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Hope for 2021: St. Louisans Have Their Wish Lists Ready 

St. Louis is ready for 2021.


St. Louis is ready for 2021.

We decided to look forward. This is not an exercise in fantastical thinking. We are not pretending the pandemic isn't still happening or that this hasn't been a depressing, enraging and exhausting year. Honestly, it will take a while to process 2020, and we don't have the appetite for it right now. So, forward.

We asked 21 people (OK, we got carried away, and it turned into 23) in the St. Louis metro to tell us what they hope 2021 will bring. There are teachers here as well as activists, restaurant owners and political leaders. High school students who have spent their senior years navigating a frustratingly uncertain landscape told us what they are looking for in the new year. We asked immigrants and people who can trace their St. Louis roots back generations to look out toward the same, unknowable horizon and conjure best-case scenarios.

Ever play that game where you imagine what you would buy if you won the lottery? It feels easy and silly, full of ridiculous cars, island dreams and mansions. But we discovered that if you ask someone right now about their hope for the near future it tends toward the most basic of desires — justice, a hug from a relative, people over politics, a planet that will survive us, to eat a sandwich together, to eat ice cream without worry.

Try it. Look into the future and ask yourself what you want to see. Here's hoping it comes true.

Doyle Murphy

U.S. Representative-elect Cori Bush. - COURTESY CORI BUSH
  • U.S. Representative-elect Cori Bush.

Cori Bush

U.S Representative-elect

I'm hopeful that in 2021, our community will begin to find stability. I am hopeful that our neighbors will receive the resources they need to be able to not worry about whether they can keep the lights on, or if they can afford to see a doctor, or if they can keep food on the table because their congresswoman is fighting to address the structural barriers that keep so many of us from having a decent life. More than anything, I am hopeful that the people of the district will know what it feels like to have a congresswoman that loves them; that cares deeply that they have what they need to live a decent life; that will do anything and everything she can do to bring about the change St. Louis so desperately needs.

  • Soheil Mansouri

Soheil Mansouri

Visiting assistant professor Webster University

1. I hope my family and I can meet our parents again in Iran and have them over here in the U.S. after ten years!

2. I hope humans care for each other more and more!

  • Sarah Kendzior.

Sarah Kendzior

Political commentator, podcast host, columnist and author

It's hard to talk about things in terms of hope. It's not a framework I usually use. I look at things more in terms of perseverance and resilience, because we've been in very tough times for a very long time.

But I don't think we've ever seen anything like we did in 2020, when people are just trying to survive. We've lost so many people, and we haven't really grieved.

One thing I do hope to see in 2021 is some acknowledgement of that, a lowering of the flag, having some kind of memorial — those are all normal, healthy things a country would do if 300,000 citizens died. I hope that there's something like that, and I know it sounds morbid and maybe weird, but I think that it's a sign of empathy, returning as a nation to grieve together for the people that we've lost. I think that would be really healthy, it would bring us back to reality and let us process our emotions a bit.

Because reality is bleak. I mean, constant fear and panic and having to suppress your natural reaction to that, to push it all down so that you can get through. It's normal to feel traumatized.

We've been in reactive mode for so long, reacting to the pandemic, reacting to President Donald Trump, that I think people haven't thought as much about, like, what do they want? Ideally, what kind of society do they want? What kind of life do they want? Because they're trying so hard to just hold on to what we have.

With the vaccines, and with normality returning, I hope we can think in a more idealistic way that's less about tradeoffs, that's not us settling for the guy who told us to drink bleach or accepting mass death. It's not just because of the pandemic. It's because of our manmade response to it.

We have really low standards here. It's been a disaster of a year. And we clearly need to aim higher.

Inez Bordeaux. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • Inez Bordeaux.

Inez Bordeaux

Organizer with the Close the Workhouse campaign

My hope for 2021 is that we have learned the lessons that 2020 has taught us. We've always known that there were these huge inequities in and around the St. Louis area, huge gaps, wealth disparities, racial inequities and issues with environmental racism. 2020 put a big, glaring floodlight on these issues.

