Thursday, June 17, 2021

Take Five Magazine Covering St. Louis for 15 Years

“It Can Happen to You”: The Ellen Reasonover Story

May 1990 / by Cassandra Hamilton / Photos by Frank Madkins

When Sylvester Brown, Cassandra Hamilton and Frank Madkins left the office to interview Ellen Reasonover in prison, seven years after Ellen’s tragic story began, no one predicted the impact her story would have on the future of Take Five. Although Take Five continued its coverage of St. Louis’ black art and culture scene, it was Ellen’s story that sparked our fire for investigative journalism.

In her introduction, Hamilton wrote, “Tears well up in Ellen Reasonover’s eyes when she describes her bizarre trial – where members of the all-white jury periodically slept and the dubious testimony of two paid inmates was the only evidence used to convict her of capital murder.  But, she openly sobs and her eyes implore understanding when she confides that her 9-year-old daughter Charmelle believes she is away at college. ‘I’ll have to tell her soon,’ she whimpers. ‘My daughter is getting older.’”

 Ellen Reasonover was finally released from prison in August 1999 after spending 16 years behind bars.  Charmelle, her daughter, was 18 years old by the time her mother was returned to her.

 A Race With Hidden Reasons / March 1991 / by Victoria Anton-Brown

The school board race in 1991 had two sides vying for control of a bitterly torn board.  While both sides promised quality education, one side wanted voters to ignore that its members admitted to being advocates for white rights.

 BOP / Take Five Magazine’s Art and Literature Section Introduced in May 1991 by Arts Editor Jabari Asim

By the time May 1991 rolled around, Take Five was gettin’ pretty heavy on the issues impacting the community.  What started as an arts and entertainment magazine was now fast becoming an in-depth newsmagazine, so a new section was born.  BOP was its name and mastermind Jabari Asim led the way, but we’ll let his words (from way back then) explain:


Intro by  Jabari Asim

Let me welcome you to Bop, Take Five’s Art section, revamped, revised and stylized to serve sazz, jazz, pizazz, substance and sustenance to satisfy your artistic appetite. We intend to show and tell what’s up and what’s cooking in the whirling worlds of photography, fashion, painting, dance, drama, poetry and prose. And we plan to do it with oomph! offering a diverse range of writing styles and artistic approaches, all designed to catch your eyes and feed your mind.

 This year we find ourselves perched proudly at the edge of a new era in African-American arts and letters, and Bop has every intention of being at the heart of the heat when the nitty gritty gets going. Call it what you will: NeoHoodoo Revivalism, Renaissance Three, “New” Black Aesthetic—something’s going down in the hearts and heads of emerging artists everywhere, including those struggling to create right here in “River City.”

 Bop aims to entertain and your pleasure is our gain. Hence, please take time to drop us a line and let us know what you think. If there’s something or someone worthy of your attention, send word and we’re on it. Meanwhile, I’m in the wind. - Beedeedeeobop!


Always movin’, always’ shakin’, always thinkin’ and creatin’, Jabari introduced SING, an annual literary supplement for Take Five Magazine, in December 1991.  The supplements featured works by Sabah As-Sabah, Zayid Muhammad, Sandra West, A. Wanjiku Reynolds, Andrea Wren, Kathy Akbar, Dorcas Johnson, Fontella Scott, Debra Meadows, Kevin Powell, Harold McNeil Robinson, Chris Hayden, Dale Edwyna Smith, Mariah Richardson, Michael Castro, Ira Jones, Darryl Holmes, Melvin Liddell, John Sherod, Tiye Malik, Kiyana Horton and Carmen Hudson.

Bop and SING continued for three years and two years respectively, but without Jabari things just weren’t quite the same.  Jab moved on to higher heights as genius tends to do and Take Five went back to presenting art and culture on a slightly mellower, less hip beat.  Thanks, Jabari, for always raising the bar.

COPZ in the Hood Special Issue May/June 1992

Take Five
took its first comprehensive look at the relationship between African Americans and the St. Louis Police Department.  Included in this special issue were “Pig Tales,” four stories of police harassment told by “everyday” folks.  Always proactive, Take Five also provided a “Know Your Rights” section designed by the Organization for Black Struggle.


Fusion or Confusion?

