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What’s next for Forward Through Ferguson? We check in with the organization’s new co-chairs

Rebeccah Bennett and Zack Boyers joined St. Louis on the Air tomorrow to discsuss what Forward Through Ferguson is working on.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Rebeccah Bennett and Zack Boyers joined St. Louis on the Air tomorrow to discsuss what Forward Through Ferguson is working on.

“We live in the same world, but don’t share the same reality. Realities are as unique as fingerprints.”

So says Rebeccah Bennett, one of two new co-chairs of Forward Through Ferguson.

Forward Through Ferguson is the organization that grew out of the Ferguson Commission, which was created by former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon in response to events that unfolded in Ferguson following the police shooting death of Michael Brown in August of 2014.

The group is now tasked with promoting the goals set out by the Ferguson Commission in 189 policy recommendations made on Sept. 14, 2015.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from Forward Through Ferguson’s recently announced board co-chairs: Bennett as well as Zack Boyers.

In their day-to-day work, Bennett is the founder and principal of Emerging Wisdom and Boyers is U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation's chairman and CEO.

Listen as they discuss the organization’s priorities going forward and what they are working on first: 

Here are our takeaways from the conversation:

1. 2017 will be a year of re-establishing leadership and direction for the organization.

Earlier this spring, the lead catalyst (executive director) of Forward Through Ferguson, Nicole Hudson, stepped down to take a position in St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s cabinet. Bennett and Boyers said that this year will include a search for a new lead catalyst and to enact a strategic planning initiative to determine next steps.

“In 2018, you’ll see a more intentional focus on specific calls to action, policy work, and systems change that we can point to,” Boyers said.

2. Forward Through Ferguson will continue to work on the already-established 189 policy recommendations from the Ferguson Commission report.

Bennett and Boyers said they will not add to the priorities already established in the report.

“This will take us generations to implement and take action on,” Bennet said. “The work in the meantime, though is to build the civic capacity and community capacity to collectively do the work. No single institution has the resources, the authority or the moxie to do it themselves. In that way, we are a region that is underdeveloped.”

Bennett said that the organization is looking at implementation over a 25 year span.

“We’re asking St. Louis to imagine with us 2039,” Bennett said. “That will be 25 years from the killing of Mike Brown. We think this is generational work  and we think it takes a generation to see major, substantive change.”

3. Progress on the action items from the Ferguson Commission report is a mixed bag.

Among the calls to action are themes around policing, municipal court reform and predatory lending. Bennett said that there hasn’t been major movement on the “Justice for All” section of the report, which deals with policing, but other areas of reform have taken large leaps forward.

She pointed to “Youth at the Center,” with work around child development accounts through the St. Louis treasurer’s office and Washington University, as well as “Opportunity to Thrive,” particularly in regard to minimum wage.

Boyers also added that more people understand the notion of racial equity and the need to apply it for forward movement in St. Louis.

When asked to name one priority that’s at the top of her list, Bennett said she’d like to see a $25 million racial equity fund come to fruition to fund training, support and community engagement around racial equity in the region.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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