Where do we go from here?
As I have sat in many meetings since the unfortunate death of Michael Brown Jr., that's one question that I have yet to hear be effectively answered. The first African American child, William Tucker, was born in a colony in 1624, and 390 years later, most African American men still feel as if we are slaves. If we aren't reaching the people who need to move forward, then we will continue to be stuck in a time warp.
Many of my conversations with members of the Brown family have been centered on the subject of healing our nation. I have spent many days and nights in prayer and have come to the conclusion that if we don't make God a priority in our lives, America will be in a state of emergency. Not the impromptu emergency that Governor Jay Nixon called for, but a spiritual state of emergency.
As the city of Ferguson accounts to move forward, we must really address the issues that are at the root of this unrest. The No. 1 issue is the lack of trust in the police in African American communities. The police force has been viewed as a bully from the elementary schoolyard, the bully that took your lunch money and dared you to say something about it. We have seen instances where the police have planted drugs, they have planted weapons, they have falsified reports. While all this is done we rarely see any type of discipline for the police.
As we move forward as a state, I also challenge all of our elected officials to spend more time in the community that they serve and hear from the people who may be disenfranchised. Perhaps they don't feel comfortable going to a school-board meeting or a county-council meeting, and so they do not understand laws that are applicable in their communities. And as citizens moving forward, we must hold our elected officials accountable for what they do behind closed doors. If they do not represent our community, we cannot elect them.
The question has been asked time and time again: "Where do we go from here?" My response is: We move forward. We move forward by listening to each other. We move forward by having appropriate dialogue with each other. We move forward by offering effective, lasting change. We move forward by creating new avenues and new places at the tables where change is being discussed.
My challenge to every person who reads this is that we arm ourselves with education. We arm ourselves with information. And then finally, we activate. Don't be the person who merely talks about change. Be the one who actually changes.
About this project: Riverfront Times asked a diverse group of contributors — policemen, rappers, shop owners, clergy — to tell our readers where they see solutions to the region's deep-rooted troubles. It's part of our #FergusonNext collaboration, in partnership with the Guardian's "US Opinion," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's editorial page, the St. Louis American, Ebony.com and Colorlines. Go to www.fergusonnext.com to see what our partners are doing and to join us in our attempt to answer the question, "No justice, no peace — what now?"