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Proposed: Ivory Perry Park
3 May 2015
Published To

Ivory Perry is a St. Louis city park located in the Visitation Park neighborhood in North City. It was originally the location of Visitation Academy, built in 1892, until it was sold to the city in 1962 when the Academy moved west. The building was razed and Visitation Park was created. In 1989, the park’s name was changed to honor Ivory Perry, a St. Louis civil rights activist. Perry was famous for his roles as a picketer as well as his tendency to lie down in front of cars during protests. Besides fighting for civil rights, Perry also worked against poor housing conditions in which he saw the black population was forced to live. In addition, Perry fought for tenement rights and spearheaded the movement for legislation on lead use in paint and other household fixtures.

Ivory Perry park, unfortunately, is the location of one of the most disheartening, tragic events of St. Louis’ history. On March 5, 2001, a ten-year-old named Rodney McAllister was mauled to death by dogs in the park. He had been out playing basketball when a pack of wild dogs that had been roaming the streets attacked him and literally ate him alive. Neighbors reported hearing moans and howls, but shut their windows to the noise. Rodney’s body was found the next morning by a passerby. Rodney’s mother, who did not realize that he was missing, was subsequently jailed for child neglect.

Although Rodney was killed by the dogs, it was the conditions in which he was living that lead to his death. Residents of the neighborhood had called multiple times about the pack of dogs, but animal control never picked up any animals when they responded, due possibly to a lack of funds, manpower, or concern. Neighbors, due to the violence in the neighborhood, were used to hearing sounds of pain, so they did not respond to them. Finally, Rodney’s mother, who moved to St. Louis to flee an illegal gun charge, lived in severe poverty, and, according to some reports, was likely a drug addict. She did not check up on her kids to know where they were. She let them roam free, so in Rodney’s case she was not even concerned when he did not come home. It is ironic and sad that the awful living conditions that Ivory Perry fought to ameliorate are what killed Rodney at Perry’s namesake park. It is these kinds of awful events that St. Louis avoids talking about--but we must if we are to move forward and improve. Ivory Perry Park deserves a cake in the Cakeway to the West because it is a monument to all the progress that the St. Louis area still has to make.

Photo: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/parks/parks/browse-parks/view-park.cfm?parkID=102&parkName=Ivory%20Perry%20Park&amenitySubTypeID=30

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