Stories

Kayla

The Finesse Center started because I didn’t really know what else to do. After my brother passed, one of my friends from Webster University was like, “Hey, I have someone that wants to donate money. Where should they donate?” I was like, “I don’t know. To the family?” And they said, “You know what? We’re…

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Karishma

I, quite honestly, was kind of terrified. I knew my comfort zone was solidly in the area of numbers, and analytics, and modeling in statistics and data sets. Secondary data means you’re not actually in front of people, gathering information from their mouths, from their lived experiences, and then listening to it being relayed to…

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Jessica

My nine-to-five is with the Social Innovation STL. I am a Community Organizer, so everything I do is based around that. Some of the ways I am connected with Forward Through Ferguson is through my job with the Social Innovation District, but it really started before that as a Community Organizer. The Social Innovation District…

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Julia

My last name is German for “bridge.” I’ve been in St. Louis for almost seven  years. I went to SLU because my dad did, then stuck around because St. Louis is my playground and has become my home. My story really goes back to third grade DEAR Time, Drop Everything And Read. Mrs. Smith was…

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Blake

I was in my last year of law school when Mike Brown was killed on August 9th. I had just left home on my way back to school. I was already looking at public interest opportunities and social and racial justice opportunities. It’s fair to say that before that happened, I probably was not coming…

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Faybra

I show up everyday and I fight my hardest to contribute. There aren’t any Montessori schools in St. Louis that I know of that have a director or an administrator that does community engaging, outreach coordinating, social justice, and racial equity. Before I took this position, I was a Montessori teacher for a school in…

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Paul

I came to St. Louis six and a half years ago to go to the Brown School and didn’t know anyone in St. Louis ahead of time, but I’d always enjoyed it when I visited from Iowa. I came here to study community development. To me, it didn’t make any sense to go school in…

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Brittini

Have you ever done a service core type thing? You volunteer, you become poor for a year, and then you get placed at different sites. I was placed at our sister organization called VOICE Buffalo. That’s where my work was supposed to be centered. Why organizing? I’m from Chicago, and I have probably been engaged…

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Claire

Given the work that U.S. Bank Community Development Corporation does, our investments that we make in communities every day, and a lot of them in communities of color, there was a realization that we have a unique responsibility to be more actively engaged in equity work. It’s not to be a White institution that comes…

Tags Racial Equity
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Julia

I’m a community organizer here in St. Louis. I previously worked with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), and I’m the founder of Solidarity Economy St. Louis. When I first started getting involved in community organizing, I was part of a lot of direct action, which is of course what lead me to a…

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De

There is an extreme danger in making gross assumptions about the people who are on the ground, the people who are organizing, and the people who are taking a stance in this movement. A lot of people say that this is a leaderless movement, but I say the opposite. It’s a very leader-full movement because…

Tags Racial EquityInfrastructure
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Christy

How do I live in a way that effects change in as many areas as possible? How must I be aware of institutional barriers going up? In what ways must I be very intentional and purposeful? I’m really conscious of being a white woman, knowing I could very easily show up someplace and be like,…

Tags Racial Equity
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Amber

When I went back to school for my Master’s degree, I began working part-time at The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis as an education policy intern with five other students. During the second year of the internship program, we all had our umbrella issues that we focused on as a group – mostly access for…

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Paul

I attend a lot of national conferences to speak about the work of community development credit unions and Prosperity Connection. Whether I’m in St. Louis, or talking to people from other parts of the country, I always start by saying, “My name is Paul Woodruff. I’m from St. Louis, and St. Louis is a great…

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Nelson

Staying here long-term wasn’t in my plans, but St. Louis has that way of keeping you here once you move here. Having lived here for many years, I notice how divided the community is. The tensions that are existing, the segregation, the separation between downtown and the county – all these different divides are just…

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Perri

One of the things that officers don’t like is when parents use police as a threat to small kids:“If you don’t behave, I’m going to call the police.” Please don’t do that. Don’t make us the bad guy. Some of us do a good enough job with that on our own. Some kids in…

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Justin

I’m from the West End, or as I like to say, “The forgotten West Side.” I found out about Forward Through Ferguson through, I’m going to call it the male initiative, to bring in African-American males. I think it was either through an email or a Tweet that I received. I looked at it, clicked…

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Phillip

It was cool to see that there was this very intentional call for both educators and for Black men to show up. It also dovetailed with some conversations I was having with other friends about, “What are we going to do? We have this problematic national administration and I can’t spend my time feeling frustrated…

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April

I work at the School District of Clayton at Wydown Middle School, and teach 6th and 7th grade. For a long time I taught history, and now I teach literacy. On Tuesdays, I sponsor a club called Social Justice League. I’ve been doing it for maybe four years. It branched out of a seminar I…

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David

The question equity raises is, “Do we give everyone the same thing, or realize that because of our history, policy, biases, and culture, do we have to invest in giving everyone the best opportunity to lead happy, healthy, and fulfilled lives?”

