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

St. Louis is ready for 2021.

KEITH YAHL/FLICKR

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
  • 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 - COURTESY SOHEIL MANSOURI
  • COURTESY SOHEIL MANSOURI
  • 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. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

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January 27, 2020

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