FERGUSON, Missouri — Several community leaders said they were “encouraged” their town will get back on track after meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday.
Holder met with about 60 people, including Ferguson students, residents, local leaders and law enforcement at St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus to discuss race relations in the area.
Patrick Green, mayor of neighboring city Normandy, attended the meeting and says he will work hard to get the voices of young African-Americans like 18-year-old Michael Brown heard.
“They want a future,” Green said. “Their future does not look good in the Saint Louis area. These young African-Americans want to know, not that I’m just being heard but that it’s being taken seriously through some action plan, some results, some reporting of the process so that there’s accountability.”
According to the 2010 census, the population of Ferguson, Missouri, is just above 21,000 people. African-Americans account for 67.4 percent.
Ruby Curry, interim president of Florissant Valley’s St. Louis Community College, was also at the meeting. She said Attorney General Holder’s presence had a huge impact on the crowd and tackling racial tensions.
“I think his comments were very earnest about us trying to come together as a community to collaborate and really work together to solve the issues,” she said.
As a leader in the community, Curry said Holder’s words had a positive impact on her attitude towards moving Ferguson forward.
During the meeting, Curry said Holder shared with the group a story about him once being stopped by law enforcement and his path to becoming the country’s “top cop.”
Curry is taking that message with her to influence others to help the younger generation.
“Be a positive force,” she said. “Encourage them to stay in school. Education is the key to all of this.”
Leaders all over the community are stepping up to get Ferguson through the rough patch, including those at the Ferguson-Florissant school district. The district, which serves more than 11,000 students from pre-school through 12th grade, has postponed the first day of classes by a week because of the “unforeseen and tragic issues facing the community.”
Acting superintendent Lawrence Larrew said, “Our staff has taken advantage of this extra week to make scheduling adjustments, ensure the safety of our campuses and prepare our staff to welcome our students and celebrate a new school year.”
Mayor Green believes it’s important to help Ferguson residents get back on track quickly and encourage residents to get involved.
“They have a responsibility to get involved to say, ‘we pay the bill’,” he said. “‘That concrete you’re standing on, I paid for it. That asphalt where you’re protesting, last time I checked, we paid for that.’ They have a responsibility to jump in, and that is a democracy.”
In a statement published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Holder says:
In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.
Curry believes advancing the community is important to Holder.
“I think what he’s probably going to try to do is set out a blueprint of how we go about making the change through training and through development,” she said. “There are some communities where this has worked, so I think they are probably going to look at those communities as well and see what we can use from them to use here in Saint Louis to make it better.”
While the community is ready to move forward after the Attorney General’s visit, its leaders are encouraged to continue leading and getting Ferguson back to the Ferguson it used to be.
“I think they are concerned about getting back on track to what makes this community great,” Mayor Green said of Ferguson residents.
Follow Derrick Q. Lewis on Twitter @DerrickQLewis.