August 1993 / by Robert Joiner

Writer Bob Joiner asked, “Can Native Africans and African Americans find common ground?”  The answers to this question provided an indepth look into the relationship between two groups separated for nearly three and three-quarter centuries.  Also in this special issue, Fontella Bradford provided an interesting piece on Kente Cloth and its growing popularity at the time.  Erise Williams Jr. spoke at length to six people, one American and five African, to discuss their impressions and feelings about each other’s homelands.

Medicine in Motion: Ten Hours in Regional Hospital’s Emergency RoomOct. 1993 / by Fredrick McKissack

The Chain of Rocks MurdersApril 1994 / by Fontella Bradford

In 1991, two young women, sisters, fell 90 feet to their deaths in what became known as the Chain of Rocks Murder Case.  Three young men went to death row for their murders.  While one mother mourns the loss of her two daughters, another fights to save her son’s life.  She, and others who support her, do not believe this was a case that ended in justice.  In 1994, Fontella Bradford revisited that fateful night, talked with anguished mothers on both sides of the case, the prosecutor and one death row inmate’s federal appeal attorney.


No Welfare, No Way June 1994 / by Victoria Anton-Brown

As a freshman congressman in 1994, Rep. Jim Talent proposed sweeping welfare reforms blaming welfare for crime, out-of-wedlock births and continued poverty. On the other side of the debate was sociologist Mark Robert Rank and child crusader Marian Wright Edelman.

The Search for Yemane Hughes 

Oct. 1994 / by Victoria Anton-Brown

Andrea Hughes’ not yet two-year old son, Yemane, had been missing for two months when Take Five interviewed her in October 1994.  Her nightmare was brought on by her estranged boyfriend and ultimately worsened by the system’s failure to check and recheck itself.  Hughes’ crusade to find her son by bringing criminal charges against his kidnapper fell largely on deaf ears at the circuit attorney’s office.  Despite serious errors within the system, dubbed by Hughes’ attorney as a “conspiracy of incompetence,” the circuit attorney’s office remained indifferent -- until the media began to apply pressure.

Where Does It Hurt? 
A look at health and health care in the African American community.

November 1994 / Special Issue

Reasonable Doubt July 1995 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

St. Louis Comptroller Virvus Jones responded to a 24-count indictment against him in 1995 by calling it bogus and the entire investigation leading up to it a political witch-hunt designed to drive him out of office.  Sylvester investigated a historical pattern of Black leaders being targeted by the Justice Department and local officials.  What he found was damning evidence that Black political leaders are often set up for indictments, brought to trial, never convicted, but ruined by the court of public opinion.

Anatomy of an Injustice: The Kirk Collins Story 

October 1995 / by Lori Reed

Kirk Collins had served more than 20 years in prison for a murder he and others say he did not commit.  Out on parole and working to clear his name, Collins spoke at length with Lori Reed who uncovered questionable evidence, questionable witnesses and questionable justice.

Ready to Rumble 

Feb. 1997 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. wanted a second term in office.  He faced opposition from his old nemesis, former Police Chief Clarence Harmon, and Bill Haas.  Sylvester spoke with Mayor Bosley as he battled to maintain the top spot in city government.

The Police Beating of Gregory Bell 

A Continuing Series beginning in May 1997 

by Victoria M. Anton-Brown

Members of the St. Louis Police Department beat Gregory Bell, 19, on April 14, 1997 in his own home.  Some witnesses stated that as many as 20 officers took part in the mob police beating that left a mentally challenged boy bloody, maced and crying in his own back yard.  Take Five began its investigation just days after the incident by talking to witnesses, family members, community activists, the family’s attorney and Police Chief Ronald Henderson.  In May 1997, “A Cry for Justice” revealed a community sentiment that would not allow this case to be swept under the rug or hidden behind the blue wall of silence. 

 By July, indictments had been handed down against two police officers (Sgt. Thomas Moran and Lt. Edward Harper) involved in the criminal case and a civil suit had been filed.  Take Five investigated the two distinctly different cases and the key people charged with getting justice for Gregory.  Justin Meehan, the family’s attorney, spoke to Take Five for our July 1997 edition to help explain many facts revealed during the “discovery process.”  In that same edition, Take Five spoke with Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes about the grand jury indictments and the future trial.  During her interview, Joyce-Hayes made references to the case indicating what many believed was a less than vigorous attitude toward justice for Gregory Bell.  Found below is an excerpt from the July 1997 interview: Take Five continued its coverage of the Gregory Bell case throughout 1998.  In March 1998, just days before a judge ordered silence in the criminal case, Take Five spoke to parties inside the investigation and gathered exclusive documents revealing a code of silence among police officers and further details about the brutal beating for its story, “Breaking the Code.”

