You could argue that rock ’n roll was born at the Cosmopolitan Club at 16th Street and Bond Avenue in East St. Louis. That’s where Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson first played together and forged the relationship that led to “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelline” and many other hits that were the bedrock of the new music.
Today it is a vacant lot.
The house was once a time capsule, looking much as it had when his dental surgeon father and pianist mother lived there. Then it became a heavily vandalized shell and derelict property.
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Add choreographer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham’s home in East St. Louis to the list, and there are places of great importance to our nation’s history that deserve recognition and deserve preservation so we can remember and teach our children.
But to preserve, you need money. To draw money, you need trust.
There is a tax-exempt charity to raise money to renovate the Miles Davis house. The house itself is in private hands, owned by the real estate company of former mayor Alvin Parks’ sister, Lauren Parks. She won’t discuss donations or why the house is privately owned or the future plans for the house.
That’s fine. She doesn’t have to.
But then, how likely are we to write her a check?
Remember the lesson of cancer faker Melissa Barton: transparency, accountability, verification.