Editorials

Escape hatch or path forward for 89 blocks of East St. Louis

Former East St. Louis Senior High School girls basketball coach Dwan L. Prude faces criminal charges related to a 17-year-old girl.
Former East St. Louis Senior High School girls basketball coach Dwan L. Prude faces criminal charges related to a 17-year-old girl.

Coaches use rough language. They curse in front of players, but sometimes someone is recording them.

East St. Louis basketball coach Stetson Hairston learned that. Apparently so did one of his predecessors, Tony Young.

The “89 Blocks” that make up East St. Louis is a place to escape. That’s the dream fostered in young athletes, and is portrayed in the Fox Sports documentary about the 2016 Flyers state championship football team.

There’s also rough language in it, kind of like what got the two basketball coaches fired.

You have to wonder whether the language only matters to the powers that be when one of their political allies wants a coaching job. There is a premium on those jobs, because they embody the path to a better life for youths hoping to escape the poverty and violence of their 89 blocks.

There are several troubling aspects to that culture.

First, the premium placed on athletics leaves behind many more youngsters who could escape through academics.

Second, the dream is of escape, not of returning with your college degree to make your hometown a better place.

Third, some who do return will feel their prize positions or political patron’s protection entitles them to something.

Girls basketball coach Dwan L. Prude must have had that idea. He tried to turn a 17-year-old girl into his personal prostitute. He even chronicled his molestation in texts, calling her “edible.”

Obviously criminal behavior is a very different matter than role models with poor judgment or the discouragement to those who do return but don’t know someone or won’t pay someone to get them a job.

But just because the system has been that way for decades doesn’t make it right. Accepting it sells the futures of the city’s youth and the larger community at an unacceptable discount.

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