The Case No One Wanted 

By Victoria Anton-Brown / May 1998 

Take Five received an exclusive interview for its story, with Marvin Teer Jr., the prosecutor in charge of the case against Sgt. Moran, the only officer criminally charged in the Gregory Bell beating.  In the interview, Teer provided insights into the case before, during and after the trial that had never been heard through any other accounts.  Moran was found not guilty by a Kansas City jury shortly before the interview.

 One month after Moran’s not guilty verdict, Take Five discovered that just one month before the police beating of Gregory Bell, Thomas Dankenbring, a 3rd Police District resident, filed an excessive force complaint against Sgt. Moran.  In Take Five’s exclusive story, Dankenbring contended that Moran sprayed him with pepper mace and struck him in the head with an expandable ASP baton, a use of force considered deadly by department policy.  Such a baton was also alleged to have been used to cause the serious injuries to Gregory Bell.

Bill’s Biggest Battle

November 1997 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

Former Local 50 Union President William (Bill) Stodghill vowed to reclaim the position her lost in 1995, but first he had to reclaim the reputation his opponents fought hard to destroy.  Stodghill was ready for the fight, he said, because he had earned his title as champion of the workingman.

Kid GlovesFebruary 1998 

by Sylvester Brown Jr.

Money was being made in St. Louis when city kids boxed, but the money wasn’t funding the sport of boxing, the recreation centers or the kids who box.  In this story, Sylvester uncovered how elite, private social clubs profited by featuring amateur boxing as entertainment for their expensive social hours.


Looking for a ReasonOctober 1998 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

In the November ’98 senate race between incumbent Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond and Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, Sylvester found that many African American were undecided about the candidates and looking for a reason -- any good, clear reason -- to support either candidate.

Different Smokes for Different Folks November 1998 / by Victoria Anton-Brown

Take Five investigated allegations made in a national class-action lawsuit that the tobacco industry knowingly targeted a more deadly product (mentholated tobacco) at the African American community.

Baghdad’s Children: Unarmed and Innocent December 1998 / by Lori Reed

Eight years after the 1990 Gulf War and after eight years of continuous economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, the U.S. was planning new military strikes in November 1998.  Lori Reed spoke to Mira Tanna, a Voices in the Wilderness delegate, who traveled to Iraq to promote peace.  Lori’s comprehensive overview of the crisis in Iraq offered compelling evidence that the U.S. policy toward Iraq was, as U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Dennis Halliday stated, “starving to death 6,000 Iraqi infants every month, ignoring the human rights of ordinary Iraqis and turning a whole generation against the West.”


With the Swing of a Stick… 

April 1999 / by Sylvester Brown

17-year-old Taiwan Davis changed his life forever when he joined in as a group of young men beat another man.  The man later died.  Taiwan doesn’t even know if he hit anyone or not.  He swung a broomstick in the direction of the action, he said.  Although he is serving out a minimum 20-year sentence, Davis’ lawyer and family, Illinois residents and even the jurors who convicted him cried out for mercy on his behalf.


A Season for Change 

July 1999 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

A diverse chorus of voices demanded inclusion in the region’s economic initiatives, among them was Eric E. Vickers:

“There needs to be a new paradigm in this community.  One where we have the power and we share the power.  We have to show that we can stand in a united, determined and fearless way.  We want 25 percent of the contracts and 35 percent of the workforce.  It’s not an unreasonable demand.  If our demands are not met, we’re going to converge on Highway 70 on July 12th and shut that project down!”


All is Not Lost 

November 1999 / by Sylvester Brown and Victoria Anton-Brown / Photos by Marilyn Maxwell

In a candid, in-depth interview, city schools Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds Jr. responded to the state’s accreditation review findings as well as the often-negative news coverage and public perception of city schools.


