ST. LOUIS – David Dwight, the Executive Director and lead strategy catalyst at Forward through Ferguson, says this moment in time feels different than the unrest following Michael Brown’s death nearly six years ago in Ferguson.
“There have been five years of work that has been done, not as much in the national eye, not covered as much, but there have been organizers every day doing the work, day in and day out, that prepared us for another moment like this,” said Dwight during an interview with FOX2Now.com for the Uniting St. Louis series.
Forward Through Ferguson was created after Michael Brown’s death in 2014 and following the release of the Ferguson Commission Report. The organization’s site says it is a catalyst for lasting positive change in the St. Louis region as outlined in that report.
Dwight says over the last 5 and a half years the increase of the minimum wage locally and statewide have helped create more racial equity in the region.
He also pointed to improvements in early childhood education and discriminatory practices involving school discipline reform that were especially impacting Black boys and girls.
However, Dwight says many of the calls to action in the report have not been touched or implemented.
“Much of the justice for all section just hasn’t been touched across the region. We found that’s been the most resistant area,” explained Dwight.
The justice for all section included courts, policing, consolidation of the fractured government in the St. Louis region.
He also said work still needs to be done other recommendations like the expansion of Medicaid, jobs programs for black communities, housing, and reinvesting in Black communities that have experienced red lining and other systematic disenfranchisement.
“The Ferguson Commission found that in every area in life in St. Louis there are disparities by race, no sectors, no neighborhood is untouched by systemic racism being embedded into it,” said Dwight.
Forward Through Ferguson is one of many several organizations involved in the launch of the Racial Healing Fund. The community-led grant process will distribute funding to help heal the trauma caused by racism.
Dwight is excited about putting power in the hands of the community, but is also calling on local political leaders to take up the call and start using their influence to pass new policies and laws.
“They have been slow and reticent to take up the community policy agendas and start to implement them,” said Dwight.
He also explained the entire region is worse off because of racial inequities, not just people of color. He said economically, the region would be $14 billion larger if we did not have gaps in wages by race. He also mentioned unequal access to health and a fractured education system hurt how St. Louis can compete with other regions.