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Damon Davis & Corey Williams
FarFetched Collective / Age 27
What’s in a Name: When the collective and record label formed two years ago, the idea was to make sounds that had never been heard before—to be totally far-fetched. Though Davis (LooseScrewz) is one half of the hip-hop duo Scripts N Screwz, and Williams raps under the name Thelonius Kryptonite, both say what they’re doing isn’t hip-hop, rap, or rock—although it may tap into all of those things. Similarly, the members cross gender, genre, and race. “I hope that we break down a lot of borders,” says Davis. “That’s the goal, at least, to push boundaries at all times, no matter what it is.”
Annual Endeavors: FarFetched produces showcases every last Thursday of the month at Blank Space on Cherokee Street; organizes the Brave New World music fest; and puts out a compilation every January, dubbed Prologue.
On Creating Genres: In May, Williams and Davis released eklektrip, a project they’d worked on for two years. “I don’t like to call it a hip-hop album, even though I’m rapping a lot,” Williams says. “The genre is eklektrip.” Some songs came together quickly; others took a year. “I didn’t want to make music where the beats say, ‘You know what’s coming next.’”
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Kevin A. Roberts
Partner; Wired Impact / Age 27
Driving Questions: Goldford launched his company—initially called JG Visual—in August 2009, after graduating from the University of Southern California. He wanted to merge his interest in website design with his passion for helping others, so he formed a Web firm, Wired Impact (wiredimpact.com), that specializes in helping nonprofits. “My business partner and I talk about this a lot,” he says. “We view our jobs in two ways: Do I enjoy what I’m doing on a daily basis? And do I feel like I’m really having an impact?”
Why It Matters: Beyond raising awareness, a nonprofit’s online presence can have tangible results, including boosting fundraising and attracting more volunteers. “We really try to get organizations to understand the impact their websites can have,” says Goldford. “So many more nonprofits are now seeing the potential.”
How It’s Done: In addition to creating websites for clients, Wired Impact is developing software tailored to nonprofits. For instance, the company recently released a system to help nonprofits manage their boards of directors. And its blog provides a helpful resource to nonprofits both large and small. “Most nonprofit employees are working eight jobs,” says Goldford. “So to have someone come back and say, ‘This was so helpful to me. It made my job so much easier’—that means a lot to us.”
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Co-Founder, VolunTEEN Nation / Age 21
Her Roots: Her dad’s in the military. When she was 12, he deployed, leaving a wife and three young kids back home. As Bernstein’s mother navigated head-of-household duties solo, others spontaneously showed up on the porch. They’d bring dinner in a Pyrex dish, or offer to take Simone and her brother and sister to the movies or the zoo. It made an impression.
The Epiphany: Bernstein wanted to give back by volunteering—but no organizations would have her at first because of the liability of working with a young teen. Determined to make the path easier for others, she and her brother, Jake, founded St. Louis VolunTEEN in 2009. He built the website; she became the public face, forging partnerships with established nonprofits and lecturing at schools. “We started with $48 and an idea and a goal,” she says.
What’s Next: VolunTEEN Nation (volunteennation.org) launched in March 2012. So far, it’s matched 12,000 kids with volunteer gigs. That landed Simone and Jake on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list (Simone was also named one of Glamour’s “Top 10 College Women”). The next steps: going international and helping kids engineer their own service projects. Helping lead that program is 13-year-old Sophie Bernstein, Simone and Jake’s younger sister, who won a mini grant from Katie’s Krops to grow produce to feed the hungry. Just yesterday, Simone says with obvious pride, Sophie dropped off three watermelons at the local food bank.
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Architect and Chair of Social Responsibility, HOK / Age 33
Her Endeavor: In 2010, Dirsa heard a colleague in HOK’s New York office talk about a program called Social Economic Environmental Design, or SEED. “It’s like LEED, but for social issues,” Dirsa says. Eventually, she says, it snowballed into HOK IMPACT, the firm’s philanthropy effort. As the firm’s chair of social responsibility, Dirsa helps oversee public-interest design projects, volunteerism, and charitable donations.
Her Challenge: “Balancing the needs of the project with the reality of the situation,” says Dirsa. While designing a sustainable orphanage and children’s center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, architects faced limits on the budget, power grid, and water resources. The solution: a design that incorporates wind turbines and solar power, plus its own well water—a model of sustainability in a third-world country.
Her Non-Design Passion: Dirsa’s an avid marathon runner. She’s run two full marathons and four half marathons—the last one when she was 21 weeks pregnant.
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Kevin A. Roberts
Legal Strategist and Arts Leader / Age 33
Favorite Case: At Armstrong Teasdale, Calvert’s clients have included a seminary, a state trooper’s same-sex partner, a British energy company, and an East Coast developer. But his favorite, “a cause more than a case for me,” was St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, because in winning independence for it, he “got to know the people involved—on both sides—very intimately. People are talking about things that go far beyond the courts. They’re talking about their souls, about the church where their father went, where their grandfather was married, and their need to protect it. That stuff is so much more powerful than any law.”
