Alona Melanie Sistrunk
We Live Here, St. Louis Public Radio
In short, what do you do?
As associate producer for St. Louis Public Radio’s We Live Here, I do any and everything to help our hosts tell stories about race and class for people somewhere on the woke spectrum. That includes pitching and helping to develop and produce episodes, as well as serving as the voice of the show on its social media platforms.
As civil rights litigation specialist for the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, I support our legal team in the fight to reform the region’s criminal justice system. Among other duties, I am responsible for managing the office’s processes for reviewing legal assistance requests and investigating potential conflicts of interest.
What story or topic has been particularly satisfying for you to explore on “We Live Here” and why?
We Live Here’s “Revolution from Within” introduced me to retired police Sgt. James Buchanan, who helped found the Ethical Society of Police, a union representing the interest of the city’s black officers. He spoke of how, during the Civil Rights Movement, 145 black officers boldly took to the streets in uniform to demand more black officers be hired. He spoke of a time when white officers in his unit refused to cover him. As a result, black community members formed a citizen’s patrol to help protect him, which he credits with having saved his life. Top secret government documents, the involvement of the FBI, and tales of retaliation against black officers who decried police brutality are all reasons why this episode is one of my favorites.
The most satisfying part of helping produce We Live Here is that I get to help St. Louisans tell their stories about St. Louis in a post-Ferguson world.
You’ve been involved with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri for several years, and last year, you were elected as the youngest member of its board of trustees. Tell us how you became involved and how your role has evolved.
In May of 2014, I was excited to join the ACLU of Missouri (ACLU-MO) team as their communications and development associate because they advocated for all the progressive reforms and Constitutional protections that mattered most to me: voting rights for all, free speech, government transparency, marriage equality, LGBT rights, reproductive health and ending racial profiling in policing.
In August of that year, everything erupted after the killing of Michael Brown and the Ferguson uprising that ensued. It was surreal to watch the streets I had grown up on be flooded with protestors, activists, and members of the press. But, it was equally humbling to support those winning so many key victories on their behalf.
After having left the affiliate for a new position, I was inspired to run for ACLU-MO board trustee because, as a young African-American, I felt I was uniquely positioned to help the organization achieve its goal of attracting younger, more diverse supporters. In just one day, I secured double the petition signatures required, 50 in total, to secure a spot on the ballot. In June of 2017, I was elected by a vote of the at-large Missouri membership.