One of our proudest accomplishments at The St. Louis American has continued to be embraced by our community, but remains too little known outside of it. That is the annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards Gala, which has become Black St. Louis’ signature black tie fall gala. We are deeply proud to convene our community around a celebration of classroom educators (and the administrators who guide and support them). This event galvanizes our community and brings out the best in us, we believe, because our community recognizes that teaching is a high calling. There is, in fact, none higher.
We were humbled reading the Ferguson Commission’s final report. In it, the volunteer commissioners appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon found themselves in the position of the editorial writer. They issue calls to action and name institutions, if not names, that should be held accountable for acting. We find them to be consistently insightful and appropriately urgent calls to action, with a sharp sense of which institutions or offices should be held accountable for acting.
The Ferguson Commission held its final public meeting on September 9, as this newspaper was going to press. This was the 17th full commission meeting since December 1, when it first convened, at a time when the streets of Ferguson were practically still smoldering. Exactly one week before, on November 24, the St. Louis County Grand Jury returned its decision not to indict then Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for his killing of Michael Brown Jr. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch decided to announce this fateful decision at night and, as if cued, looters and arsonists returned to the streets of Ferguson after months of peaceful protests. Ferguson was once again the focus of national attention. Two Ferguson commissioners, Brittany Packnett and Rasheen Aldridge, missed the first commission meeting because they were in Washington, D.C. meeting with President Obama.
We have often championed the courage of the mostly young, mostly black protestors who rose up against police abuse in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown Jr., but just as impressive and consequential has been the activism of legal advocates who are using the protest movement’s momentum to reform municipal court abuses in the St. Louis region. Of course, the police and courts are intimately connected, as the Department of Justice report on Ferguson revealed an unconstitutional and unethical collusion between cops and courts to raise revenue for the city through aggressive – even competitive – ticketing.
It remains to be seen whether Jamyla Bolden will have the same transformative power in her death that Michael Brown Jr. is having in his, but when the studious 9-year-old Ferguson girl was remembered two days after she was killed by a stray civilian bullet, many people promised that Jamyla would have an angelic power to inspire positive change.
Our main Ferguson protest reporter called our managing editor on Tuesday, August 11 and said, “You need to call Chief Belmar and you need to tell him that he is going to ruin any progress he made with the community if he lets these Oath Keepers come out to protests in Ferguson carrying assault rifles.”
What has changed in the year since Michael Brown Jr. was killed by a Ferguson police officer? All of us who were in the thick of things in Ferguson last year have been asked this question by now. In the coming days, with the August 9 anniversary of his death looming, countless people will voice their answer in media and on social media. For us, the most significant change is obvious.
The Obama administration announced on July 8 a new rule aimed at promoting fair housing, nearly 50 years after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed to combat segregation and wide-spread discrimination. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said the regulations will provide communities that receive HUD funding with data and assessment tools to help them meet fair housing obligations for affordable housing and community development. Despite the 1968 law requiring communities that receive federal funds to increase access to quality, affordable housing, many communities in the U.S. – very much including St. Louis city and county – remain segregated by race and income.