Tags Racial Equity
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Rasheen

I was born and raised in St. Louis. Even when I travel out of town, I still miss home. Even with all the issues that have transpired over the years, with all the problems, I’m still happy to call it my home because I know it’s going to get better. During Ferguson, being out there…

Tags Youth at the Center
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Carmen

Indulging in the luxury of throwing up my arms, I moved to San Diego to be with my partner and left St. Louis vowing not to return. Nine years later, Ferguson happened. I watched in astonishment as brilliant and courageous young protesters moved the tectonic plate I thought could not be moved. This could not…

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Zack

My parents were involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. I grew up believing I understood, and was on the right side of things. But Crossroads Anti-Bias Anti-Racism workshop opened my eyes differently, in such a way that I couldn’t close them anymore. It just changed my way of viewing the rest of…

Tags Racial EquityBuilding a Racial Equity Infrastructure
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Trina

It seemed like the perfect life:two kids, picket fence, great career, making money, I’m out in California with Apple. As I neared my 29th birthday, I was just feeling like “Something is missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but this was not what life is supposed to be about.” I started doing…

Tags Youth at the Center
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Adelaide

Little kids have this project called Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley travels around the country with you and then tells about his adventures. We drove to Florida on spring break. When we came back, my daughter and her classmates put their Flat Stanley’s on the window outside the classroom to the hallway, and made these speech…

Tags Racial EquityCreating and Supporting Spaces to Practice - Learn - Connect - or Engage in Dialogue - Dismantle Racism - and Deconstruct Unconscious Bias
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Rebeccah

When I was 20, I was frustrated about having to spend so much of my time helping people understand the impact of racism on folks who were not white. It just felt like such a chore to have to spend my energy saying, “Hey, you realize the world is topsy-turvy, and the privilege and value…

Tags Racial EquityCreating and Supporting Spaces to Practice - Learn - Connect - or Engage in Dialogue - Dismantle Racism - and Deconstruct Unconscious Bias
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Scott

I was born and raised in Ferguson. My grandfather came here in 1920. I still get emotional because it’s my hometown. I couldn’t believe what was going on on many different levels. We worked so hard to make this a good town. I say we. The entire community. And to see what was going on…

Tags YouthOpportunity to ThriveFinancial Empowerment
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Duane

I had the best choir teacher at Normandy High School, who is still very well known in the city. Dwayne Buggs. I did not have a choice of where to go to college because of Dwayne. For my last two years, he brought the Morehouse College Glee Club to the high school to perform. That…

Tags YouthYouth at the CenterEducation
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What does it take to find a home?

It’s the summer of 2002. Fredica M., a St. Louis native who’s moved back to the Midwest after spending some time in California, is a 25-year old mother renting an apartment in South City. She’s glad to be back in her hometown, and expecting her third child. What she isn’t expecting is becoming homeless. When…

Tags Opportunity to ThriveFinancial EmpowermentHousing
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“What can I do? How can I do it?”

Laura H. is a “boomerang” who shares re-plant status with many others in St. Louis. But the timing of her return – the day Michael Brown, Jr., was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson – along with its role in how she’s making sense of her place in STL as a white Jewish mother, offers…

Tags Racial Equity
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The Best Way to Understand It Is to Experience It

In a four part series Josh Walehwa, who’s brother is a police officer, shares his experiences with law enforcement and vision for the future of St. Louis. Check back as additional parts of his story are released. Part 1 The Best Way to Understand It Is to Experience It – Investigatory Stops “We want the…

Tags Justice for AllRacial EquityPolice Reform
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What Makes This Different

Angela B. talks about her hopes for — and expectations of — the body that carries Forward Through Ferguson’s calls to action from recommendation to actual change. The last  full/public meeting happens Monday, December 7th, before the Commission sunsets on December 31, 2015. Angela, who’s been following the Commission’s work, has appreciated its attention to including and…

