Civic participation:it’s a mouthful that can sound complicated and – if assumed to be mostly about politics – like a lot more work and energy than a person dealing with day-to-day urgencies can spare.
But strip away sitcom scenes of boring civics teachers and tedious lectures, and what’s left is community life and myriad ways to take part in it. And sometimes, deciding to show up is a relatively simple measure that really matters.
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.
“I’ve been all over the place in St. Louis – mainly in South City, but I’ve been in North City, St. Louis County [and] I identify with that neighborhood. Before I came back [to St. Louis last year], I’d been sitting in my room, watching this stuff on TV, and hearing this stuff online.”
Since returning to St. Louis from Rolla, Missouri, where he went to college, he has been a familiar face at the Ferguson Commission’s full meetings, working groups, and special sessions. In fact, as of June, his attendance record showed just one absence… and that was for the very first meeting. He’s made it a point to be at every one since, even if he can’t make it from start to finish.
His reason is simple. “That’s how concerned I am about our community here,” says Holmes. Describing himself as “a neutral-minded person,” Holmes has attended the meetings to help him “take balance.” He feels strongly that the path to resolving issues that set the stage for what happened with Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, and the ensuing unrest, must include systemic change that addresses imbalances in power that affect – and must include – everyday folks. “People are tired of governments, and ego-tripping, and rolling over little people.”
You make who you are, and if you want to go this path, look at that path; build up a plan; and go. It may not always be A to B – you might have to go all over the place – but you’ll eventually get to B.
Holmes also ‘shows up’ outside Commission meetings. Through his church, he volunteers his time as a teacher for a GED preparation program. He also serves as a Pre-College Initiative math and science mentor for the St. Louis National Society of Black Engineers chapter; it’s the same one that helped him get through high school and into the Missouri University of Science and Technology. And he’s undertaken training offered through community-based organizations to learn how to be a de-escalator.
With all that civic participation already on his schedule, why has Holmes continued coming out to Commission gatherings, even on those weeks they happened twice or three times a week, in different parts of St. Louis?
“It’s to stay engaged,” he says, and remain true to a philosophy he learned when he was young:“You make who you are, and if you want to go this path, look at that path; build up a plan; and go. It may not always be A to B – you might have to go all over the place – but you’ll eventually get to B.”
Holmes has applied that lesson to his involvement with community life and the Commission meetings. “If you fall into, ‘Somebody else do it’ or ‘Why’s it doing this?’ you make yourself part of that problem instead of part of, or a route to, a solution,” he says. By showing up, and sharing his perspectives as a community member, Jauquin Holmes has made civics a verb, so to speak, as he joins fellow St. Louis residents carve a path toward making the region one that’s better for all.
By Elaine Cha for #STLFwdThru
Photo:Provided by Lindy Drew