Ferguson | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson

Joshua Williams is serving an eight-year prison sentence for actions during a 2014 protest in Berkeley.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Joshua Williams always stood out in a crowd. Even during the tense and chaotic 2014 Ferguson protests, Williams could easily be spotted in the signature red hoodie that he rarely went without.

Williams was 18 years old at the time, the same age as Michael Brown when he was shot and killed by police — and old enough to leave home against his mother’s wishes to join the front lines to protest Brown’s death.

Hundreds of people participate in a die-in at police headquarters in downtown St. Louis during the fall 2017 protests against the Stockley verdict.
Eric Pan

Updated at 4:12 p.m. with clarification — When early photos of the 2014 Ferguson protests flashed across photographer Eric Pan’s phone and computer screen, he mainly saw active confrontation — and wondered if there was more to the story.­

Pan brought his camera to Ferguson, where protesters took to the streets after then-officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot and killed Michael Brown, a black man. Three years later, he joined marches against a judge’s acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, who is white, in the death of a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.

Pan’s perspective on both protests is the subject of an exhibition opening Saturday at the Griot Museum of Black History and Culture called “Civil Unrest in Review.”

The Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis broke ground on the Teen Center of Excellence on September 13, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Sept. 13 at 3:50 p.m., to include information from Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Four years after protests rocked Ferguson, a nonprofit is expanding youth services in the area.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis broke ground on a teen center in Ferguson, Thursday morning. The $12.4-million facility will be located on West Florissant Avenue, less than half a mile from the spot where Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in August 2014.

Cami Thomas, producer of the Smoke Screen documentary series with fellow filmmaker Calvin Tigre.
Cami Thomas

St. Louis activist and filmmaker Cami Thomas moved back to St. Louis from college a year after Michael Brown’s death. While news of the 2014 shooting and the protests that followed grabbed national attention, she was miles away at school — grappling with the developments and fallout.

When she returned to St. Louis, Thomas said people told her she was fortunate to move back “after the smoke cleared.” In talking with neighbors and friends, however, she wondered if locals weren’t still wrestling with age-old problems — namely segregation and discrimination.

In the wake of Ferguson unrest, longtime St. Louisan Henry Biggs felt a pull to do something about the issues facing the St. Louis region.  He chose to swim.
Swimming to Ferguson

University City resident Henry Biggs remembers hearing “a lot of talk” about bridging St. Louis’ racial divides and disparities in the months that followed Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson four years ago.

“But I didn’t really see many people saying, ‘OK, well, what’s the thing that I could do?’” Biggs recalled this week on St. Louis on the Air.

For Biggs – a longtime St. Louisan, scholar and athlete – that one thing ended up involving a whole lot of swimming. He decided to swim the entire 28 miles of water surrounding Manhattan in New York City, and he asked people to pledge a dollar per mile to support “things that would make the Ferguson area better.”

DeRay Mckesson poses in the trademark blue vest that he first wore in the early days of the Ferguson protests.
Adam Mayer

An educator who quit his job to join the Ferguson protests, and then became a nationally known activist is coming back to St. Louis on Thursday.

DeRay Mckesson will appear at Union Avenue Christian Church to talk about his book, “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope.”

The albums "Straight Outta Compton and "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," are shown with other albums at Vintage Vinyl. The two albums have inspired a wider variety of hip-hop artists for three decades.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Two seminal hip-hop albums are now 30 years old.

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy and "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. ushered in a new direction for the genre with lyrics that exposed conditions in black communities to white audiences.

The St. Louis region has a long history with hip-hop. An East St. Louis radio station was one of the first to broadcast the first mainstream hip-hop song, “Rapper’s Delight.” And of course, the city has its own stars, Nelly and Chingy. But the death of Michael Brown, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and incidents of police misconduct have brought the lyrics and themes of the two albums back to the forefront.

Ferguson courthouse
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | file photo

Updated August 13 at 2 p.m. with comments from the city and auditor — A new report from state Auditor Nicole Galloway finds the city of Ferguson has made important changes to its municipal court.

But the audit released Monday also found city officials still have not taken action to secure and repair damaged court documents.

Forward Through Ferguson catalysts (from left) Yinka Faleti, Karishma Furtado and David Dwight discussed their organization’s newly released assessment of progress toward racial equity in the St. Louis region.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For members of the Forward Through Ferguson team, the past few years have been full of work that feels important and exciting – and also excruciatingly slow.

The organization this week unveiled its “State of the Report,” a tool that aims to quantitatively track progress toward racial equity in light of the initial Ferguson Commission, and in only five of 47 key areas does the data suggest significant change thus far.

“There’s definitely frustration in [the ongoing work] and always a hope that things can be more urgent,” David Dwight, senior strategy and partnerships catalyst, said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “At the same time, I think we’ve had to find excitement in those who are implementing the calls to action from the report [and] to see the way that our region has taken on racial equity.”

The Rev. Carlton Lee, right, speaks at a rally in 2014 with Michael Brown Sr., left, and Lezley McSpadden, center.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Forward Through Ferguson has called for improvement in several areas to establish greater racial equity within St. Louis.

