Ferguson, MO – August 25, 2014 – On August 19, 2014, the Ferguson Youth Advisory Board called a special meeting to discuss their feelings and thoughts following the death of 18-year-old Mike Brown, as a result of being shot by a police officer. The incidents following the shooting included protests, rioting, looting, and controversial crowd control actions by police including tear-gas, and the cancellation of the start of school for Ferguson-Florissant School District. Along with youth board members, there were additional youth in attendance including those participating in FYI’s Ferguson Community Service Program.
When asked how they currently felt, the overwhelming response by the youth was that they felt tense and unsure of how to handle the current situation. Individuals responded that they understood the need for justice but wanted this to be over. A number of the youth are still recovering from the surrealness of these events happening in their community. Attendees didn’t think that the portrayal of their community on TV matched with where they grew up, lived and attended school. Based on the media portrayal, many felt trapped and scared in addition to being scared of what might happen next.
As for the cancellation of school, most felt that they needed to be in school. Some commented that the emotions and chaos that is expected will still happen when school starts so it would have been better to face it at the initial starting date of school and be past it by now.
Those in attendance provided many thoughts and ideas on ways to improve the community beyond this point. While some suggested that they agree with providing a better diversity ratio of officers that matched the community, most felt a need for better relationships with the police. One youth simply stated that he wanted to get to know the police as regular people. Other suggestions included opening a center dedicated to teens to be able to hang out and to provide them with opportunities to speak out and feel associated with the community, better educational programs about the police force in the high schools to hopefully increase the number of youth wanting to be police officers, and helping to rebuild the community in which they live through projects that build trust and improve the surroundings.
Two immediate actions that the youth are planning are to invitemore officers to participate in the events and activities that FYI has planned and to plan a youth summit to continue this dialogue. They want to see police on social platforms instead of just when they are on duty. As well, the youth want to sit down with the community and add their thoughts through the media so people don’t just hear about the negative actions of youth but also the positive.
Lastly, the youth attending this special meeting want to tell the world that they are trying and that they have a voice. Look for more information on a Youth Summit being organized and the Ferguson Sunday Parkways and Teen Festival on Sunday, October 12th.