Show and Tell  

September 2000 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

The grand jury had completed its investigation into the Jack in the Box shooting of two unarmed men by police.  In “Show and Tell,” critics of prosecutor Bob McCulloch called for an end to the secrecy surrounding the officers involved and the surveillance tapes that would have shown the events leading up to the deaths of Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley.

No Justice for Julius April 2001 / by Victoria M. Anton-Brown / photos by Bob Williams

On March 15, 2001, Officer Robert Dodson was acquitted of charges that he murdered 19-year-old burglary suspect Julius Thurman.  Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression members Susie Chasnoff and Zaki Baruti were in the courtroom for most of the trial.  They spoke to Take Five just days after the verdict.  “The Dodson verdict,” Zaki Baruti told Take Five, “is just a continuation of the abuse of Black people in this country through the judicial process dating all the way back to the Dred Scott Decision which stated that the rights of Black people are not to be taken into consideration.”


Race, Rage and Redistricting 

July 2001 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

Take Five presented an in-depth analysis of the city’s proposed redistricting plan which many called a “blatant agenda intent on destroying Black political power.” 

Osama & Oil: The Dual War in Afghanistan

December 2001 / by Sylvester Brown Jr.

Setting out to find if there’s more to the war in Afghanistan than revenge for 9-11, Take Five found a deeper story about oil, corporate greed and political connections.

Dumping the Democrats?  

March 2002 / by Sylvester Brown

African Americans were feeling dissed, demeaned and disrespected by the party they had been most loyal to for decades.  In “Dumping the Democrats,” Sylvester spoke with leaders who said the mayor’s proposed redistricting map was the final insult and a valid reason to give the Democratic Party a much-needed wake-up call.


Take Five Awards: 

Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABJ)

1995    Best Print General News  “Search for Yemane Hughes”         

Victoria M. Anton / GSLABJ

1995    Best Print Editorial    “Fooled by the Light”                   

Sylvester  Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

1995   Best Print Political Coverage “The Hottest Seat in the House”  

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

1996    Best Print Column                  “The Pigeon”                         

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

1996    Best Print Feature                   “Voices Seldom Heard”         

Victoria M. Anton  /  GSLABJ        

1996    Best Print News Analysis       “Reasonable Doubt”            

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

1998    Best Print Series                      “The Beating of Gregory Bell”   

Victoria M. Anton  / GSLABJ

1998    Best Print Political Coverage   “Ready to Rumble”              

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

1998    Best Print Feature          “There Goes the Neighborhood”  

Victoria M. Anton   /  GSLABJ

1998    Best Print Column    "A Black Man with a Beeper”  

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ        

1999    Best Print General News        “Different Smokes”            

Victoria M. Anton /  GSLABJ

1999    Best Print Political Coverage  “Looking for a Reason”        

Sylvester Brown, Jr. /  GSLABJ

1999    Best Print Series      “Investigating Gregory Bell Case”     

Victoria M. Anton   /   GSLABJ

1999    Best Print Column                  “The Messenger”                   

Sylvester Brown, Jr.  /  GSLABJ

1999    Best Print Feature                   “Kid Gloves”                         

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

2000    Best Print News Analysis       “All is Not Lost”                  

Sylvester Brown, Jr.  / GSLABJ

2000    Best Print General News        “Black and Blue”                

Victoria M. Anton  /  GSLABJ

2000    Best Print Feature                   “With the Swing of a Stick”     

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

2000    Best Print Series                      “Season for Change”            

Sylvester Brown, Jr. GSLABJ

2001    Best Print Series                      “Getting Down and Dirty”   

Sylvester Brown, Jr. /  GSLABJ

2001    Best Print Political Coverage  “Rural Roots, Urban Plan”    

Sylvester Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

2001    Best Print General News        “Principal Concerns”            

Victoria M. Anton  /  GSLABJ

2001    Best Print Column                  “A Talk with Uncle Ray”      

 Sylvester Brown, Jr. GSLABJ

2001    Best Print Feature                   “Show and Tell”                     

Sylvester Brown, Jr. GSLABJ

2001    Best Print News Analysis       “A System in Trouble”          

Victoria M. Anton   /   GSLABJ

2002    Best Print Political Coverage  “Race, Rage and Redistricting”  

Sylvester  Brown, Jr. / GSLABJ

2002    Best Print Column          “If Racial Profiling Were Legal”   

Sylvester Brown, Jr. /  GSLABJ

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