Since the death of Mike Brown two weeks ago, I have been quiet on my website about the fact that I am a Ferguson, Missouri resident. Some of you who have known me longer than this blog has existed will already have known that information, for newcomers, this may be a complete surprise to you. You might even wonder why I didn’t blog about it when I lived basically where the riots and looting were going down.
First, I wanted to put some distance between myself and the events that were going on, and second, I didn’t want to post something that might inadvertently be opportunistic in the aftermath of what was a horrible tragedy.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of family and friends contact me to make sure that my husband and I were okay, offering us a place to “get away for a while”, offering assistance if needed. To those people, thank you for your kindness.
In the years since my husband and I moved to Ferguson, we’ve had two tornadoes, and now, the events of this summer taking place around/on W. Florissant at the Ferguson/Dellwood border, that’s brought national and international attention to our small town.
After spending some time reassuring one friend that we are, in fact, not in the proverbial ‘eye of the storm’, she encouraged me to share my news on my blog, I think because people need to hear good news and straight talk (to paraphrase). So here goes…
Excerpt from an email dated 08/22/14:
Protestors are dwindling in numbers. Yeah!
Someone had a brilliant idea of creating/selling yard signs for sale: I (heart) Ferguson. They’ve been popping up in yards all over the place. The residents of Ferguson speaking out! Yeah! Dennis and I want to get a couple for the yard. One’s already popped in our yard by a kind (anonymous) neighbor!
(Edited: I have since learned that that the initial printing of a couple thousand have sold out and the creators are doing a reprint. They’re also selling matching t-shirts.)
B/c it’s not really Ferg residents causing the rioting and the problems. At least, that’s what I maintain.
Anyway, I’m hearing stories of citizens fighting back and it’s awesome. The little library by us (edit: Ferguson Municipal Public Library, N. Florissant Rd.) has been taken over by teachers from the school district (currently closed) offering to teach pro bono so these kids still get some learning in them until the conflict’s resolved.
The food pantry Dennis and I volunteer at may be getting some help in the next couple of weeks. People have been donating more to the food pantries and there was a mass held on Wed. and the $$$ from the collection are going to food banks in our area.
Neighbors have been doing the work S.I. (edit: Service International, a volunteer organization assisting communities in trouble) would probably do: going door-to-door to the businesses affected and saying: what can we do to help? I’ve seen footage of mop-wielding, trash bag-filling, smile-wearing people working to clean up *their* community. It’s awesome!
So, little changes happening that’s encouraging. Trying to foster civic pride, bolster our town’s image, help the poor, promote learning, etc. God is making a way amid the unrest. Thank you for your prayers! (End of excerpt)
* — *
I entitled this post, “The Heart of #Ferguson” and it’s a reference to the people in the city of Ferguson, MO and surrounding St. Louis Metropolitan Area. We’re a Bible Belt people. A “Show Me State” people. A “generous when it counts” people. We help our neighbors. We bounce back.
What are the long-term implications for Ferguson?
On an economic level, the town has taken a hit, especially around the W. Florissant area where the looting was centered. It was unsettling to see the places where I shop and frequent looted, burned, or occupied by armored vehicles (just call ’em tanks, would you?).
The coverage of the rioting and looting is a Public Relations nightmare. Our town’s Wikipedia page is pretty short — a bit about our town’s founding in the 1890’s, pop. numbers (a little over 21k people) and now, a new entry: “2014 Shooting“. How do we move past this? Not forget, but how do we encourage people to come visit our towns? To shop here? To move here? To send their kids to school here?
I wish I knew.
What good do I hope will come from all of this? That we’ll become a closer-knit and stronger community, and the underlying issues of these events will become addressed. That an unarmed teenager will never be shot again. That our children will be safe in the streets. That the whole truth will become known and prevail over the mob mentality I’ve witnessed that wants to ignore that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing, and resort to violence, hatred, and death threats.
But mostly, I’m praying for healing for the family of Mike Brown, and for our community. Family is at the heart of #Ferguson.