That also means closing the Workhouse.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a bill in July that would close the Workhouse and send millions of dollars to the areas where people need it most. Even if it's not happening this year, it is absolutely going to happen. For the people of this city who have been protesting and commenting and calling and trying to hold our elected officials accountable, nothing we want to do can come to fruition until that living, breathing monument to white supremacy and racism is closed down.

We can't be a city that says that Black Lives Matter with that facility being open.

I've spent time in the Workhouse. I have had loved ones and family members spend time in there, as well as people that I've gotten to know over the last three to four years whose families have been torn apart due to a lack of resources and neglect. I've gotten to know the families of Louis Payton and Christopher Brown, who both died in the Workhouse within the last two years.

For me, when the actual building is closed down, when they put the chains on those doors, when they turn off all the lights, I know I'm going to cry. It will be a sense of relief, for me and thousands of people in the area. It's going to be powerful.

Mohammed Mupenda. - COURTESY MUPENDA
  • Mohammed Mupenda.

Mohammed Mupenda

News correspondent, freelance reporter and interpreter for French and East African languages

COVID-19 has caused chaos and is expected to be kicked away as the vaccination gets underway, and life will return to normalcy. I am very optimistic that this pandemic will go down, and we find our time to socialize as we used to before it broke into our country. We have learned life changes, hence we need to always get prepared by building a health-care system that is impeccable and ready to deal with any future similarities.

We have witnessed overwhelming numbers of patients in the hospitals, which caused some patients to opt for other options such as home care. Our government should take note and move forward on building hospitals and infrastructure and equipping the health-care system to avoid any side effect for future insurgencies. It should also encourage students to take on medical courses to encounter the challenges we may face, as the researchers and scientists move to find out what could be done in case a similarly deadly pandemic surfaces in the future.

I will be thankful to President Joe Biden's administration once he moves forward to solve the health-care system that has seemed to be the most expensive and challenging in our nation for the past decades. An expensive health-care system poses threats to our people, and you find that there is no better life without universal health care. Ordinary citizens need to be catered to and treated once there is a need.

The coming year is going to be the most challenging for us. Because we will deal with recovery of our economy, the vaccines may also come with economic conditions that will not be affordable to every ordinary person.

President Biden should work to end the immigration ban that has put lives of immigrants at stake while they contribute to our country's economy. During the Trump administration, families have lived in dilemma, with no hope to reunite anytime soon. They now hope those policies will end under Biden's administration. Most of immigration policy changes are likely to bring joy to immigrants who had lost hope during the Trump administration. I also look forward to seeing Biden's plan for scrapping student loans take effect in 2021 as we get government grants in huge numbers.

Carmen Stone

Server at Sunny's Cantina

I hope to see society find humanity in the calamity. There is so much loss and suffering, so there is also a lot of healing and rebuilding. I'm not solely counting on science and leadership to fix it; we all have to work together to facilitate change and adaptation ... so we can save our restaurants, music venues and grandparents — safely. In 2021, I'm hoping we'll find each other.

Mohammed Qadadeh. - ANDY PAULISSEN
  • Mohammed Qadadeh.

Mohammed Qadadeh

Owner of American Falafel

What we have been through over the past year is giving me thought for so much that we should be thankful and hopeful for as we go into the next year.

1. I am hopeful that we can finally say goodbye to the virus that has inflicted so much damage on all of us — hopefully for good, but I'm sure this is a gradual process.

2. I am hopeful that I can take a vacation with my kids.

3. I am hopeful we can go back to normal life and be able enjoy simple everyday freedoms.

4. I am hopeful businesses will come back and our economy will be stronger and better, and people will go back to their jobs.

5. I am hopeful our kids will enjoy their friends and sports more than ever.

6. I am so encouraged by what I saw in 2020 from the people of St. Louis — compassion, thoughtfulness, generosity and helping each other.

