I was pleased to see 7 members of the Diversity Book Club tonight at a non-book event. I wrote about our book club most recently last month before our annual selection meeting. Just now, I realized I’ve neglected to post our 2014-2015 list. I’ll make a note to put that up over the weekend.
Those 7 members plus other people in our community met at the library tonight to hear Patricia Bynes, the Ferguson Township Democratic Committeewoman. She has witnessed much since the death of Michael Brown and was willing to share her experience with us here in Kirkwood.
Early on, Patricia reminded us of our experience in Kirkwood. After our shooting tragedy, we needed to do a lot of healing within our community. Ferguson has that need now. Anyone who doesn’t live in Ferguson is considered an outsider, even if they live in the neighboring communities or elsewhere in the St. Louis area (much less Chicago and beyond). An outsider is not a bad thing to be, but outsiders aren’t welcome in every meeting because some things need to be solved by insiders. I remember having that experience in Kirkwood.
Here are some things I learned about protests and protesters in Ferguson tonight:
- All protesters are not the same.
- For many, this is personal — this one lost a father to a police officer, that one was beaten in police custody.
- There are no leaders. In many ways, they are protesting authority itself. If you step up to lead that, you’ll get cut off. Many legs, no head.
- The protests and protesters have evolved.
- At this time, groups are competing with each other to be more organized — a competition that is good for everyone.
- Many protesters are young, which is good (such passion) and not-so-good (such limited experience). They won’t be told what to do.
- The protesters don’t all get along with each other and they don’t all have the same agenda.
Here’s a framework that I found useful. According to Patricia, there are four communities on the ground in Ferguson right now:
- Law Enforcement
All four of these communities have factions within them. All four communities have both connections and dysfunctions with the other communities. In other words, this is a very complicated situation and we’re all going to need to practice some patience before we’re done with this.
This was all helpful information to me. It’s now been two and a half months since Michael Brown’s death. The St. Louis area is holding its breath in anticipation of the grand jury results: will the police officer be indicted or not? Either way it goes and whatever the aftermath of that announcement, there is much more work to be done. Our book club selected several books for the coming year that might help us with a deeper understanding of the problem and with solutions that have worked in other parts of the country or the world.