So, you haven't read Forward Through Ferguson?
I have, and last week, I attended two very different events, both in support of the Ferguson Commission's monumental work. This digital, interactive document represents the "experiment in inclusive democracy" that has been the commission's work since it convened in the wake of the killing of Mike Brown more than a year ago, and to Commission members, it represents a map we can use to chart a common path into a more equitable future.
The topic at Wednesday night's meeting of University City's Conversations on Race, Class, and Culture, “The Ferguson Report – What Does It Mean For U. City?”, was suggested by resident Pat McQueen, who told me she hoped the 20 or so participants would discuss how to apply the report's "Calls to Action" to our local structures and needs. The conversation, instead, proved general and basic - productive (and well-moderated by inclusion trainer Mark Albrecht), but general, basic. One reason we didn't get very far, I suspect, is that many in the room hadn't read the report.
At Sunday's Public Accountability Meeting - held at St. Louis University and part of Commission Co-Chair Reverend Starsky Wilson's annual Beloved Community Conference - the program focused on seven of the report's nearly 200 calls to action, asking individual business and political leaders to commit to specific, concrete action in front of the audience of estimated at 1000. Some of them did. Others, as Wilson pointed out with no lack of flourish, left empty chairs (most notably, three police chiefs who'd agreed to attend were no-shows). So, if our leaders won't take accountability when called out by name, what are we regular people to do?
Driving discussion at both of these gatherings - and common to the reception of the report overall - is a fear or expectation that this document and the monumental effort and insight it represents will be ignored, truth and justice be damned.
When the report came out in September, I wrote about why I can't let that happen. Now, I'm taking a more practical approach.
So, if you want to read the report, but aren't sure where to start; if you've started reading, but felt overwhelmed; if you want to do something with all of this knowledge, but don't know what to do: Here's my cheat sheet, A Citizen's Guide to Forward Through Ferguson.
If you have 5 minutes:
Read the opening sections of the report. The letter from Co-Chairs Rich McClure and Rev. Starsky Wilson and the overview provide key background and context, and plainly state the urgency of the Commission's Calls: "Make no mistake: this is about race." This will help you understand and be able to describe the work the Commission has done, and perhaps make it easier to join the conversations about race and discrimination going on across St. Louis.
If you have 15 minutes:
Do the above.
Then, choose one of the four central themes of the report - Racial Equity, Youth at the Center, Opportunity to Thrive, and Justice for All - that resonates most with you. (Use these overview pages to get a sense of each.) Then, narrow in on a subsection that's particularly interesting or important for you or your community and read the related Signature Priorities (key Calls to Action) that are listed beneath. Take note that you'll find the "accountable bodies" - those who are in a position to make change in a given realm - identified for each.
If you have 30 minutes:
Do the above.
Then, consider whether you are in a position to act or influence action toward any of the Calls you've read, whether at work or in your personal or family life. If so, get started! This could be as simple as forwarding a link about the Racial Equity Framework to a friend who works in human resources, or about school-based health centers to your child's principal, or about child development accounts to your neighbor. In whatever format, on whatever subject impacts you, take a moment to share your knowledge and start a conversation about change for St. Louis.
If you can't stop:
- Broaden your knowledge by reading the Signature Priorities for all four sections of the report.
- Deepen your knowledge by reading all the Calls to Action in your interest areas.
- Humanize your knowledge by reading the personal stories of St. Louisans living with inequity and working for change.
An Outline of Forward Through Ferguson
- Create a 25-year fund to support racial equity
- Broadly Apply a Racial Equity Framework
- Engage the Faith Community in the Racial Equity Mission
- Reform Juvenile Disciplinary Procedures and Practices
- End Hunger for Children and Families
- Establish School-Based Health Centers & Trauma-Informed Schools
- Create an Innovative Education Hub
- Create an Education Design and Financing Task Force
- Early Childhood Education
- School Accreditation System
- Invest in High Functioning CDFIs
- End Predatory Lending
- Create Individual and Family Development Accounts
- Enhance Collaboration Between Educational Institutions and Employers
- Identify Job Training Best Practices
- Ensure Employer-Educator Collaborations Build a Love of Learning
- Identify Priority Transportation Projects for the St. Louis Region
- Prioritize Transit-Oriented Development
- Revise Use of Force Policies and Training
- Establish Use of Force Database
- Assign Attorney General As Special Prosecutor in Use of Force Cases
- Create Task Forces for Short-Term Investigation of Use of Force
- Update Use of Force Statute for Fleeing Suspects
- Consolidate Police Training Centers
- Increase Police Training Hours
- Include Implicit Bias and Cultural Responsiveness Training in POST
- Include Social Interaction Training in POST
Response to Demonstration
- Collect Municipal Court Debts Like Civil Debts
- Eliminate Incarceration for Minor Offenses
- Treat Nonviolent Offenses as Civil Violations
- Establish Alternative Sentences Options
- Create Community Justice Centers
- Train Municipal Court, Jail, and City Government Employees in Constitutional Rights
- Inform Defendants of Right to Counsel
- Assign Public Defenders for Criminally-Charged Minors
Conflict of Interest