7. I am encouraged when I see neighborhoods banding together to get through difficult times.

8. I am so hopeful for a better future for everyone; it's there for all of us to make the most of it.

9. I am so looking forward to throwing my mask in the air (maybe do other things to it) like I'm graduating high school or college when this is all said and over with.

10. I am hopeful that everyone can have a falafel sandwich at American Falafel.

  • Jeff Landow.

Jeff Landow

Social studies and English teacher at Lafayette High School

Cynthia Ozick, American author, writes, "When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that deserve our gratitude."

I quite like this quote. In fact, I would like to offer up one such example of how 2020 grabbed our country by the collar and reminded us, rather dramatically, of something we have too long taken for granted: the humble public school education.

I teach English to tenth and twelfth graders, which — let me tell you — is quite a challenge during a national pandemic. There weren't enough internet hotspots to go around in March and April, so some students simply didn't have access to their online instruction for several weeks. Even when students could access classes over Zoom, it was hard for them to focus, to build and maintain relationships with teachers and friends, and to keep their different classes' assignments and due dates organized.

Students complained of eyestrain and headaches from staring at a computer screen all day. Some students became depressed; some simply stopped logging in. The first day we returned to school for in-person instruction, I saw students so overcome with relief they were near tears. Public education in America isn't perfect — Lord knows I have my list of critiques and criticisms — but I hope that in 2021, we as a nation look back and reflect on what happened when something so easily taken for granted was so suddenly taken away from us. I hope we remember that public schools and public education deserve our gratitude.

click to enlarge Jonathan Denen. - COURTESY JONATHAN DENEN.
  • Jonathan Denen.

Jonathan Denen

Senior at Lafayette High School

2020 has made hope a ubiquitous word. Hope got us through the pandemic. Sometimes hope is all we have.

In 2021, I hope that restaurants will be open full time, so I can enjoy a meal with my partner. I hope that I will no longer have to don a mask every time I walk into school or work. I hope that when I go off to college, all classes will be in person, and I can attend parties, and football games, and study sessions with friends, and walk through the hallways with the people closest to me, free of strict rules that restrict the acceptable vicinity of people in public spaces.

I hope. I hope. I hope. Right now, we're all six feet apart.

I have six hopes for 2020, and each hope is one step closer to those we love. One footstep at a time back to normalcy:

I hope that people are kinder to each other. We've never needed it more than in 2020.

I hope that people will open up talks about mental health, because even those with the greatest mental fortitude have been affected in some way by the events of the past year.

I hope that people will take the vaccine. Only then will we return to normal.

I hope that we have learned about the responsibility needed to handle epidemics. When everybody does their part, the transmission rate stays low.

I hope that those who are oppressed will continue to use their voice.

I hope that 2021 will be everything that 2020 was not. 2020 made me question my goals and who I am. 2021 is hope. Hope guides us towards the future. Towards our dreams and goals. Towards normalcy.

  • Shelby Darnell.

Shelby Darnell

Senior at Lafayette High School

Severely, and unequivocally, I want to eat ice cream in peace again. Allow me to explain: Ice cream is a peaceful dessert, a cold treat on a warm day. However, now that indoor dining is closed, I'm sitting outside eating ice cream in the December cold.

You may say: Shelby, why don't you just not eat ice cream when it's cold? To that, I say that only cowards discontinue their ice cream consumption in the name of temperature regulation.

(Frankly, I think I'm lactose intolerant, but that hasn't stopped me either.)

My best option during 2020 is to eat ice cream in my car, which, yes, I have done before, and, no, it does not go well. Alternatively, I could try to get the ice cream home before it melts; however, my neighborhood goes for miles because we're talking about Missouri here. My poor waffle cone dissolves by the time I get home, and all I'm left with is a spoonful of disappointment, which is pretty much a metaphor for all of 2020.

So, in the name of all that is holy, whoever has control over 2021: Please let me eat ice cream like a normal person again.

  • Sheri Beezley.

