“This year Halloween fell on the weekend; me and Geto Boys were trick-or-treating, robbing little kids for bags,” rapped Geto Boys emcee Bushwick Bill in the 1991 rap classic that featured frontman Scarface.
Those few lines in the popular rap record spoke briefly to the ghastly, everyday realities of living in the ‘hood n and not just on Halloween.
Those everyday, scary news stories of crime in North St. Louis spooked 21st Ward Committeeman Antonio D. French into creating Safe Zone, four blocks of police-patrolled Halloween activities.
Safe trick-or-treating last Friday spanned the 4400 and 4500 blocks of Anthone and Holly, bound by West Florissant (near O’Fallon Park) and Rosalie.
Kids went door to door worry-free, collecting their share of three 19 gallon containers of candy that were supplied by 21st Ward Democrats. Contributors, along with French, included 21st Ward Alderman Bennice Jones King, state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed and License Collector Mike McMillan.
One man’s house in the 4500 block of Anthlone was dark and spooky with its front porch dreadfully decorated like a haunted house. Frightful music played, and the man scared children away after first giving them candy.
Front Yard Features provided its gigantic outdoor projection screen on a vacant lot in the 4500 block of Holly. Neighbors sat on haystacks to watch the featured horror flick, Scream.
One neighbor threw a Halloween party, inviting all neighborhood kids.
“Kids can run up to any house they want to, so it gives them what was taken away from them,” said Linda Green, who lives in the 4500 block of Anthlone.
Gunshots rang out while Green talked, but she wasn’t worried, knowing they weren’t in the Safe Zone.
“It doesn’t just make it safe for kids, but it also makes it safe for grownups who want to participate,” Green said. “Cops put a stop to a lot of things that usually go on, and eyes are everywhere.”
Resident Talvin Moore called the Safe Zone a beautiful thing. “With everything going on on the North Side, there are some bad people out there, but this is safe,” he said.
Another Resident Terrence Little said, “The kids get to have fun like we did when we were growing up.”
French said he collaborated with Laura Keys, an Anthlone resident who had organized safe trick-or-treating on her block for several years.
“My vision was to have a larger block and invite kids from all wards,” said French, noting that some trick-or-treaters came from the county.
“It got people out as a community, and people were sociable and got to know one another,” French said.
Another good thing, he said, was that families had a chance to enjoy the streets like they used to, instead of surrendering to criminals, as many inner city residents often do.
French said he sent press releases to the local mainstream media so they could have the opportunity to report something good going on in North St. Louis, which was explicitly penned in the release, but none of them showed up.
“Maybe if someone got stabbed, they would have been there,” he said.
The only people getting stabbed in those four blocks that night were make-believe characters in the movie Scream.
French said he had tried to get Frontyard Features to screen a film in his ward in the summer, but wasn’t able to. And he wants to do more films with the group in the spring and summer.
“It’s a good way of making productive use of the vacant lots and a good source of entertainment for residents,” French said.
This year, Halloween fell on the weekend, but no ghetto boys (or men) robbed little kids for bags, no one was gunned down, and kids (and adults) weren’t scared to trick-or-treat on the scary, but fun-filled holiday. At least not on four North Side blocks in the 21st Ward. What a treat.