Positive Leadership: A Region's Call to Action
Friday, August 14, 2015
We’ve passed the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent unrest in Ferguson, and the region awaits the Ferguson Commission report. Gov. Jay Nixon convened this independent and diverse group to study the underlying social and economic conditions brought to the fore in the wake of Michael Brown’s demise.
The Ferguson Commission was further tasked with helping to chart a new path toward healing and positive change for all residents of the St. Louis region. As we reflect on our past and look ahead to our region’s future, here are five things to consider:
1. In the last 12 months, many of our citizens started having conversations across racial lines. Some have attended forums on policing, education, childhood well-being, economic inequality and racism within the municipal court system. Many of our FOCUS St. Louis alumni have been actively involved in this work — by serving on the Ferguson Commission, by engaging in these difficult discussions and by sharing their time, talents and leadership to move our region forward. Conversations about diversity, we have learned, can’t stop with a few but must be part of our collective conscience.
2. Truth be told, there was much the commission had to consider in addressing the miscalculations, biases, paradoxes and misperceptions that led to Michael Brown’s death and the ensuing chaos it triggered. If you read through the work of the commission to date, you will get a sense of the scope and scale of their task in making definable and sustainable recommendations. At its core is what would seem like the simplest of solutions: a call to citizen engagement and involvement.
3. In the words of the old African adage, “It will take the entire village (region) to make a difference.” I encourage you to read the report like a treasure map and hope you will have the courage and respect and moral determination to follow its guidelines and lead others to do so as well.
4. All this is to say that transformation can only happen or fully take place if we as citizens mobilize, network and be part of the larger conversation. How do we see ourselves as leaders for positive change? Think about how you can be part of the solution and consider how you can be part of the leadership that helps heal wounds and leads to lasting transformation.
5. In preparation for the official report release in September, I encourage you to review the commission’s draft calls to action, available to educate yourself on how you can impact leadership for a positive change by spreading the word regarding the work of the Ferguson Commission and encouraging others to read and consider the findings of the report.
Start putting your leadership skills to work today so that years from now, when the legacy of our region is written, you will be proud to say that you played a decisive role in the positive outcomes and continued public understanding of what community really means — that working together can surely help to ensure social justice and equality for everyone.
Let’s hope the report can help people to understand how each one of us can act as responsible, open-minded, rational citizens with everyone’s best interests in mind. Start with yourself. Make a difference! Engage!
- Yemi Akande-Bartsch, Ph.D., FOCUS St. Louis Executive Director
as published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch