To have a conversation, someone must listen. NPR journalist Michel Martin says that will be her role Thursday as she moderates a public discussion in Ferguson.
“People know their own stories best,” Martin said. “I think my job is to listen to hear those stories and to make sure that everybody gets a chance to be heard who wishes to be heard, and hopefully heard in a manner that will be constructive to other people listening.
“Basically, this is neighbors talking to neighbors.”
Thursday’s community conversation at Wellspring Church in Ferguson will include:
- Daniel Isom, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and former St. Louis police chief;
- Rita Days, Democratic director of the St. Louis County Election Board and former Missouri state senator;
- The Rev. Willis Johnson, pastor at Wellspring Church;
- James Knowles, mayor of Ferguson;
- And Kimberly McKinney, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis.
Many have pointed out that racial strife is nothing new to the St. Louis area. Sylvester Brown Jr., a St. Louis journalist and founder of the Sweet Potato Project, said events in Ferguson have forced more people to look at divisions in the area.
“Everyone knows the St. Louis region is segregated,” he said. “Ferguson has given us a chance to not only know it, but to see it and feel it. It is not only segregated neighborhoods, it’s segregated thinking.”
Conversation is a starting point, but action and community involvement will be required, said Chris Krehmeyer, CEO of Beyond Housing.
“People understand the value of conversations, but at some point people want action,” Krehmeyer said. “If they don’t see tangible things occur, then they’re unwilling to keep coming and having a conversation.
“We’re going to have a lot of these conversations, but we have to be committed to the long-term not sexy, not glamorous being out in the community over and over again.”
Ferguson and Beyond: A Community Conversation
6-8 p.m. Thursday; doors open at 5 p.m.
Wellspring Church, 33 S. Florissant Road, Ferguson
Free and open to the public; seating is limited
Join the conversation on Twitter: Tweet and follow #BeyondFerguson
St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.