Policemen using tear gas against civilians on August 14/ Wikipedia photo by Loavesofbread

Meet me in St. Louie: Trying to understand Ferguson

Policemen using tear gas against civilians on August 14/ Wikipedia photo by Loavesofbread
Policemen using tear gas against civilians on August 14/ Wikipedia photo by Loavesofbread

Toasted ravioli. Ted Drew’s frozen custard. Clydesdales. Intense (and I am not kidding) humidity that makes you feel like you are swimming through summer air. Riverboat history and Mark Twain.

I grew up in a suburb of the city that is all over the news. My hometown of Ballwin is about 30 minutes away from Ferguson, another suburb of St. Louis. I love my home city, its quirks and its baseball team (go Cards!). But I do not love the way it is carved up into bubbles of privilege and poverty, so often around racial lines. And I am grieving the way it is becoming known for this in these days of turmoil and lament.


Forest Park. A first-rate art museum and zoo. School cancellations on just the prediction of snow. Cicadas and fireflies.


Wendell Berry orders us to think locally and act locally. As we all tune in to try and understand the events in Ferguson, I wonder if he would direct our gaze differently. “Meet me in St. Louie” we would sing. Maybe if our hearts break for the family of Michael Brown and if we seek a better future, we should ask questions about our own communities. What is the wider, older story about the land we live on now?


Here I am in Spokane, Wash. Ponderosa pines that reach to the sky. A minor league team with jerseys in Salish. Pockets of wealth and poverty, and a downtown torn between welcoming everyone and guarding privilege. A river and falls that take my breath away every spring.


What conversations are happening here in Spokane about race? What needs to be talked about? What would it take for us to change the terrible statistic that one in three black men face incarceration?


I believe that we have what we need to prevent violence in our hometowns. We have the mouths to speak, to lament and confess our fears. We have the hearts to care and the minds to dream a different way of being. We have the bravery to change policy and counter oppression. As we grieve Ferguson, our work begins right here where we are.
Meet me in Spokane.

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Cara Strickland

I’ll meet you here. Thank you, Liv, for these words.

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