By Patrice O'Neill
CEO & Executive Producer of Not In Our Town
While we don’t know what happened on the day that police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, there is one part of the day's events that no one can dispute. Michael Brown lay ucovered on the hot street for four and a half hours for the entire neighborhood to see. It was utterly uncivilized. We would not do that to a serial killer.
If you were a young person in Ferguson, what would you do? If you were a police officer who knew that you had to do a better job of treating people in the community with respect—what would you do?
When Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson took control of the police reponse in Ferguson, the first thing he did was pull back the tanks and begin to listen to people of Ferguson. We need police leaders like Johnson to set the stage for real dialogue and change.
I’m from Ferguson. Actually, I'm from Berkeley, MO, which is one town over. I was in the mountains for vacation when Ferguson erupted. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the media coverage, and in those early days of August, I began to feel what I’ve heard from so many people in communities that have been identified with hate: incredible anger and shame. I needed the anger to subside a little before I could even write anything, or before I could go back home, and start the process of listening.
To pretend that this is only a St. Louis problem, or merely a story about a bad town, is missing the real message of Ferguson. Ferguson is us. This is where we are.
I’m on the plane to St. Louis now, and will be there this week in late September to start filming and listening. I know there are really good people, black and white, who want to make change. We need to surface their actions and stories. Stay tuned for more from Ferguson.
How is your community grappling with the racism and divisions in St. Louis, and in our country? How does the crisis in Ferguson provide an opportunity for constructive discussions and actions in your town?