We get to choose the future we want: August 9, 2014 – August 9, 2034

What is abundantly clear to me is August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s passing, is a day that forever changed many lives. It’s a day that also forever changed our region. And, each time there is an event that reminds us of that day, we have to deal with our collective post-traumatic stress.

Unfortunately, we have had to deal with a great deal of that stress lately.

But, as always, we are not without hope. In the last two years, we’ve shown incredible resilience and strength. Now we must enter into deeper relationships with each other. Having a relationship with someone does not mean we must always agree with each other, but rather are willing to listen, with compassion, and do our best to understand. Part of this work is manifested in United Way’s support of the community-led processes East Side Aligned and Ready by 21. By creating spaces to really hear and engage with one another and ensuring more people have access to quality education and jobs, we can create the future that we seek.

That’s why I believe we need more people who are building bridges across diverse perspectives. We need more people who believe that compassion, love and kindness have a place in our public and private discourse to stand and be heard. We need more people who understand the link between progress, purposeful protest and achieving monumental transformation in our nation and local communities to stand and be heard. We need more people who commit every day to doing the hard work that is required if we are going to change the prevailing narrative that our problems are too big.

Our problems seem overwhelming, but it can take one small act to change an entire future. I’ll give you one example: Darius. You’ll meet Darius soon as part of our upcoming campaign video. He’s a young man who realized he had potential and dreams. And Darius was inspired to do better for himself.

But what most inspired me about Darius was an unscripted scene in Ferguson as Darius was on his way to work. As he walked, a police cruiser rolled past and Darius smiled and waved at the officer. My colleague tells me that the police officer waved first. In talking to young African American men who I mentor, they point out that this scene was true to life in that moment, but is not always reflective of our reality.  And still, we cannot dismiss the fact that this is exactly what we aspire for our relationship to be with law enforcement.

This is the tension we live in. While relations are often strained and we are in the heart of the struggle, we’ve got to commit to tackle this challenge like we do all others, with the end goals in mind of fairness, accountability, and relationships. Overcoming fear and resisting a callous approach to one another sets the stage for life more abundant.

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