Ferguson update: youth speak

Mimi Wright, in-depth editor

The Ferguson Commission met for the fourth time Jan. 10 at St. Louis Community College on the Florissant Valley Campus since they were appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon Nov. 18, 2014.  Instead of discussing citizen-law enforcement relations or municipal court issues, they Commission focused on youth. That’s right. Youth. This time, the Ferguson Commission wanted to hear from adolescents between ages 14 to 24 about the events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri  Aug. 9 and the events that have ensued since then.

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Mimi Wright

 

“Young people represent fresh perspectives that are unbiased,” Rich McClure, Ferguson Commission co-chair and Kirkwood resident, said. “They come at this with very clear thinking and they come with aspirations and dreams and hopes because this is their region, this is the region they are going to grow up in and thrive.”

They called it “Youth Speak.” The adolescents that participated arrived at 10 a.m. and had the opportunity to speak at an open mic. Then, participants were grouped and rotated between three sessions to talk about the effects the Ferguson incident had on their school, family and community and ways the Ferguson Commission could help. Roughly 60 participants from both St. Louis City and St. Louis County were in the age group 14 to 18. Every group had a leader to guide discussions in a constructive way. At the end of the discussions, around 2:30 p.m., leaders presented three main points to resolve in front of the Ferguson Commission.

McClure believes the events that occurred in Ferguson represent not just racial disparity in one city, but in the region. He believes the events highlighted issues that need to be improved and solved.

“I think every community in the St. Louis region, and in our state really, is impacted by racial disparity issues,” McClure said. “We all have a stake in making our region a stronger, fairer place and so I think whether it’s Kirkwood, or whether it’s Ferguson, or whether it’s Chesterfield, or whether it’s Jennings, every municipality, every part of our region has a stake in making our region a stronger, fairer place.”

According to the Webster-Kirkwood Times, the Ferguson Commission is charged with issuing a report with specific policy recommendations by Sept. 15. McClure said the commission will analyze the trends from the Youth Speak conference and apply them to their policy discussions.

“This is an incredibly energizing process,” McClure said. “It is complex, it’s difficult, it’s very emotional. But these are issues that our region needs to focus on, and the events in Ferguson have put a laser light on our region and on the challenges that we have. These are not challenges that occurred overnight, and they certainly will not be resolved overnight. But we need to start working toward positive change, so just the opportunity to be a part of something that has a positive change as it’s goal is very inspiring.”

McClure believes this positive change can happen through actions such as getting to know people from a different culture or from another part of the community. He acknowledges the problem will not be solved immediately, but through simple actions, he believes racial disparities will begin to heal.

“[The solution] may be working hard to help repair relationships and to heal,” McClure said. “It could mean lots of things but everyone has an opportunity to participate. Our challenge will be to have the entire region focused on positive change.”

If you would like to attend a Ferguson Commission meeting, the next one will take place Jan. 20, at West View Middle School in the Riverview Gardens School District at 5 p.m. For more information on the past meeting click here.

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