The non-profit released its first The State of the Report scoring where the region is on the 47 signature calls to action first identified by the Ferguson Commission in 2015. The latest report found that all 47 priorities have experienced some level of implementation, but only five of those had been achieved.

Community activists, including State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., are asking Gov. Mike Parson to pardon or commute the sentence of Joshua Williams.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis activists and community leaders have called on Gov. Mike Parson to pardon protester Joshua Williams for an event that occurred in 2014.

State Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., held a press conference Friday at the St. Louis County Justice Center objecting to the eight-year sentence Williams is serving.

Williams was a part of a protest in December 2014 following the police-involved shooting of Antonio Martin. While looting was taking place at a QuikTrip in Berkeley, Williams set fire to a trash can outside.

Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell, left, is challenging seven-term incumbent Bob McCulloch, right, in the Democratic primary for St. Louis County prosecutor.
Jason Rosenbaum and Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Bob McCulloch won a seventh term as St. Louis County prosecutor on Aug. 5, 2014. Four days later, 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson.

Brown’s death at the hands of a white police officer brought the racial disparities in the region’s criminal-justice system to the forefront and made national figures of both McCulloch and his opponent in the Democratic primary, Wesley Bell.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley appeals a judge's ruling to block two abortion restrictions in the state.
WP PAARZ | FLICKR

The city of Ferguson says it plans to keep prosecuting about 1,500 municipal court cases that attorneys filed before 2014 — a decision that bothers advocates who point out they were the product of a policing system the federal government found unconstitutional.

Rev. F. Willis Johnson on "St. Louis on the Air"
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

After serving his community in Ferguson for more than seven years and emerging as a leader following the killing of Michael Brown in 2014, Rev. F. Willis Johnson is being transplanted to Columbus, Ohio, where he will grow a new church.

Johnson was the pastor of Wellspring Church in downtown Ferguson until it recently closed. He is also the co-founder/director of the Center for Social Empowerment and author of “Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community.” On Tuesday, Johnson joined host Don Marsh on St. Louis on the Air to discuss his time in St. Louis.

People protest against the criminalization of poverty in downtown St. Louis in on July 21, 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Forward Through Ferguson is encouraging locals to imagine a St. Louis devoid of racial inequity by the year 2039.

That year will mark 25 years since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The non-profit group released a preliminary action plan on Wednesday, in which community leaders and residents considered benchmark goals for the next three years. A full report will be available in June.

Keith Rose is one of four plaintiffs in a $20 million lawsuit filed against the city of Ferguson, prosecutors Stephanie Karr and J. Patrick Chassaing and several Ferguson police officers.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson residents, activists and the Department of Justice discussed the progress of federally mandated changes to Ferguson courts and policing at a meeting Tuesday.

Natashia Tidwell, the court-appointed monitor overseeing the city’s agreement with the Department of Justice, said Ferguson is mostly in compliance with the consent decree adopted in 2016, meeting or partially meeting 36 of 37 provisions. 

Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Senate is considering legislation that would target protesters who block interstate highways.

The bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor to block lanes of interstate or other limited access highways, punishable by fines between $1,000 and $5,000 and up to 30 days in jail. And protesters could be held liable in civil suits filed by patients whose ambulances are delayed by blocked interstate highways.

(L-R) Peter Joy, William Freivogel and Mark Smith discuss recent issues pertaining to the law.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, our monthly Legal Roundtable panelists discuss recent issues pertaining to the law, including the FBI’s investigation into Gov. Eric Greitens’ sex scandal and blackmail allegations, the lawsuit that seeks to stop the Missouri governor from using a secretive phone app and the death of civil rights lawyer Frankie Freeman.

Joining the discussion was:

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announces on Nov 24, 2014, that the grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson on any of five counts that were presented to it.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated Dec. 12 at 4:50 p.m. with comments from Tony Rothert and Bob McCulloch — The Missouri Court of Appeals has become the latest to rule against a grand juror who wants to speak about what it was like to consider charging former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with a crime in connection with the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Grand jurors take an oath of secrecy when they are sworn in. The unidentified juror wanted to be able to violate that oath in order to “contribute to the current dialogue around race relations” and to correct what the juror saw as misconduct by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. In a unanimous opinion issued Tuesday, the appeals court said no.

Left to right. Chorus members Samantha Madison, Kelli Lowe, Melissa Pickens, Khalid McGhee, De-Rance Blaylock, Robert Crenshaw, Duane Martin Foster, a NYC chorus member and Gheremi Clay in the October production of The Drum Major Instinct.
Provided | Theater of War

A theatrical performance coming to St. Louis on Friday ties the words of Martin Luther King Jr. to recent protests here, with the goal of getting people to talk about racism, gun violence and policing.

“The Drum Major Instinct” is based on a sermon King delivered in  February 1968, in which he encouraged followers to work not for individual glory, but collective justice. The New York company Theater of War Productions is staging the dramatic reading and choral event.

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