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Citizens are not waiting

Posted November 5, 2015-St. Louis American

Jamala Rogers and Rev. Starsky WIlson co-emcee Accountability Sunday where key elected officials were no-shows, hence the empty chairs.
Jamala Rogers and Rev. Starsky Wilson co-emcee Accountability Sunday where key elected officials were no-shows, hence the empty chairs in front of 1000 citizens from the region.

An elected official is not necessarily a leader. She or he could be, maybe even should be. In the current democracy, having leadership skills is not a pre-requisite to holding public office whether one is elected or appointed.
Last weekend we saw a spectacular display of indifference and lack of leadership when key decision-makers were no-shows at the Public Accountability Mass Meeting. The meeting was the culmination of a weekend of activities held annually by the Beloved Community. This year, the Ferguson Commission report was the centerpiece under the banner of “Radical Reconciliation.”

Accountability Sunday was the safe space for designated mayors, police chiefs, elected officials, school superintendents and corporate reps to step up and commit to specific calls to action from the Ferguson Commission report, “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity.” Most chose to thumb their nose at the 1,000-plus citizens who showed up from across the region.

There were key decision-makers who did think it was important to make a public declaration. The commitments of Tom Irwin of Civic Progress and Joe Reagan of the St. Louis Regional Chamber should not be overlooked. They both committed to a creating a 25-year managed fund to support the infrastructure that his kind of initiative will need.

As honorable as the participation of volunteers is, this thing is going is need real and reliable funds for staffing and other resources in order to sustain community efforts.

Missouri Attorney General Chris “Wannabe Gov.” Koster had agreed to attend but backed out at the last minute. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, along with Police Chiefs Sam Dotson and Jon Belmar, came up with flimsy excuses for their absences.

St. Louis County Executive Steve “The People Stinger” Stenger and St. Louis County Judge Maura “ATM Courts” McShane flat out refused to attend. This unmitigated arrogance in the face of extreme incompetence and racist exploitation of citizens by the county court system is unconscionable.

As for Governor Jay “Lame Dude” Nixon, who convened the Ferguson Commission, we still have no idea what his office is committed to doing to move the report’s action plans. Is his lack of accountability rooted in the report’s reference to the research done by Lindsey Lupo in her book “Flak-Catchers: One Hundred Years of Riot Commission Politics in America”?

Lupo appropriately points out the most commission reports “give the appearance of action but are little more than a tool to maintain the status quo” and that “social and racial issues in the cities are not actually addressed by the commission.”

When key decision-makers prove to be the worthless officials they are, it moves people who once had faith in the system into the ranks of change agents. It’s the kind of easy recruiting I love – ordinary citizens radicalized by an unyielding and unfair system. Yes!

Citizens are not waiting. Thousands were moved to participate in the commission’s process to identify issues and actions, and thousands more were already in motion before the Ferguson Uprising and didn’t need a report to tell them that something was fundamentally wrong. These currents are now converging to become the sea change for a region rife with racial inequities and injustices on many levels.

Weeks and months of sustained street actions after the police killing of Mike Brown proved that the St. Louis region was experiencing a very different response to the years of accumulated and systemic abuses. Our collective commitment of faith and fight is already challenging an entrenched and uncaring status quo in unprecedented ways.

Wherever we stand, we must all be held accountable for our actions. Holding people accountable is part of organizing for change. It is not wasted resources or misplaced energy, it’s germane to the struggle for human liberation – and this especially includes making Black Lives Matter.

The fight is on. It is the fight to prove that empowered and informed citizens can transcend artificial boundaries of race, religion, gender and political affiliation to work together for real transformation. This will not always be easy or harmonic, but we cannot turn back. We already know what’s behind us and found it unacceptable for a civilized society.

Destination: Racial Equity.

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