No Tears Project – St. Louis

When examining the complex history of civil rights in St. Louis, and the country as a whole, you may turn to books, documentaries, the internet, or… music? Yes! Thanks to one unique program, many of our nation’s civil rights stories have been interpreted through jazz music. This month, Gateway Arch National Park has partnered with Oxford American and Jazz St. Louis to develop the No Tears Project – St. Louis, “a multi-day residency of free events that will use music and conversation to engage communities in civil rights education and storytelling.”

The No Tears Project began in 2019 by interpreting the story of the Little Rock Nine in Little Rock, Arkansas, and has since gone on to develop programs in New Orleans, Louisiana; Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

No Tears Suite – Little Rock

Throughout the month of April, the project is using youth education events, panel discussions, and community concerts to interpret St. Louis’ role in the broader American civil rights story. Many notable guests will be featured during the project events, including Lynne Jackson, great-great granddaughter of Dred and Harriett Scott and founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation; Percy Green, civil rights activist; and Elizabeth Eckford, a member of the Little Rock Nine.

“It’s an honor to work with these people and organizations to present an arts-based civil rights program like No Tears Project in St. Louis—a city so rich in cultural and musical heritage,” said Ryan Harris, No Tears Project Director and consultant to Oxford American. “Like all communities, St. Louis can become a better place through continued dialogue that honestly addresses its past, forging a deeper understanding of each other to move forward together, and create a better future. The fact that two of the city’s major cultural institutions, Gateway Arch National Park and Jazz St. Louis, are creating the space for these programs and this music reiterates their own commitment to the work and the importance of these conversations.”

“We’re excited to be working with Oxford American, Jazz St. Louis, local partners and community leaders on No Tears Project,” said Tarona Armstrong, Deputy Superintendent of Gateway Arch National Park. “The events will foster relevant and constructive conversations through education workshops and live performances, while connecting and engaging diverse audiences and youth to the history of our park and the civil rights movement.”

This week, the project is culminating in a panel discussion at the Arch on Wednesday, April 26, followed by live concerts at Jazz St. Louis on Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29. All of the events are free to the public, but registration is required. Details can be found here.

The No Tears Project – St. Louis residency is made possible by a consortium of generous funders led by Jefferson National Parks Association with additional support from Gateway Arch Park Foundation and the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.

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