Sheri Beezley


For 2020, I got to be a nurse in a pandemic — woohoo! It has sucked. It still sucks. The most difficult part has been witnessing the blatant disregard of facts, science and evidence by our countrymen. The opportunity that God gave us in 2020 to use intellect, mutual concern and kindness to squash a science-based issue was thrown away by so many.

My hope for 2021 is that the United States will focus on education. It is obvious to most health-care workers that some basic STEM classes for our population may have helped us attack this virus before it even got to our shores. We saw it coming, literally, from miles away.

I received my bachelor of science in nursing when I turned 40 years old; it has changed my perspective on so much. I hope and pray that higher education will be a priority and more accessible to all in 2021 so everyone has the opportunity for new points of view.

For myself, I hope 2021 gives some chance for rest, a vacation and freedom from the desire to slap so many people upside their heads — don't worry, I'm not getting close enough to actually do that.

I also hope in the beginning of 2021 we will all wear masks, protect each other, wash our freakin' hands, be nice to each other, get a vaccine, order stuff from our local businesses and tip like our money is on fire!

Mayor Lyda Krewson. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Mayor Lyda Krewson.

Lyda Krewson

Mayor of St. Louis

Prior to COVID-19, the city of St. Louis was enjoying one of its strongest years on record with $10 billion of new development recently completed or under construction. That includes transformative projects like the new MLS stadium, the NGA West headquarters and many other important investments that are creating good-paying jobs and opportunities for our people.

Eventually, we will get through these dark days of the pandemic. That's why I remain incredibly optimistic and excited about the future of St. Louis. 2021 stands to be a year of hope, of listening to one another and of new beginnings. We'll have a new president with an administration that more strongly reflects our values and believes in science. More Americans and St. Louisans will be getting vaccinated against COVID-19. And I think you will continue to see more examples of extraordinary momentum that's already helping to propel St. Louis into the future and the national spotlight as a leading startup hub for entrepreneurs in the Midwest, for example.

But no doubt the past year has been extremely challenging for all of us in many different ways. As a community, we've confronted multiple interconnected crises all at once, including the pandemic, social unrest, a nationwide reckoning on race, and far too many lives have been taken from us by gun violence. In a new year, it's going to take folks from all walks of life, all neighborhoods and every background to commit to building consensus, working together and focusing on what unites us — instead of what divides us — to tackle these issues, help us recover and to heal.

No place is more resilient or prepared to meet this challenge than the city of St. Louis. I'm looking forward to what comes next and, personally, to have a little more time for long walks.

Alderman Bret Narayan. - COURTESY BRET NARAYAN
  • Alderman Bret Narayan.

Bret Narayan

24th Ward Alderman

It's safe to say that 2020 sucked. However, similar to the story of the kid digging through the pile looking for the pony, there was a strange positive aspect to it: It sucked for everyone. As a result of just how preposterously bad 2020 was, it brought forward an unexpected emotion out of virtually everyone I know: gratitude. You never really know what you have until it's gone.

I'll never look at popping into the neighborhood bar and having a beer with a few friends and catching the local scuttlebutt the same. I'll never see being in the presence of family members and sharing a meal the same again. I'll never see holding a new member of the family the same. I'll never look at stopping by a friend's birthday party the same — or comforting a friend at a funeral. I'll never feel exactly the same way when the guitar solo rips at a live show or when the final curtain drops at a play. I definitely won't look at our fearless health-care workers, grocery store workers and others who toiled through this mess to ensure society continued to function the same way again.

My hope for 2021, as we settle back into a sense of normalcy, is for us to remember that we have far more in common than we have differences. I hope we keep up with our newfound hobbies. I hope we continue to look out for one another. I hope we continue to donate to food banks, plant community gardens and check on our neighbors. I hope we see 2020 for what it was: an unexpected chance at a new outlook on all the little things in life.

Really, what I'm saying is, I hope you all have the best 2021. After 2020, you deserve it!

  • Jenn DeRose.

