In 2014 when Michael Brown was shot and killed, I had just entered my second year as CEO of United Way. It was an incredibly stressful time for me personally and for our region. I had never directly experienced civil debate devolve into vitriolic levels ending with many of us, whether stated or not, retreating to our respective tribes. As the national spotlight shined upon the region, we tried to put on our game face and highlight what is right with the region. And still at our core, we remained fundamentally divided. As was the case then, I believe that our fundamental debate is around systems change. Our debate throughout our region and nation is one of shared power—both political and economic. When there is shared power, the leading life indicators such as access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, healthy foods and equity in justice provides a return that is greater parity amongst all groups related to post high school training and college, jobs, upward mobility, housing, C-Suite, wealth creation and access to capital for entrepreneurial endeavors. Five years ago, in response to the protest that followed Michael’s death, I wrote, “Ferguson is the canvass on which so many people have chosen to paint the picture of their frustration, despair and hopelessness.” I urge our region, for the sake of future economic and spiritual prosperity to search our hearts and be intentional with systems change that give all people a shot at “winning”.
My original reflection on and prayer for Ferguson can be found here: