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My Lou: St. Louis man uses painful experience to educate kids about racism

Darnell Hill's work was featured in Time Magazine

ST. LOUIS — It is a painful story that Darnell Hill once said he wanted to forget. Now, it is one he tells often.

The story begins when Hill, a St. Louis resident, was 16 years old. He grew up in a small town in Florida. One day, he went to the store to buy some things for his ailing grandmother. 

He got lost. 

Hill said he was then confronted by two white men. 

“Asked these two individuals for assistance,” he said. 

He said they told him to get off their property and that it is “n-season, n-word season”, Hill explained. 

“I was so scared. So afraid.” 

He tried to get away in his jeep but the men followed him. 

“And I just knew I was not going to make it home," Hill said. "I knew that I was going to die.”

Cara Anthony, who writes for Kaiser Health News, believes such an ordeal can have long-lasting effects. 

“How many times can someone feel as though you’re nothing as though you don’t matter and it not affect how you move through life?” she said. 

It is why Anthony said Hill’s story needed to be told. 

“These survivorship stories of Black men often go untold.” 

Now, Hill tells his story in his work as a mental health caseworker at the Hopewell Center on Delmar. 

“It channeled the trauma I’ve been through, my pain, and kind of repackage that passion to help this generation," Hill said. "Your job is to make it home.”

He teaches the kids the importance of making eye contact with police, to speak slowly and to use non-threatening body language.

Time Magazine picked up Anthony’s article on Darnell. She said she hopes it will make a difference in today’s Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Now maybe the other side can talk about anti-racism,” Anthony said. 

Darnell hopes his story of facing racism is one that his kids will never have to experience. 

“I don’t want them to live in the America I lived in when I was growing up,” Hill said.

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