Home, Sweet Home
My family has lived in the same area for almost 50 years.
Generations have grown up on Airport and Hanley. We’ve had Christmases, Thanksgivings, and Birthdays inside those borders. In 2011, we were hit by an EF4 tornado. It was devastating. At the time, I thought that was the worse a community could go through. I was wrong.
Because on August 9th, 2014, everything changed. And it would never be the same. Here we are. Five Years later. And while it might not bleed into our mind every second of every day anymore, the protest and riots are still a daily thought as you drive through the streets, and see the empty lots, and the businesses that have persevered. What happened in my home was a tragedy. Some of it is on us, a lot of it not. It was a response to years of criminal-like policing, unfair policies, and a system designed to make our lives harder because we were black. It was a gasoline laced forest, waiting for a match. And that match was 9 shots heard around the world. It was a body lying in the street for four hours. It was more lies, more deciet, and more of the same discrimination. You can only push people so far. Eventually, everyone pushes back.
I lost a lot of people I thought I called my friends during that period for voicing opinions they did not care to hear. Some have come back, more understanding than before. Others, have not. And that’s okay. For too many, in St. Louis and especially abroad, they never stepped back and asked why. They never stepped back and asked what causes such events. The injustices it takes. The number of bad days, bad experiences, to create a condition were so many feel so helpless. They never asked how a person is left with nothing but anger, and so devoid of hope. I’ve asked myself that question a lot over the last four years. Maybe it was the years of unjustified traffic stops. Maybe it was the many other events that ended like Mike Brown’s. Maybe it was this country, and the history that it has failed to deal with. Maybe it was all of it and more that caused people to say enough in that hot summer of 2014.
Time, as they say, is perspective. And I hope for everyone, this can be perspective as well. Continue to ask why. Never judge too harshly on pains you don't understand. Never dismiss something so complex as a simple issue with simple solutions. Ferguson isn't special, and yet at the same time, it is. It isn't special because the conditions that produced its eruption exist all over our country, in all our communities. And if you don't think so, then you may not be paying attention.
And above all, never be silent again. Silence was Ferguson’s loudest shot in the night. It’s time that people who hold age old prejudices in their hearts don’t feel protected by any true American. And make no mistake. Silence is protection.
Racism still lives in Ferguson. It lives everywhere in the United States. It lives in our schools, in our doctor’s offices, and in our churches. It festers among people who we consider friends, and at our own dinner tables. It ignites people across this country, uniting them under the banner of hate. And it is being stoked by people in positions of power for votes and support, from the mayor's office to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I’m extremely proud to be from the city of St. Louis, and even more proud to be from the Ferguson Area. I’ve never been ashamed. And through it all, I still believe in this country, and its Dream. Not even when fires raged, and tragedy seemed to be a daily side effect. My city is strong. Our people are strong. We have our good days, and our bad. Most proudly, we reignited a movement. Like Montgomery and Selma. A new Civil Rights movement is upon us. Be on the right side of it.
In his final speech, just a day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. promised that one day we would get to the Promised Land. We’re not there yet, but I still believe in that promise. And I hold onto to that everyday. You should too. No matter how dark it seems. We are always one moment away from change. One person.
Make that be you.