Why He Won’t Label His Practice: “That kind of dualism never appealed to me. I’ve had defendants who were really plaintiffs and plaintiffs who were really defendants. It all gets jumbled up, and I like that.” He feels the same way about St. Louis—he yearns to ease “the disparity between rich and poor, black and white, immigrants and longtime, multigenerational residents,” so it’s even easier “to interact with people who are not like you, but are just as cool as you.”
Love of the Arts: At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Calvert majored in clarinet performance. When his son was 2, they built Richard Serra sculptures together, using blankets and pillows. Now Calvert’s president of the board of Prison Performing Arts, because “it asks interesting questions—of the actors and the audience.”
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Kevin A. Roberts
Al Jazeera Columnist and Anthropologist / Age 34
Her Coup: Kendzior (sarahkendzior.com) documented that the government of Uzbekistan had fabricated a terrorist group on which to blame a massacre of hundreds of protesters. She’s now blacklisted from travel to Uzbekistan. But she’s regularly consulted by policy organizations and national media, and she’s testified as an expert witness in asylum cases involving Uzbeks.
Her Themes: She’s written about “the prestige economy”—her phrase—that’s replacing job opportunities for young people. Other themes include economic inequity, Internet privacy, and political repression. In 2013, Foreign Policy named her one of “the 100 people you should be following on Twitter to make sense of global events.”
Why St. Louis? “I got my Ph.D. at Washington University, and assumed I’d leave afterward, but my husband and I really love it here,” she says. She’s eager “to draw attention to issues in St. Louis—social problems, but also the positive aspects, the simple joys of living here, the civic generosity. A lot of things I pick up on from living in St. Louis come through when I write about national issues. Most people doing that come from New York or D.C., and they have a different perspective on ordinary American life. It’s an advantage to live here.” (It does have its moments, though. When she recently mentioned that she wrote for Al Jazeera, another mom blurted, “You mean Osama bin Laden?”)
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Restaurateur / Age 35
The Lure: After discovering the appeal of working at restaurants while attending Saint Louis University (from which he graduated at age 19), Bailey opened Baileys’ Chocolate Bar in 2004, at age 26. Rooster, Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar, Baileys’ Range, and The Fifth Wheel (baileysrestaurants.com) all followed—all within city limits.
Interesting Observation: Bailey thinks restaurants should have both a masculine and a feminine side, in decor, menu, and beverages. All of his places do. For instance, while some might think that Baileys’ Chocolate Bar leans toward the feminine, with roses on every table, consider the lengthy list of beers and Scotch.
The Importance of Location: Restaurateurs traditionally have a concept in mind, then seek the perfect location. Bailey does the reverse: He’ll find a building with character, then decide whether any of the concepts on his wish list fit the building and neighborhood. Small Batch (pictured left), his newest endeavor, is in a former Model T showroom in midtown. The 90-seat vegetarian restaurant is also set to showcase American whiskey. “Trust me, the two do go together,” he says, “and the absence of animal protein goes unnoticed.”
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Founder, Perennial / Age 26
The Seed: While studying sculpture at Wash. U., Murphy proposed a project that involved repairing and refurbishing bulk trash in U. City and giving it away. Professors and students loved the idea. So did Lisa Harper Chang, then The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts’ resident social worker. She invited Murphy to participate in programming around the Pulitzer’s 2009–10 exhibit “Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark.” After the show ended, Perennial (perennialstl.org) emerged.
How It Sprouted: In 2012, Perennial opened a storefront on South Broadway. Perennial now teaches classes in everything from building furniture with pallets to eco-friendly wax finishes. And reSOURCE, its line of upcycled products, is available at local shops, including Bowood Farms.
On Value—and Transformation: Perennial does workshops with the Center for Women in Transition, an organization working with incarcerated women, transforming an old piece of furniture into something new. “It’s amazing how many times they’ll say, ‘I’m so proud of myself,’” Murphy says. “That self-value is a transformational thing.”
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Kevin A. Roberts
Alderman, 24th Ward / Age 33
What He Champions: Just 30 when elected, Ogilvie worked to reduce the size of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen; touted city-county collaboration and shared services; and pushed through a law to require bike parking and improved pedestrian access.
Methodology: “Just keep pushing for something until it moves,” he says. He’s sharply criticized some developer subsidies—“not even the subsidies, so much as what we get from the developers,” he says, citing Ballpark Village as an example. “The subsidy should mean we’re getting a quality product for the community.”
Why He’s So Candid: “I may not be clever enough to know how to be more discreet,” he says. Others give him more credit. One observer of local politics said, dazed, “He may actually clean up City Hall.”
