Before August of last year - very few people had ever heard of the small town of Ferguson, Missouri, but that all changed after 18 year old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer.
The exact accounts of the shooting will probably never be fully discovered, but one thing is certain, it gave rise to a national conversation about race and policing.
We'll talk about it with the Reverend Starsky D. Wilson, president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation, a faith-based grant making organization. He is also the co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, a group of community leaders that was set up after the shooting death of Michael Brown.
We asked him how he would have described the small city of Ferguson before it became a topic of national and international news
I would describe Ferguson as a changing suburb, relatively quiet community but seeing a second wave of migration out of the city of St. Louis, first working class whites that moved, and then African Americans who followed them. But while the demographics were predominantly African American a lot of the leadership had not changed …
But after the incident on August 9th, 2014, the faces did start to change. And earlier this year, the Department of Justice found that the police and the municipal courts in Ferguson were targeting African Americans with tickets and fines … and often, those tickets for relatively minor offenses would turn into arrest warrants.
So we worked with legislators to pass a bill called Senate Bill 5. Senate Bill 5 does a number of things, it puts a cap … on the amount of revenue that any municipality in the state of Missouri can take from minor traffic violations, so that will systematically shift how this targeting happens …
On his hope that in the future, especially as a father, that relationships between the community and police will improve:
I am hopeful and quite frankly it must, there's no where that I can move to in the United States that this would't be a challenge … let's be clear … but I find hope in the fact that people are engaging this on a national level, in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the activation of Millennial activists across the country a network and an energy to sustain the conversation …
To hear the full interview, click the link above.