People & Places

Best Local Boy Made Good 

Melvin White

Everyone knows that famous line from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "The arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Those words could easily describe the life of Melvin White, the founder of the nonprofit Beloved Streets of America. Since 2004 White's been chasing a bold dream to repair the social and economic ills found along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis. What could give a postal carrier that crazy idea? Well, White's family migrated to north county while he was in grade school, but he grew up in Wellston. He returned to the northside streets as a mail carrier, and there he witnessed the condition of his childhood stomping grounds — the burned-out homes, the vacant lots, the depopulation. Most painful of all, however, was the decrepit condition of MLK Drive. After more than a decade of largely thankless efforts, White got his first big break this year — a $25,000 grant to turn a long-empty storefront on MLK Drive into a hydroponic garden. It may seem like a modest start to the overwhelming and complex challenges facing the street, and White knows it'll take a lot more to turn MLK Drive around. But, like King, White's mission proves that some things are worth the wait.

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