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Kevin A. Roberts
Founder and President, Jane Doe Advocacy Center / Age 27
Light-Bulb Moment: While studying for the bar exam with a friend, she had a realization: “St. Louis has over 30 organizations that all focus on the very vague term of domestic violence. I said, ‘Where does somebody go if they’re a victim of nondomestic violence?’” The Jane Doe Advocacy Center (janedoeadvocacy.org) was born.
How It’s Done: Goel’s goal is to fill in the gaps in local services, making legal services affordable, focused on sexual violence, and available to anyone, “regardless of whether or not an incident of violence classifies as domestic violence.” Beyond providing legal services, Jane Doe does outreach, conducting workshops and speaking to community groups about sexual violence.
Other Duties: “Because we’re focusing on an issue, that comes with the entire package,” she says. “When people walk into our office, they don’t just walk in with their legal problems—they walk in with their entire lives.”
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Kevin A. Roberts
Artist and Co-Founder, Yeyo Arts Collective / Age 30
The Artist: The heart of Chambers’ current work is researching her grandmother, Evelyn Haynes, who died when Chambers’ mother was 9 years old. Haynes is buried in one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in the region, Washington Park Cemetery. Chambers has made several trips to find the headstone and documented the process. She’s reclaiming that connection in other ways, too: Her studio’s in St. Louis Place, where her grandmother grew up, and Chambers taught art classes at Vashon High School, which her grandmother attended. “I’m retracking her steps and evaluating my own within that framework,” she says.
The Activist: That same multigenerational approach informs Gya Community Gallery & Fine Craft Shop and Yeyo Arts Collective (yeyoarts.blogspot.com), which Chambers and other African-American women artists founded in 2010. Yeyo supports women artists who have young children, mentoring girls, making gallery shows family-friendly, and drawing attention to artists over age 60.
The Violinist: Chambers bought herself a violin—one with a beautiful velvet-lined case, from Geoffrey Seitz’s violin shop—to reclaim a younger self that she felt she lost in grade school, when she gave up music lessons. She’s now taking private lessons with an accomplished chamber violinist.
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Kevin A. Roberts
Founder, Sprung and Rung / Age 33
Why the Focus on Women: In 2010, Kindle opened Rung (shoprung.org), selling “previously loved clothing at below-market prices” and donating proceeds to the Women’s Foundation of Greater Saint Louis. “With the economy not being so great, I was targeting women going back to work,” she says. “It’s all about building confidence.”
Progeny: In February, she opened Sprung (shopsprung.org), selling kids’ clothes to benefit Nurses for Newborns.
Prodding: “My generation has so many options, they’re reluctant to commit to anything,” she says. So she co-founded Young Friends of Forest Park Forever (forestparkforever.org). “I’m lucky I have the resources to help”—philanthropist Jack Taylor is her grandpa—“but not everybody does. It can be $5, time, advice, whatever. Find things you’re passionate about, and pursue them.”
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Joshua Black Wilkins
Musician, Bandleader; Historian / Age 30
The Glamorous Stuff: Recently, LaFarge (pokeylafarge.net) toured the U.S. and Europe; released a record to rapturous reviews; won the Independent Music Awards’ Americana Album category twice; had songs featured in Boardwalk Empire and The Lone Ranger; and played the Late Show With David Letterman.
His Musical Roots: He got his first guitar at age 14, but he originally wanted to be a writer, not a musician. One grandfather was a member of the St. Louis Banjo Club; the other was into jazz. LaFarge soaked up enough traditional American music to follow the roots of the first music he loved—classic rock—back to their sources. He doesn’t play old-timey music, but rather a pure evolution of several traditional American genres. “You can’t just call it blues, jazz, Western swing, or folk music,” he says. “And that’s a good thing!”
On Songwriting: He collaborates, but rarely. As a melody solidifies itself in his head and words start to come, he’ll at first “start singing gibberish,” he says. “For almost that reason alone, I like to be completely isolated when I’m writing songs.”
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Kevin A. Roberts
Biotech Inventor and Co-Founder, Retectix / Age 32
Aha Moment: Working in a Wash. U. lab, MacEwan thickened nanofibers into a fabric so soft, flexible, and hyperstrong, he immediately knew it had potential. After confirming his hunch with surgeons, he took a break from his joint doctoral program in medicine and biomedical engineering to co-found Retectix (retectix.com).
Why It Matters: Any time a surgeon operates on the brain or spinal cord, it creates holes in their protective membranes. The nanofiber mesh can help repair those holes, reducing the chance of infection and leaks, then completely dissolve.
What Smoothed the Way: “I took a meeting with anybody who’d talk to me,” he says. “It was a guerilla education in business. I never anticipated there would be so many people who’d want to help.”
Damon Davis & Corey Williams
By Jeannette Cooperman, George Mahe, Jarrett Medlin, and Stefene Russell; Photography by Gary Martin and Kevin A. Roberts
These St. Louisans are shaping laws, altering neighborhoods, improving lives—and they’re all between ages 18 and 35.
By Jeannette Cooperman, George Mahe, Jarrett Medlin, and Stefene Russell