I have been out in St. Louis/Ferguson for a little over a week. A number of people have asked why I am not excessively blogging about the many protests and activism here on the ground. In many ways, I feel like that is not my role here. Those that have been on the ground for the past 369 days have had no problem with getting their story out. Instead, I can talk about what inspires me about being here at the heart of it all.
From the moment I set foot in the town I could tell that there was something different about it. It looked much sleepier than I had imagined, given the media photos of all of the demonstrations over the past year. I drove down New Florissant and stopped in the public library. Here I could begin to see the difference between the staff (mostly white) and the patrons (predominantly black). On the door of the library is a sign indicating that it was a back-up location for Ferguson PD. (This is markedly different from the St. Louis County Library in Creve Coeur, which displays a “Safe Place” sign at the door, instead.) I then headed over to Canfield Drive, which was remarkably quiet.
But Ferguson during the day is completely different than Ferguson at night. At night the town comes alive. The youth are out in unbelievable numbers and there is an undeniable sense of community. Through the drumming and the chanting, and sometimes (extremely) tense situations, there an overwhelming sense of love. People are out there for a cause, a shared goal and a purpose that is greater than anyone individual. For the past year the community has hit the streets and been protesting. The community has been marching and protesting regularly since the day Mike Brown was murdered by Darren Wilson. For 369 days they have been fighting for liberation. And while there are some very much needed changes to Ferguson (and St. Louis County) policing and governance, there is a keen awareness that this is much bigger than Ferguson. They are not just fighting on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of all black people and the end to the system of institutionalized racism, oppression, and brutalization by police that plagues the entire nation. In no other location has there been such a regular, sustained mobilization of the community in protest since the Civil Rights era.
And that is what makes Ferguson and it’s many homegrown activists so special and inspiring. The community transcends Ferguson’s street onto Twitter, and then descends back from Twitter onto the streets, with significant work being done in both places. It is this that inspires me to not only support while I am here, but to make sure to do more when I get back home.
By Portia Allen-Kyle