ST. LOUIS – Rev. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King United Church has a different view of the front lines in 2020. The clergy member, propelled into the national spotlight during the Ferguson Unrest in 2014, is grounded in Florissant, Mo because of COVID-19.
After the unrest following Michael Brown’s death, Rev. Blackmon became the Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ.
Rev. Blackmon says instead of being on the streets with protestors this time, she is focusing her frontline work helping stop the spread of COVID-19. She said she realized, “If we were going to save anyone, we had to save ourselves and save our communities.”
That thought is how the group Masks for the People started. Blackmon, who spent years also working as a nurse, joined efforts with others across the country to raise money for masks and PPE, knowing the virus would spread more rapidly in black communities. Twitter founder and St. Louis native Jack Dorsey even donated $1 million dollars to the cause.
While the world is still learning about the impact of the coronavirus, Blackmon stresses the impact of segregation and racism isn’t new. That has her pondering what about this moment in time has changed the hearts and minds of people across the world.
“I am trying to pinpoint what that is that made compassion click on, that made turning a blind eye no longer acceptable, because it is clearly happening in this moment,” said Rev. Blackmon.
While reflecting on what’s changed since the Ferguson Unrest, Rev. Blackmon said there’s been political appointments that people thought would never happen. She said she even cried when Ella Jones was elected the first black woman mayor of Ferguson. She explained she had the same reaction when Wesley Bell, a former Ferguson councilmember, was elected as the first black prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County.
Rev. Blackmon says she’s is also proud to see all the young people who have come up in the movement and are involved in the protests. She said they aren’t just active in the streets, but running for office as well.
So what is next? Rev. Blackmon says we as humans have a moral obligation to make sure everyone has what they need. She says the first step, is making sure everyone makes a fair wage.