Ferguson, Missouri - The Healing Process Begins

Ferguson, Missouri - The Healing Process   

On the Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7, 2014, I visited the suburb of St Louis, Missouri known as Ferguson, Missouri and referred to by critics as “Ground Zero”. Critics were wrong to compare this city to the Ground Zero in New York.  That city was destroyed by foreign terrorist, and this city has not been destroyed; only injured and is in its healing process.

 

Since August 9, 2014 when Michael Brown, a 18-year old young black man was shot numerous times by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, there has been a worldwide interest and many people are taking a closer look at the justice system within their own community and thinking about their own attitudes.

Michael Brown symbolizes another youth gone too soon - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

The black youth shot by a white cop in Ferguson, began this series of events: community protest, celebrity visits, local business facing struggle, protesters hit by cars, local activist meetings, Black Forum protest and finally no indictment of the police officer. 

Visitors portray the image "Hands Up" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

In regard to this process, President of the United States, Barack Obama states, “we have a problem as a society and a nation", "What more do we need to do... let’s hope society makes some real progress. Police will be better-trained law enforcers to help protect. It needs to be a better system, free from unnecessary force on the unarmed or lethal amounts of force.”

 

Charles Barkley, retired National Basketball Association player and sportscaster even has his opinion of the recent events that has occurred since the beginning.  He says “you have to address the issue in your own community.  People act like they don’t have responsibility but everyone does even if you are still hurting”.  Barkley said he has the responsibility to read the grand jury statement more closely to find out what really happened between Officer Wilson and teenager Brown.

 

I agree with comments by President Obama and Barkley that were mentioned here. I feel strongly that police officers should not be hated because they are responsible for keeping law and order, which is critical!! In every profession and every walk of life, you will have the good and the bad. Sadly, bad cops and bad citizens receive more publicity than the good cops and good citizens. It is a must for citizens to realize cops have a job to do just like citizens have a job to do. If the citizen has broken the law and is resisting an arrest, don't be shock when there is a chance the citizen may loose their life. And cops should not be license to profile an individual because of their race. Everyone has to examine themselves, to think about what's right and what's wrong and how best to contribute to society in a positive light and not negatively, making things worse.

 

 Look at Good Cop, Bad Cop

 

Katrina Shannon, Executive Director of Life’s Big Pictures and Creator of Cottonistic: A Historical Pictorial honoring the Cotton Pickers of American (see Splash Magazine article, January 2014) and I had an adventurous journey down south in October 2013, so we were ready to tackle another adventure but this time up North. Katrina lives in St Louis, so when I crossed over from Illinois to the Great Arch of St Louis, Missouri, I knew my journey was going to include the city of Ferguson, Missouri.

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis approaching it's 50th birthday in October 2015 and the small arch of Harris-Stowe State University, historical black college - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

The “Not Guilty” verdict of a white cop killing an unarmed black teenager was read on the evening of November 24, 2014, two days before Thanksgiving.  The city of Ferguson exploded in anger and that’s why friends and associates recommended that I not go to Ferguson. Some were telling me “to be careful, it’s like a war zone there, blacks and whites are divided, people are still looting, fighting, destroying their city, hating one another, protesting and they don’t care about other lives”. I felt I had a responsibility to visit this community and inform Splash Magazine’s readers about Ferguson’s Healing Process and that the verdict was read after the last child on the school bus line was home and not because the courts wanted to see destruction of the city with a riot at night fall.

Katrina Shannon believe everyone should abide by this message - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

As Katrina and I made our way through Ferguson, I saw the burned down establishments like Auto Zone, Quik Trip, Title Max, Lou Boutique, etc… 

Establishments "boarded up" and "burned down" in Ferguson, MO - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

      

QuikTrip destroyed - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

          

Title Max destroyed after the "Not Guilty" Verdict - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

Next, we drove up a street and were greeted by the site of flowers, teddy bears, caps, and spiritual items representing the last place Michael Brown laid down to his final, unsettling resting place. People were riding by taking photos and neighbors of Michael were passing by trying to adapt in the healing process of Ferguson since they lost their neighbor, Michael Brown by gunfire from 28-year old Officer Wilson.

Faith in God will get this community through this period - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

Yes, it was very emotional and sad to see the spot where a young person lost his life, too soon.  Less than a mile from all the flowers, we saw a large, beautiful trailer on the street where protesters once stood. This day we saw a ray of hope when the trailer read “Billy Graham Rapid Response” which was passing out food for anyone who was hungry - for food and for the word of God. It brought Katrina and me tears of joy knowing 95-year old Rev. Billy Graham is still trying to help save the world and bring hope and healing to others in need.

      

 

Rev. Billy Graham's Rapid Response Team still rescuing those in need spiritually and physically - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

 

As we rode through the city, Katrina was telling me that St. Louis and Ferguson had a history of racial division in regard to where the whites and blacks live.  However, on Halloween the little African American children would trick or treat in the white neighborhood.  I saw plenty of yard signs "I Love Ferguson" and many church marquees displaying positive, inspirational messages.

Before Katrina and I ventured out the next day, we were awaken by a radio talk show, St Louis 91.5 FM, Bott Radio Network.  It was Rev. Stoney Shaw, age 74, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Ferguson,  being interviewed by Dick Bott about Ferguson. Initially, we thought Rev. Shaw was an African American until we went to his church and saw photos of him. He was not in town the day of our visit. However, we had the chance to talk to his hard working staff and church members.