Jenn DeRose

Director of sustainable business practices at Blackrock Consulting,Known & Grown STL manager

2020 showed us that structural change is possible, and can happen with shocking speed. This is contrary to my (frankly misanthropic) worldview, and means that there is hope that we can, as a society, take the meaningful action that is absolutely necessary to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change and eliminate the racial and economic disparities that plague our planet. I have new hope that we are capable of holding the powerful accountable for their share of emissions, worker exploitation and wanton habitat destruction. We are capable of making personal decisions that put less strain on the planet, that don't support slave labor, that lift up marginalized voices and that create strong communities. We are capable of changing the racist systems and wealth inequalities that have become so unavoidably, painfully clear during this pandemic. We are capable of creating a more resilient region by supporting one another — not just financially, buying food from local growers, wares from local makers and donating to mutual-aid networks, but by providing our talents, skills and emotional support to benefit the greater good. We are capable of tearing down the systems that have oppressed us and destroyed our planet, and we are capable of creating something new.

2021 is offering us a chance to be intentional about building the kind of world we want to live in — a smoldering, blistered hellscape or a verdant, equitable, resilient global community.

I am hopeful that we won't miss our chance.

Deanna Brown. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • Deanna Brown.

Deanna Brown

Owner of Diffendoofer Daycare

I hope that 2021 will be the year we start to genuinely respect children. We give a lot of lip service to protecting childhood, but the reality is that children are the most marginalized group of people. Children are regularly denied basic human rights. When children are also marginalized because of things like skin color, nation of origin, sexuality, gender, physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities, our lack of respect for children is impossible to deny.

I hope 2021 will be the end of separating children from their parents at the border. I hope 2021 will be the end of children in cages. I hope 2021 will be the end of children in isolation rooms. I hope 2021 will be the year no children are killed by the police, their parents or their caregivers. I hope 2021 is the year everyone agrees that hitting children is wrong.

I hope 2021 will be the year we parents and caregivers choose connection over punishment to help our children learn and grow. I hope 2021 is the year children are able to exercise rights over their food, clothing choices, friendships and hairstyles. I hope 2021 is the year families and schools get the resources they need to thrive. I hope 2021 is the year the world recognizes the importance of saving the planet so today's children have a future.

I'm also hoping for a couple of good snow days.

St. Louis police Chief John Hayden. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • St. Louis police Chief John Hayden.

Col. John Hayden

Chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police

My hope for 2021 is that the St. Louis community works closely with St. Louis Police Department, the Circuit Attorney’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office and local social service agencies to the ends that violent criminals are held accountable for their actions and root causes of violent crime are diminished.

Joel Crespo. - MONICA MILEUR
  • Joel Crespo.

Joel Crespo

Co-owner of Guerrilla Street Food

We're trying to remain hopeful obviously — and not trying to make any drastic changes — that we very quickly get another round of some version of help, whether that's PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] or stimulus checks, because people's goodwill is only going to get us so far. We're also hoping that these vaccines work out, and people take them when they become available. All we can do is take it one day at a time, look at the thing that is right in front of us and keep pushing forward.

It's hard, because everyone is struggling — all businesses are struggling, and everyone is hurting. This year try to make a conscious effort to support local as much as possible; you can't eat at every single place you want to, but another thing people can do to help is engage with them on social media. I share posts and do my part, because it's always a frustrating thing running a small business, wondering if anyone is listening to me and looking at pictures or if I'm yelling into the void. The more engagement, the better, and I personally try to support the little places, like the little Chinese or Mexican places that don't get written about as much but are doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. I think about the people who don't get talked about as much. I know it's cliché, but the only way we will get through this is together, and I'm trying to figure out ways to do that, even if doesn't seem like a big deal.

I'm just trying to focus on the positive of people who are willing to support a restaurant they love. I don't think that on January 1 a switch will be flipped — the virus doesn't understand time — but it feels like the fresh start that everyone is craving, and if that is hope to get you through to the next day then so be it. You do everything in your power to spread it however you can, and hopefully it will be contagious.

  • Mawda Altayan.

