In 2007, the voters of St. Louis bestowed upon me the honor of being their representative in the Missouri General Assembly. For the past 13 years, in both the Missouri House and Senate, I’ve stood alongside parents and teachers to work for better schools and safer streets. I’ve brought millions of state dollars back home to St. Louis to lift up our communities. Strengthened by your support, your prayers, and your kind words, I spoke truth to power – and gave a voice to the voiceless.
Now, as the final session of my legislative career draws to a close, I look back upon our many achievements together, and I am once again humbled by this incredible journey you set me on all those years ago.
Together, we fought blight and cleaned up neighborhoods. We brought tens of millions of additional dollars home to Harris-Stowe State and Lincoln universities. We expanded the A+ scholarship program to include vocational and technical schools. We brought awareness to, and helped fight the spread of, sex trafficking. We “Banned the Box” and expanded expungement opportunities to help reformed Missourians find a job. We passed historic criminal justice reform. We secured hundreds of millions of dollars for programs throughout the City of St. Louis to help our most vulnerable citizens get healthcare and find work.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the St. Louis region – especially its black citizens – especially hard. The first confirmed COVID-19 death in Missouri was a black woman from our area. By May, nearly 70 percent of St. Louis’ COVID-19 fatalities and cases were black, despite black St. Louisans making up less than 50 percent of the city’s population. Clearly, this terrible virus is disproportionally impacting clack families due to the historic disparity in healthcare access.
That is why, as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I made sure that $35 million in federal funding would be invested in the City of St. Louis to help first responders, medical professionals, and everyone on the frontlines. By strengthening the fight against COVID-19 on all fronts and focusing on underserved communities, we can save black lives.
This global pandemic has made my final legislative session a challenge like no other. But like every session before it, I cherished the time my constituents gave me to serve. Hopefully, along the way, I shouldered the burdens of my constituents to the best of my ability as the pandemic increased demand for healthcare, unemployment benefits, and food assistance.
Helping me meet these needs was a talented staff, led by the unflappable Jason Groce, a man with an incredible depth of talent and an even deeper faith. Over the years, the women and men who have served in my office have helped countless citizens navigate the gears of government. Groce, Jay Nelson, Blake Lawrence, and my dearly departed friend, the late Eric Vickers, I could not have done it without you, and I am so very grateful for your service.
These final days of my legislative career dovetail with the conclusion of another long journey which my family has traveled for 29 years.
We have just welcomed home my twin brother from the Department of Corrections. He and I were born into chaos and struggled with the challenges and hardships that came with growing up, without parents, on the streets of 1980s St. Louis. Thankfully, we survived. I have missed having my brother at my side for nearly three decades, and I will cherish every day we have together now.
His is a story of redemption and salvation. His strength and achievements inspire me. He demonstrates what is possible when we choose to rise up from the ashes and demand something better for our future. I hope, that through my service in the state Legislature, we have spared other families from these hardships.
Serving as your state senator has been the honor of a lifetime. I thank you with all of my heart for this rare and precious opportunity. Although my days in the Legislature may soon be over, please know that my commitment to you knows no end.
State Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) represents Missouri’s 5th Senate District.