The history behind Ferguson from the community POV

We all know that Ferguson, MO has double the number of black citizens than white, and that this is due to a deep rooted history of slavery in the south. St.Louis tourism tries to exploit this history, and only the happy endings like the wealthy African-Americans that were able to buy their own land or a black musician creating a specific genre of music, to of course get people to want to come to St. Louis (1). What St.Louis, especially the government, has a hard time admitting is that the true black history within St.Louis is not something to brag about, rather it is something they should be ashamed about.

Now of course, most of the history that is most shameful, like slavery, was well before our time, and you cannot blame the current people in office for their wrongdoings. What they can be blamed for is to this day is taking advantage of the poorer areas of town, which are mainly areas of color, specifically black. The main example of this was pointed out by Jeffery Smith’s article “You can’t understand Ferguson without first understanding these three things: reflections from a former state senator from St.Louis (2).” In this article he goes into the history of the oldest, and first, black town in MO, Kinloch. Today, Kinloch has about 400-500 residents according to the Chief of the Kinloch Fire Protection District, Darran Kelly, and is one of, if not the, poorest community in all of MO. You can see what Kinloch looks like today in the video tour with Darran Kelly here: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2010/03/a_video_tour_of_kinloch_the_sa.php.

Kinloch, however, was thriving with about 4,000 residents prior to 1980’s, and was filled with middle class citizens. It was created due to surrounding towns having laws that did not allow black citizens to own land, which lasted through the Civil Rights Movement. By the 1980’s, Lambert Airport started buying surrounding land to expand and create an additional runway, this project displaced 80% of the surrounding neighborhood of Kinloch. These residents were forced to move into the other neighborhoods including Ferguson, specifically the Canfield Green apartment complex that Michael Brown lived in. The crazy part is, Lambert never created the second runway, which is why in the video with Darran Kelly the land is leveled and hardly anyone lives there.

A report by Aljazeera America commented on the thoughts of a protester feeling that, “the near-vacant city has long been a symbol of what many African-Americans in north St. Louis County feel is representative of a social and governmental system in which they have little voice and that they say consistently works against them (3).” Another protester said that a lot of the frustration over in Ferguson is due to this sense of displacement for past Kinloch residents, which mirrors the sense of loss black citizens have within our justice and governmental systems because they cannot seem to get anyone to hear their voice. Ferguson is not the only predominantly black town that feels this way, which is why many have risen up and spoken out about the lack of voice the black community has within governmental institutions.

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The history behind Ferguson from the community POV

Reflections of the community and activism stakeholder

My role as the community and activism stakeholder is to represent all sides of the community reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. This includes responses from not only the immediate community in Ferguson, MO, but also across the nation. I would like to delve into more of the history behind the surrounding community and what has led to the outrage that there is today in future Twitter posts. One of the harder parts of taking on this role is to not put my own opinions into these tweets, and really try to reflect exactly how the community and activists feel, even though the majority of community opinion matches with my personal opinion pretty well.

What I have found logistically difficult so far is putting the thoughts and feelings of the community into only 140 characters, and of course getting followers and people to interact and respond. Social media, especially Twitter, is a hot spot for community voices, and it is hard to pick and choose which ones are most prominent or meaningful since they all have strong emotions behind them. This is why deciding what to post before and after the verdict came out was hard, and I thought with the trial verdict being released that people would be eager to respond or re-tweet anything that had to do with Ferguson since they would want to spread the word, but I guess it takes time to gain respect on Twitter.

What I have noticed so far from the community and activist opinions is outrage over the justice system. People are enraged about the grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson.  But the reasoning is due to how easy it is for a MO police officer to get out of indictment because of the laws in MO. People often question the authenticity of our justice system in cases like the Ferguson case Wilson, not necessarily because of the demographics of the Jury, but the laws currently place. Yet, I am thrilled to witness the positive response it has taken.  People all over the country of different ages and ethnic backgrounds coming together to raise awareness about  social injustices; it is the first step towards change and a brighter future.

Reflections of the community and activism stakeholder

Reflections from Media Stakeholders

When we began #The Ferguson Project Four, I don’t think any of us fully realized the implications of Ferguson, and the outrage to come from cities all around the country. As the Media Stakeholder, as well as a concerned citizen, I have been fervently following the news coverage of Ferguson, prior to the shooting, of the shooting, after the shooting, and now after the trial results have finally been announced. I hope that if we keep talking, keep fighting, keep spreading the word, our voices will be so loud that America will not continue to ignore race. This is so much more than about one shooting in Ferguson.

I’ve been struggling with the format of Twitter because there is so much more to say than in 140 characters, and even a blog post can’t do Ferguson justice. My hope for this blog and Twitter account is that we can encourage others to join the discussion and ask questions along with us as we attempt to create a full picture of #Ferguson.

I’ve also struggled because media always aims to remain objective–but it is exactly in this polarized situation where objectivity becomes extremely difficult to achieve. I often felt I had to censor my opinions as I wanted to be more critical of the media. So, I plan on using the blog as a platform for the opinions, thoughts, and reflections that do not fit within the realm of Twitter.

Alan Krawitz of Media Bistro gives the media coverage of the Ferguson shooting a grade of C to C-, critiquing “…coverage that I thought was uneven, at best, with some national reporters even crossing journalistic lines to become advocates, rather than unbiased, objective third-parties.” However, who decides where this line is. At what point is it unethical for journalists to remain “unbiased”? And when does something become “sensationalism,” rather than outrage over the truth? However, media does still play a huge role in helping to expose the racial divides in the U.S., and without the media (and citizen journalists using Twitter or other blogs), I don’t think the #Ferguson protests that occurred yesterday and today would have been possible.

What do you think of the media coverage of #Ferguson? What role should the media play?

Be heard,

Media Stakeholder

Reflections from Media Stakeholders