Community organizers strategize ways to hold leaders accountable to Ferguson Commission report
With the Ferguson Commission disbanding at the end of the year, whether or not its recommendations are implemented depend in large part on the support of local and state leaders.
The Ferguson Commission has no authority of its own to implement its recommendations.
Bearing that in mind, a coalition of social justice and advocacy groups is calling on St. Louis leaders to pledge their support for the priorities outlined in the Ferguson Commission report at a public accountability meeting Sunday at 3 p.m. at Saint Louis University’s Busch Student Center.
The meeting will be the culmination of a four-day conference at St. John’s Church in north St. Louis focused on making the commission’s recommendations for racial equity and social change a reality.
“Some of this is about us committing to do this work ourselves and some of this is about sustained emphasis for those who are elected officials and should be accountable to the people,” said Rev. Starsky Wilson Saturday at a planning session.
“Quite frankly if folks don’t come tomorrow then it illustrates a little bit of where they are and how the people who are now organized will need to respond to them,” Wilson added.
Wilson is pastor of St. John’s Church and co-chair of the Ferguson Commission. He said the purpose of the conference was to help connect people to the ongoing efforts of advocacy groups working to push for the changes outlined in the Ferguson Commission report, including ArchCity Defenders, Missouri Jobs with Justice, Metropolitan Congregations United, Organization for Black Struggle, Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, Students for Change, St. Louis Graduates and Empower Missouri.
Bethany Johnson-Javois, managing director of the Ferguson Commission outlined the commission’s priorities Saturday during the conference before taking audience questions.
“How do we make sure that this doesn’t just live for a couple of seconds outside people’s psyche and move on?” Johnson-Javois asked the crowd of about a 120 people. “It takes the we, the collective we.”
Johnson-Javois said the Ferguson Commission is taking an extra step no other commission she knows of has done by selecting an organization to take over ownership of the commission’s recommendations.
The agencies that have applied for the position will be presented to the public during a commission meeting on Nov. 9.
One agency that opted to have their application made public in advance is Focus St. Louis in partnership with East-West Gateway Council of Governments and Applied Research Strategies.
An audience member expressed concern that the partnership was “somewhat beholden to the establishment,” making it difficult to push for change.
Johnson-Javois said group conversations would be key to avoiding that possibility.
“I think there is kind of a temptation to speak for people,” Johnson-Javois said. “So we’ve got to be really careful about making sure that individual voices that experience the experience have allies to advance (what they think needs to happen)."
“This was really designed to be the people’s report. It’s in plain language because every day people are impacted by issues of injustice. What’s really important and makes solutions different is that they’re informed by people who are living in that gap that has been created by years if not generations of economic oppression and things that are happening in the region that just aren’t okay,” Johnson-Javois added later after the presentation.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.