Mawda Altayan

Owner of Damascus Food

Honestly, I have many wishes. The most important ones for me are: 1) I hope the coming year will be a good and healthy year for me, my family and for all people. 2) I hope the epidemic ends and everyone returns to their lives. 3) I hope to move to a better home. 4) I hope more people will get to know my catering food company Damascus Food LLC. 5) I hope to have the chance to open my own small restaurant for Syrian food and dessert.

  • Patrick Siler.

Patrick Siler

St. Louis theater director and stage manager for Upstream Theater

I hope for live communal experiences. For me that means live theater. Live theater was one of the first activities and industries to shut down because of the pandemic and will be one of the last to start back up. As one whose life has always in one way or another been steeped in theater, I really miss working with people in a live setting. I miss the fellowship and love of the very special artists, technicians and audiences of the St. Louis theater community. I miss collaborating with designers and technicians. I miss the smell of drying paint on scenery, helping to lug costumes, witnessing epiphanies in rehearsal, struggling with dramatic text, working to build a light and sound cue, hugging people, hearing audience laughter, being moved to tears and sensing, knowing that there are those around me feeling the same thing, even if I've never met these people prior. I hope that 2021 provides the opportunity for these things, the experiences that are shared and felt viscerally and can only be done with others.

  • Steven Fitzpatrick.

Steven Fitzpatrick Smith

Owner of the Royale

In 2020, it became even more apparent that our surreal world is on fire, and we haven't been able to connect with each other in a consistently healthy fashion. My hope for 2021 is that we don't get back to "normal," but instead embrace life even more firmly. We can create a more mindful and honest world for ourselves and those around us. 2021 will probably be the sweetest time ever to get a drink with your neighbors.

Nate Burrell. - ESTHER ROSE
  • Nate Burrell.

Nate Burrell


With life as we all have known it becoming drastically different as of March 2020, backed by a fallout that will be ongoing for quite some time, a lot of hope hangs in the balance. Some folks' dreams were put on hold, while others were lost altogether. It's been a tragedy slowly unfolding, both globally and locally.

Of course, like most folks, I hope for the big broad things to get better: human peace, equality, compassion, economies to open back up, independent businesses to thrive, people being able to operate as safely as possible in our world. We all want a better future. And I hope we see new ways of being become more readily encouraged and accepted.

When I think locally to the neighborhoods and residents of our city, one thing I really hope for is that the St. Louis community continues to maintain our spirit and determination. We are a resilient bunch, here in this brick city, with more pride and community support than we like to give ourselves credit for. Our underdog mentality is a blessing and a curse, but that same blue-collar willingness to take one on the chin and then stand up and keep pushing ahead might just be our best tool as a community going forward. I hope we stick together, as friends and strangers, while we continue to work through these difficult times.

Melanie Meyer. - ANDY PAULISSEN
  • Melanie Meyer.

Melanie Meyer

Owner of Tiny Chef

I definitely want to keep growing Tiny Chef as much as I can, but my hope is to go back to Korea. That's my biggest dream right now — to go back to Korea to visit the orphanage I came from, eat all the food, stage at a place, see how they cook at the markets. I haven't been back since I was born, and now that world is everything to me. I hope to go visit my hometown and immerse myself in that world. It almost makes me homesick; even though I don't have any memory, a part of me is missing. As for here, my hope is for everyone to stay safe and healthy. I want things to go back to normal so badly. Everything is awkward right now, but at least people are treating people w more empathy than normal. I hope that continues.

  • Jason Deem.

Jason Deem

Owner of South Side Spaces

I hope to see a return to good health, good governance and a societal shift offline and away from social media. I hope to see healing and progress around racial inequality, the widening economic gap and long-ignored mental health issues. I hope to see a trend towards unity and mutual understanding of diverse perspectives. A shift towards call-in culture. I hope we invest in building robust safety nets and prioritize public incentives around populations in need and small businesses — especially those hit hard by COVID. Basically the opposite of 2020.

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January 13, 2020

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