Pastor Stoney Shaw, a leader exploring God's Vision at First Baptist Church; 333 North Florissant Rd, Ferguson, MO 63135 - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

    

 

The Church that is making a big difference in Ferguson, Missouri - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

The radio coverage was so powerful. Rev. Shaw said “Here in Ferguson, the people are hurting and are frustrated because of life experiences". He said, "People need to learn more about God because people are looking for a sense of direction".  The interviewer replied, “It’s going to take us all to get this right and pull it all together”.  He said what was happening in Ferguson reminded him of the late 80's when Hurricane Hugo struck the Southeast United States on September 9, 1989.

The cities consisted of whites, black, poor, and rich who had lost everything but they all came together to revive their cities. What a powerful thing God can do. Right now we are in rehearsal.  After he gave that scenario he played an old spiritual song by Doris AkersI'm Gonna Let Lord Use Me” – “ I’m gonna live so Lord can use me anytime, anyplace, anywhere”.

Doris Akers sings "Im Gonna Let Lord Use Me"

"It's Christmas Time in the City of Ferguson" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

One month later after the city of Ferguson exploded in anger because of Brown's killing, First Baptist Church of Ferguson held a rap concert, which they called “Take to the Street Day”. They passed out free hot dogs, had barbers cutting hair and a puppet show performances with music. They were reaching out to others. Mr. Steve Davis, Media and Technology Director said, “the healing process have to start somewhere”. 

Lo Milton and Steve Davis, Staff members of "The Heaven's Handful Puppets" Ministry reaching out to the children and adults - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

 

He also said, “The National Guards and their Hummers were in place. Their presence settled things down. They restored order. It’s sad but we needed that. You can’t begin to make change if it’s chaos. After the shooting, schools closed but we opened the fellowship hall and fed the kids. The Church is part of the community and we did what Christ would do”.

 

First Baptist Church of Ferguson display their Mission - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

On Sunday morning, Katrina and I attended a Christmas Breakfast with Santa Claus on the campus of Katrina's alma mater, St. Louis Missouri University. They had children from various neighborhoods enjoying the fellowship and taking photos with Santa Claus. The joy of watching the people here at Christmas time was so overwhelming. I said to myself “this city does have hope if it continues to have united people like this”.

Brothers Judes Phillips (4 months) and Timmy Phillips (5 years) with Santa Claus - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

At the end of the program, I interviewed Ms. Tekesha Ford from Ferguson. She said “the media has portrayed us as bad people but what they don’t realize is the protestors are educated, employed and are not thugs or looters. The protesters were trying to protect their First Amendment Rights and voice their Civil Rights. Yes, it is a civil rights issue and a cultural difference here. It’s not all bad because the younger generation is not as divided like some of the older adults because they have been living integrated for a while.”

Tekeshia Ford's family; daughter Jada Ford, cousin Megan Thompson, Tekeshia, Aunt Robyn O'Neal at "Santa's Christmas Breakfast" - Courtesy of Katrina Shannon

 

"Regardless of what Michael Brown did, he was a human being and he should not have met his death like that.  Policemen should not use deadly force unless it’s a positively necessary.  I have two children age 19 and 9 years old and I need to know how to communicate with them by teaching them how to deal with issues like this and teach them their rights and how to react if ever faced with a police confrontation. For instance, if you purchase a water gun, do you keep it in the house?  That was in reference to Tamir Rice, 12 years old black youth in Cleveland Ohio killed by a white cop because he was playing with a toy water gun.”

 

After the “Breakfast with Santa” event on Sunday, we rode back to Ferguson one more time before I return to Illinois. I wanted to revisit the healing community.  Again, I met people from different parts of the country coming to see the site of Michael Brown and take photos. Then I saw a mother and her two children from the neighborhood, walking past Brown’s memorial site. I had to stop and give them a word of encouragement. I told them “I’m from out of town and I just what to know how you feel.”  The 7-year old girl spoke up so loudly and innocently saying, “Sad!  I feel real sad”. The 14-year old boy said, “I feel what happen was wrong but we’re trying to keep it together”. 

Renee Sudderth praying for the Ferguson Community and the world- Courtesy of Katrina Shannon

 

I could see the pain in the children and mother’s eyes. I turned to them and told them “I want you to know, I just said a prayer for your community and I want you to know the world is praying for your community too. I want you to know Michael Brown’s death was not in vain. Something good is going to happen out of all of this even though we may not be able to see it right now, but it’s going to happen especially, here at Christmas time.

A life may have been taken but "Peace I Give To You" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

      

Despite the dark days of Aug 9 and Nov 24, 2014, there will always be light that follows darkness - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

We have to keep praying and looking up to God because he is still in control and he will reveal in his own time what he wants the world to learn from this.  Keep trusting and looking up and we will continue to pray for you and your community”.  As they walked away, it appeared they had a little more hope expression on their faces. If they had known about Michael and his Facebook page they probably would had felt better.  I found out amazedly Michael Brown had written on his Facebook page the night before he died saying “Everything happens for a reason”.

 

Afterward, I walked away preparing to get back into the car when Katrina hollered “Renee, Renee, Look!!  Look at that white flag in the middle of Michael’s memorial site.  Yesterday the flag was not there. You know what that means?  It means the white flag is a sign of peace and it means surrender”.  Our interpretation of the white flag meant Ferguson is tired of fighting and they want peace to come over their city. I told Katrina we picked the perfect time to witness The Healing Process in Ferguson, Missouri. Keep praying and moving forward.

Michael Brown's Memorial Site with White Flag -Peace & Surrender - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

                          

 

The City do believe in the Healing Process of Ferguson - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

Copyright © 2014.December This story written by Renee Sudderth for Splash Magazines. It is not to be sold or reproduce without written permission of Renee Sudderth

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