Ferguson Anniversary | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson Anniversary

Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones says though Ferguson is getting more attention, his city suffered more damage in Monday's riots, and he wants to make sure it gets the resources to rebuild that it needs. Nov. 28, 2014 file photo.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Nov. 24 marks five years since the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer responsible for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Ferguson received a lot of attention during and after the unrest, but the town of Dellwood also experienced upheaval. 

After the grand jury decision, five of Dellwood’s stores were looted and 13 businesses were set on fire. 

“It was a very traumatic event emotionally to our community, but I’m just glad we have rebounded from that,” said Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air

Professor and author Jennifer Cobbina interviewed nearly 200 people about their experiences during unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore.
St. Louis University

Jennifer Cobbina found herself deeply affected by the 2014 protests in Ferguson. She called the St. Louis region her home for five years while she worked toward her doctorate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. 

Just two months after the unrest began, Cobbina, now a Michigan State University criminal justice professor, had the opportunity to explore her concerns about Ferguson and its residents by participating in the Ferguson Research-Action Collaborative project. 

Cheeraz Gormon is a poet, storyteller, award-winning advertising copywriter and St. Louis native.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of Michael Brown Jr.’s death, St. Louis Public Radio and poet and activist Cheeraz Gormon presented a live storytelling event featuring speakers whose lives changed drastically after Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson. The stories featured in this edition of St. Louis on the Air include reflections on race, violence and community trauma.

Hear highlights from the event:

In December, the St. Louis Public Radio newsroom started planning for Aug. 9, 2019, the fifth anniversary of Michael Brown Jr.’s death and the beginning of months of protests.

Of course we wanted to do the stories that answer the questions everyone has: What has changed since 2014? Where are the people who were involved in the protests? Have relations between police and African American communities improved? 

Artist and wellness advocate Dail Chambers and daughter. [8/8/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Five years ago, Kevin and Danielle McCoy were making art that wasn’t particularly political.

“We made a lot of safe work,” Kevin McCoy said, “but it didn’t have a lot of meaning. It didn’t get to the crux of the issues.”

Then white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed, 18-year-old black man. Brown's death sparked weeks of protests in Ferguson, unrest that reverberated in the local arts community. Black artists formed new alliances and reached new platforms, but also bumped up against enduring divides over race in this community.

Members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment conduct a silent protest during a public hearing on municipal court reform on Nov. 12, 2015.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Brown’s 2014 death at the hands of a Ferguson police officer painted a clear picture of the troubled relationship between the police and the community, and also abusive municipal court practices that disregarded defendants’ rights.

Defendants were held in jail for weeks or months because they couldn’t afford excessive bonds. Others were arrested because they couldn’t pay the fines and fees, some of which were illegal. Some courts were little more than cash cows for their cities.

Jonathan Tremaine Thomas poses for a portrait inside the former Corner Coffee House space, which he plans to renovate and reopen.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan Tremaine Thomas is not originally from Ferguson. He’s not even from the St. Louis region or Missouri. Thomas, a North Carolina native, moved here from Indianapolis in 2014, in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing and the ensuing unrest. 

The pastor and entrepreneur says he came to Ferguson not in spite of Ferguson’s troubles, but because of them. Thomas, 38, who has long been involved in activism and community work in other cities, wanted to put his skills and experience to use in the healing process. He didn’t expect that he, his wife and their daughter would find a warm welcome.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said he needs a lot more money to run his office properly.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Many people around the country saw Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson as the catalyst behind a new civil rights movement.

But, even with the Ferguson protest movement going from the streets to the halls of government, political change in the St. Louis region was slow, as activist-preferred candidates lost elections and some policy demands went unmet.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell has a message for people who believe little has been accomplished or gained here in five years.

“I would say with all due respect, me sitting in this office now would be evidence of change,” Bell said. “And in my opinion obviously positive change.”