Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, 1st Ward, and other members of the Board of Aldermen introduced Resolution 138 at the full board of Aldermen meeting on Friday, Dec. 19 to deem the naming of a new medical facility ‘Homer G. Phillips Hospital’ as “Inappropriate, Cultural Appropriation.”
"I would ask that this resolution would be sent to the health committee…but I wanted people to know that we, the Board of Alderman, gave the name in the first place; I thought that was an important thing to know,” Tyus said.
In addition to Tyus, Alderwoman Dwinderlin Evans, 4th Ward; Alderman Dan Guenther, 9th Ward; Alderwoman Megan Green, 15th Ward; Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, 6th Ward; and Alderwoman Annie Rice, 8th Ward introduced the resolution to the Board.
The resolution includes a comprehensive history of Homer G. Phillips and the Hospital.
According to the resolution, Homer G. Phillips grew up in Sedalia, Missouri, the son of a Methodist minister who had been a slave. Phillips became prominent in both civil rights and politics. He was Founder of the Citizens’ Liberty League, advocating for Blacks after St. Louis City residents voted in 1916 to mandate segregation in housing.
In the 1920’s, in the segregated city of St. Louis, there were two public city owned Hospitals, City Hospital Number 1, which Whites in St. Louis used, and City Hospital Number 2, a former medical college in the Mill Creek Valley which was woefully inadequate, segregated that Blacks were forced to use, according to the resolution.
In 1923, St. Louis set aside money from a bond issue for a new hospital. Blacks wanted “their” new city owned public hospital in a Black neighborhood. White doctors wanted the new hospital next to City Hospital Number 1, which was located south of downtown.
Homer G. Phillips eventually persuaded city officials to build the new hospital at St. Ferdinand Avenue and Whittier Street, in the Ville neighborhood, which at the time was the home to the Black business class, according to the resolution.
On the morning of June 18, 1931, Phillips left his home at 1121 Aubert Avenue, near Fountain Park, and walked to Delmar Boulevard to catch a streetcar downtown. Two men approached him and one or both of them opened fire. Phillips, 51, died on the sidewalk, according to the document.
Homer G. Phillips Hospital, opened in 1937 in the proud Ville Neighborhood at St. Ferdinand Avenue and Whittier Street, the very site that Mr. Homer G. Phillips himself chose for the hospital, the resolution noted. The opening of the hospital was a major event in the city and thousands of people lined the streets for blocks around the new hospital.
The resolution stated that Homer G. Phillips Hospital remained a crucial hospital for Blacks, The Ville neighborhood and surrounding communities until it was closed in 1979 by then St. Louis City Mayor Jim Conway. It now serves as a senior housing center.
The document said, “Paul McKee’s proposal for a new medical facility in North St. Louis is admirable and supported in a community that lacks medical facilities. He has made the proposal to appropriate the name Homer G. Phillips Hospital, without meeting with or initiating conversation with the Ville Neighborhood, the Board of Aldermen, or other members of the African American community to allow them to weigh in on what many believe to be the inappropriate cultural appropriation of a name that is so closely aligned with The Ville neighborhood.”
“There are many, many organizations that had me write this resolution,” Tyus said. “It is long, but it is important to them that it be read.”
According to the resolution, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, Comptroller Darlene Green, State Senator Karla May, State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, License Collector Mavis Thompson, several members of the Board of Aldermen, Yvonne Jones, President of the Homer G. Phillips Nurses Alumni, and several long-time community activists such as Ms. Ollie Stewart, Mr. Percy Green, Ms. Jamala Rogers, Mr. Wale A. Amusa, Ms. Zenobia Thompson and Ms. Pamela Talley have called for developer Paul McKee and the Board of Directors to choose a more appropriate name for this new project that does not, “Inappropriately, Culturally, Appropriate” the Homer G. Phillips Hospital name.
The resolution instructed the Clerk of the Board of Aldermen to send a copy of this Resolution by mail and a letter written by the sponsors of this resolution, to the developer, Mr. Paul McKee and the Board of Directors of the proposed private medical project, advising them of our support of their new medical project, but also advising them of this Board’s position opposing their project “Inappropriately, Culturally, Appropriating “the Homer G. Phillips Hospital name.
The Board voted to send the resolution to the health committee where it will be reviewed. Additionally, the resolution detailed an invitation for McKee and the medical facility’s Board of Directors to appear before the Board o Aldermen to answer any questions or find a new name for the center.