On Michael Brown and Black Men

Separately, each of us read the op-ed: Michael Brown and Black Men and like the rest of the world, we are horrified by 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death and the resulting aftermath in Ferguson, Missouri. The implications of this tragedy wield a response from us – staffers at a community hub that philosophically believes in equality, justice, and sustaining safe neighborhoods. New York Times writer Charles Blow brings to bear several points synergistic with our mission and purpose as a community center that prioritizes the needs of individuals and families with backgrounds similar to Michael and those who live in his neighborhood.

As an organization, we’ve seen the economic and racial disparities that have often divided communities. In fact, much of our work is centered around balancing the scales for youth and their families – across racial, social and circumstantial barriers to sever the school-to-prison pipeline.  Our affordable pre-school, after school and college access programs were designed to address these issues and provide young people the tools to succeed.

But Like Mr. Blow points out, sometimes our support and love is not enough to protect them from authorities that abuse their power. Law enforcement, here and across the country, must be more accountable and genuinely committed to community involvement. We have seen collaboration work when authorities have partnered with us to address other critical issues like supportive solutions for the street homeless and the creation of safe street crossings for our elders. We know that when both sides are equally open and invested, there can be change.

And for the sake of Michael Brown and the countless others who we’ve lost, there must be.

Kristen Edwards and Christina McSwain