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Yvonne

I went to Home Depot and asked the employee in the painting department to give me a color of my skin. She said, “A color of your skin? I’m sorry. We don’t do that here.” I said, “No, no. You don’t understand. I’m doing research. It’s not meant to be a joke.” So, she called…

Tags Racial Equity
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Starsky

There are a lot of more usual suspects who could have co-chaired the commission. It probably made a whole lot better sense to appoint somebody else. But God gave me an opportunity to translate what was going on in the street at the time into the commission’s work, and attempt to do so effectively to…

Tags Racial Equity
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Sharonica

When educational equity and access is framed as a civil rights issue in the context of the disparities that exist in St. Louis, it is imperative that we create a vision for St. Louis education that nurtures and develops our youth, and provides teachers and districts with the appropriate resources they need.

Tags YouthYouth at the CenterEducation
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Mustafah

Movements often center around single identities, even though its participants may come from a wide-swath of backgrounds and traditions. Finding the interconnections between various struggles can be a powerful tool for improving conditions for all people, inclusive of a variety of identities.

Tags Racial EquityReligion
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Buthaina

The assumption is always that I’m Mexican or Indian. I get a lot of “Holas.” I really can’t be mad. A lot of Mexicans think I’m Mexican. The first interaction is usually, “Are you from Mexico?” “No, I’m from Yemen.” “Where’s that?” “It’s in the Middle East.” People are curious. A lot of times, the…

Tags Racial Equity
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Byron

Byron has a complex set of experiences from growing up in North St. Louis and experiencing racism, as well as decades of public service as a police officer. This dual perspective has given him a unique insight into how policing can be reformed.

Tags Justice for AllPolice Reform
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Traci

David and Goliath is one of my favorite stories in the bible. I always preached it from the standpoint of this divine power that comes from knowing for certain who you are and where you belong. But this morning when I was reading it, for the first time I recognized that the moment David beheaded…

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Ginger

Entrepreneurs are generally, inherently disruptive because they’re trying to fix a problem and they’re trying to change whatever the status quo is around that problem. That’s what entrepreneurs do best. The kinds of challenges that face our community as a region, race-wise, require disrupting the norms.

Tags Opportunity to ThriveEducationFinancial Empowerment
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Michael

I care because I think that every St. Louisian makes St. Louis a great place to live and I don’t want to see my neighbors suffering. I don’t want to see my neighbors disenfranchised. I don’t want to see anybody hurt systemically in this city, in this region. It’s bad for everyone.

Tags Opportunity to ThriveRacial EquityHousingInfrastructure
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Charles

One of the bigger challenges that everyone in our region has to overcome, and to possibly become a prototype for other cities, is to get over our segregation mentality. So we can talk about everyone having equity, a better school, a place to go to the grocery store, but we still think in that segregationist mentality.

Tags Racial EquityTransportation
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Why do you live where you live?

Deciding where to make your home is challenging enough when you’re familiar with where you’re moving. For those who transplant to St. Louis from an entirely different city, state, or country even, the advice of contacts in your soon-to-be-local area can provide valuable insights

Tags Opportunity to ThriveRacial EquityHousingInfrastructure
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Travis

It is a great place for social innovation and social entrepreneurship, but at the same time, two things that really hold St. Louis back are our fear of failure and our inability to handle negative things. Ferguson really showed us this.

Tags Racial EquityFinancial EmpowermentInfrastructure
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Rose

I can’t do anything about the past. But, for me, the action is the now. So, I’m personally committed to not living the life that I did. I’m personally committed to moving the dial on what I consider to be the root cause of all this, and that’s racism.

Tags Racial EquityEducation
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Bethany

I would say to those frustrated 20-somethings that the best way to get to age 40 is a day at a time. In the frustration and the pain of that day, find one way to say “yes” on purpose. The day-to-day doesn’t have to be about the strain. Just make it through the day. Say…

Tags Youth at the CenterRacial Equity
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“Will We Be Heard?”

As the Commission spoke to youth across the region, we repeatedly heard that our community’s youngest members often feel unheard and disenfranchised. We must include youth in the conversation as we work to shape a better and more equitable region.

Tags YouthYouth at the CenterEducation
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Thomas

A reliance on revenue generation for small municipalities from traffic violations and municipal courts paired with regional fragmentation is not only costly and grossly inefficient, but more importantly presents as an impediment to justice for many of our region’s citizens.

