Ever so tentatively, it feels like a new day is dawning here in the Show-Me state -- a day in which many residents are challenging their local and state police around basic law enforcement procedures and more effective community-centered policing techniques, like those which the COPS program follows.
Despite the deep pain that has been exposed as a result of the two recent tragic killings and poor behavior by police, this is encouraging.
The most substantial initiative is a move toward 100% voter turnout. Several groups like Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), MORE, Jobs with Justice, Missouri Faith Voices and Heal STL are doing what savvy community groups do best -- making real change by registering folks to vote and training them to register others. And they're building real power by strengthening permanent, multi-issue grassroots groups here that have a track record in uniting congregations that can confront institutional wrongdoing day in and day out.
MCU and its allies are also continuing to pursue their long-term anti-poverty and justice goals, like winning quality public schools for all and expanding Medicaid so more low-income people and people of color have health insurance.
Also, MCU is charting a course from now through Easter to help their interfaith members (white, African-American and multicultural Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Mennonite churches, Jewish synagogues, and others) process what happened in Ferguson, air and better understand their own feelings about and experiences with race and racism, and connect their ongoing social justice campaigns to the anger and emotion engendered since August 9.
Last night, at their first meeting, 14 people volunteered to pilot these "Sacred Conversations on Race (+Action)" -- which are inspired by a yearlong reflection on structural racism and racial justice that organizers in the Gamaliel network actually started in January. Based on this initial work, MCU plans to expand this work to all of its core membership of 33 congregations and beyond. A training of trainers is set for Oct. 18.