Q&A with Dr. Treasure Shields Redmond, executive director, The Community Archive
Dr. Treasure Shields Redmond…
Dr. Treasure Shields Redmond is a published poet, community arts organizer, and entrepreneur. She began in the music industry and was signed by M.C. Hammer’s record label before returning to school for advanced degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing.
In 2016, she founded How To Find Scholarships, with the aim of helping college-bound teens attend top-tier schools without incurring massive debt. Dr. Shields Redmond is the founder and proprietor of Feminine Pronoun Consultants, LLC, a home for all the services she provides. She founded The Community Archive in 2022.
Class of 1917
Location: East St. Louis, Illinois
Class of 1917 is a project consisting of interviews with descendants of the East St. Louis race riots of 1917, in which as many as 300 people died. The resulting project will be presented as a podcast. An interactive historic tour of the 1917 East Saint Louis race riot is available through Feminine Pronoun Consultants, LLC.
The Class of 1917 project will be produced under The Community Archive, a non-profit founded by Treasure Shields Redmond. Founded in 2022, The Community Archive serves as a platform for arts education and a repository for collected creative wisdom.
In addition to this project, The Community Archive will produce other podcasts featuring the community voices of East St. Louis residents.
Q: How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?
Dr. Shields Redmond: It’s so hard for me to tease culture out from everything that we do. In truth, the way we cook, the way we grieve our dead, the way we parent our children, and everything in our lives is “cultural.” And when culture is elevated to the stature of art, we see the best of those examples I mentioned and more. Without cultural arts, i.e. humanities, it would be as if the world was in grey tones, or as if all our food had no flavor. I don’t see how we are able to experience the real joy of living without arts and culture.
Q: What is the most important thing people should know about your work?
Dr. Shields Redmond: We will use portable recorders and online audio recordings to train community members to interview descendants of survivors of the 1917 East St. Louis Riots and edit the stories for a community podcast. East St. Louis is the site of a race massacre that occurred in 1917. Known popularly as the “1917 East St. Louis Race Riot,” the event spanned three days and resulted in between 100-300 deaths. The result of our story collection will be a podcast (Class Of 1917) that is accessible to the community as well as a culminating in-person listening party.
Q: How did you arrive at doing what you do?
Dr. Shields Redmond: As a dual citizen of Meridian, Mississippi and East St. Louis, Illinois, I have been raised in the tradition of African-American storytelling. The stories of the elders have always intrigued me. My interest in oral history dovetailed in 2019 when I partnered on a podcast, called “Who Raised You?” with my good friend Jia Lian Yang. ”Who Raised You?” was awarded the 2019 A-list spot for a local podcast by St. Louis Magazine.
This gave me the idea to create a podcast with my 85-year-old father called “The Memoir My Dad Wouldn’t Write.” As I produced the episodes and received so much positive feedback, I realized that the podcast platform is a perfect way to collect oral history. From these experiences, The Community Archive nonprofit was birthed.
Q: Who makes your work possible?
Dr. Shields Redmond: The Community Archive’s mission is to serve as a platform for arts education and a repository for collected creative wisdom. The word “collected” indicates that the community itself is our most integral partner. Without the elders sharing their stories and other community members collecting the stories, this work would not be able to go forward. We look forward to creating a sustainable collection that preserves knowledge for generations to come. Donate to The Community Archive to support their oral history collection and preservation efforts.
Dr. Treasure Shields Redmond’s Suggested Reading:
After investigating the “1917 East St. Louis Riot” for The Crisis, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote the essay “Of Work and Wealth.” ‘Of Work and Wealth,’ Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920 is an excerpt compiled by the National Humanities Center.
About The Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Spotlight
Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Community Grants program partners through our “Grantee Spotlight.” It shines the light on our grantee partner’s work, offering details about the organization and the funded project, as well as a Q&A with a team member at the organization. More: ILHumanities.org/Spotlight
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.