Tags Justice for AllGovernmentMunicipal Courts
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Felicia

We’re at a critical time to make a decision about who and what we are. I was bitter for a long time around this work:nobody listening, not doing the right thing, and continuing the abuses. And I have learned — because it’s been uncovered, because the scab was ripped off, because the blood was…

Tags Youth at the CenterRacial Equity
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Tahaira

Just because I’m not easily identifiable, just because I don’t wear a headscarf, doesn’t mean that I’m not proud of my identity or who I am. We are part of this community, too.

Tags Racial EquityCommunityImmigrantReligion
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Making ‘Civics’ a Verb

Jauquin Holmes is one of several St. Louisans who’ve made showing up a priority. Part of it stems from his connection with the area where Michael Brown was shot, and unrest has occurred.

Tags Justice for AllPeacefull ProtestingCommunity
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Kira

The study of psychology has revealed much on the way implicit biases unconsciously influence our actions, decisions, and understanding of issues. By recognizing and acknowledging them we can limit their impact on our choices and work against discrimination.

Tags YouthRacial EquityPolice Reform
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Kevin

I believe if you treat people with respect, you get respect back. Getting face-to-face and eye-to-eye contact, and having discussions with people who might have a different view than you do, is vitally important. It allows both people to see the others point of view.

Tags Justice for AllRe-Envisioning Law Enforcement Response to DemonstrationRestoring Civilian-Law Enforcement Relations Through Community PolicingPromoting Officer WellnessImproving Officer Training
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Elizabeth

I think that activists are created in moments. Anybody can be an activist. It’s not anything that should be paved in glory. It’s seeing something that’s unbearable and needs to be changed. And it’s long. And it’s a haul. And my life has changed.

Tags Justice for AllRacial EquityPreventing Conflicts of Interest
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Caroline

I think one of the best ways of meeting change is having the one-on-one mutual conversations where people can understand different cultures, backgrounds, and history.

Tags Strengthening Anti-Bias and Cultural CompetencyBuilding a Racial Equity Infrastructure
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Don

A focus on developing and investing in human capital will move the region forward while simultaneously strengthening the economy. This requires an interdisciplinary approach to tackling economic problems, seeking to create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

Tags Opportunity to ThriveHousingBuilding a Racial Equity Infrastructure
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“Oh, You’re Here Too?”

Ferguson forced me to have a lot of conversations with my family about ideas of anti-blackness that we grew up with, and ideas about why people are poor in America.

Tags Racial Equity
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Cedric

Many residents in low-income households with limited access to credit seek payday loans to handle bills and other costs. However, payday lending firms can impose abusive and unfair loan terms on a borrower that he or she cannot afford.

Tags Opportunity to ThriveHousing
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Relationships: Rasheen and Kevin

Commissioners Rasheen Aldridge, an activist, and Kevin Ahlbrand, a detective sergeant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, talk about their experiences joining the commission and working together towards positive change in the St. Louis region.

Tags YouthYouth at the CenterRacial EquityPolice Reform
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Molly

Escaping the vicious cycle of economic strife is a struggle at the crossroads of health, employment, education, housing and finances. Families and individuals whose lives hover at the edge of financial stability are devastated when faced with an unexpected or unmanageable financial set back and often never recover. Predatory lending practices shamelessly prey upon people when they are at their most vulnerable.

Tags Opportunity to ThriveHousing
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Brittany

The commission’s job is to be absolutely and fundamentally accountable to the people of this state and this community. It’s impossible to do that without listening. That’s part of the reason why our meetings are structured the way they are, because if we only used the mass meeting public comment format, it’s much more difficult…

Tags Justice for AllYouth at the CenterEducation
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Preston and Sharon

Our youth present our greatest opportunity to impact positive and lasting change. Addressing our endeavors to the whole child through education, health, encouragement, support and opportunities will fundamentally change their lives now and their futures forever.

Tags Justice for AllYouth at the CenterRacial EquityEducationReforming School-Based Discipline
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Dawn

Achieving justice for all requires a commitment to begin an honest review of how consolidation of police departments and municipal courts could commence. Building relationships based upon mutual respect and trust, being transparent about challenging and destructive behaviors and embracing fair and reasonable laws and policies will lay the foundation for unbiased, responsive government.

Tags ConsolidationJustice for AllCourt Reform
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Combating Racism with Empathy

The Commission’s charge was to address the underlying root causes that led to the unrest in the wake of Michael Brown Jr’s death. Race is inherent in every root cause. Eliminating existing disparities for racial and ethnic populations is a fundamental goal of the calls in this report.

Tags YouthOpportunity to ThriveRacial Equity
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