Editor's note: Ferguson Democratic Committeewoman Patricia Bynes had a slightly different response to our request for #FergusonNext essays. Her concern was for the number of hurt and angry fourteen-, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds she saw in the streets. Feeling that their voices are not being heard, she penned the following appeal to some of the youngest demonstrators and residents in Ferguson.
An Open Letter to All the Teenagers Affected by Mike Brown's Killing
Dear tweens and teenagers,
Most of you have never seen me or heard of me before. I'm Patricia. I live in St. Louis County and am elected by registered voters aged seventeen-and-a-half and older to represent parts of north St. Louis County that include Ferguson. In my position as the Democratic Committeewoman of Ferguson Township, one of the things I do is try to help people understand the election process and candidates who are running for office. Adults vote for elected officials to have their voices heard, represent their interests and to better their communities. But at your age — and I used to be your age — voting is not an option. I know it seems like not enough people are listening to you. Honestly, that's why I'm writing to you.
Since Mike Brown, who was only eighteen, was killed this summer on August 9, many things are different. I live three minutes away from where he died, and many of the places where I used to shop were burned down. There are so many families that are personally affected by everything that has happened. I know a few people who are out of jobs because their workplace was scorched to the ground. I've been tear-gassed, had guns pointed at me, and I know you have, too. I've heard many stories from adults and people your age about how the police have treated them. I also have had my own experiences with the police, and some of those interactions have left me angry, hurt, feeling very disrespected and sad.
Since August I've been in many meetings with law enforcement, lawyers, other elected officials, clergy and community leaders to discuss solutions. But I haven't heard enough from you. I have a major problem with that. I wonder how many adults have heard from you or have heard your stories. Some of you have staged walkouts, and I've talked with many of you at the protests. But I've also been on the streets and have seen too many people your age looting and causing damage.
This is why I really want you to tell me how Ferguson and the Mike Brown incident have affected you. Please tell me what the problems are from your point of view: How do you feel about Ferguson and Mike Brown? What makes you feel safe? What changes do you want to see come out of this? What does your future look like to you?
Write or email me, please. I want your voices to be a part of the solutions. I want to make sure adults understand what your real issues are. I want to share your stories with people who you may never meet but who want to work on solving the real problems. I want to help empower your voice and your interests. With everything that has happened, I don't want to miss this chance for you and your ideas to be a part of the conversations. Adults like to think they know everything, but to fix this the right way, we need your help.
You don't have to put your name or your return address on the letter or email if you don't want to. Please tell me at least your first name, your age and if you live in the St. Louis area. If so, part of St. Louis are you in. If you aren't in the St. Louis area, please, tell me what country, city and state you are in.
Email me at FergusonOpenLetter@gmail.com or send your letters to:
Cards 4 Ferguson Attention: Patricia Bynes PO Box 27237 St. Louis, MO 63111
I hope to hear from you soon because the only real way to fix this is for us to fix it together. That includes you.
Wholeheartedly, Patricia Bynes
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?"