racial equity and homelessness are related - both are the results of systems and structures that do not provide for those who have been oppressed or otherwise left vulnerable. He says his interest in addressing the two topics is "about changing larger structures - changing larger systems."
Houldsworth begins the following conversation by talking about the mass protests that erupted late last summer after a white, former police officer, Jason Stockley, was acquitted in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man who at least one witness said was unarmed at the time of his death.
Houldsworth says protest was an inevitable reaction. "It was time when this verdict came through to really step up the efforts that never went away (after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson) ... This was a time that fire was re-lit on a street level." Tune in to hear more: