St. Louis Alumni Community:
I write this with a heavy heart, after a night with tear-filled eyes as I sat watching last night’s peaceful rally devolve further into rioting. I can’t say I’m surprised at what took place. As Dr. King told CBS’ Mike Wallace over 40 years ago, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
The tragic death of Michael Brown, and of so many of the children we love and care about, continues to hit close to home as I’ve spoken with many of you this weekend. Plenty of you are taking the time to restructure your plans for this week to discuss this event and empower your students in your various settings. Your tenacity and thoughtfulness about leading our children through this has brought me so much hope some very dark days. Please make sure to make use of the Facebook Pages to collaborate and share resources, potentially including this poem posted on a great blog written by young people: http://collectedyoungminds.org/uncategorized/i-was-going-to-go-out-tonight-but-they-killed-us-again-ferguson/
I have to be honest with you: I, too, am filled with rage. Rage that this summer has been filled with too many children who’ve been one step away from college, greater access, and opportunity and been shot down by a world crueler than most of us like to admit. Rage that he died at the hands of those who are meant to serve and protect, though it seems they forgot Mike among their constituents. Rage that Normandy students and students across our city just can’t seem to start a school year without mess, violence, the vilification of their community, and the harsh light of constant press attention awaiting them as they go try to prove everyone wrong. Rage that, once again, our city and our people are grieving, when we deserve some triumph in our lives.
But more than rage, I feel love for our resilient children who face this harsh world every day, who press forward toward the mark of the high calling even when they can’t see it, who demand the very best from us and who deserve it, who lead lives that matter even if they keep seeing the opposite.
And as Dr. King also reminds us, “Only love can drive out hate.”
So as you prepare to continue your work, show them the kind of revolutionary love that expects the most from them and demands the most for them. Affirm their greatness and their potential every single day, because the world is showing them far too often that their lives don’t matter. Serve them well every day, and love them enough to demand the very best. Help ensure that they achieve the rigorous academic and personal preparation, as well as the cultural consciousness and affirmation they need to navigate this world triumphantly.
It’s what Michael would have wanted and what he deserved. “’Everyone else wanted to be a football player, a basketball player,” said Gerard Fuller, who had known Brown since second grade at Pine Lawn Elementary School. “He wanted to own his own business. He’d say, ‘Let’s make something out of nothing.’”
Should you need support in talking to your students or community about this or any other traumatic experience, please reach out to Alumni Leadership or anyone on our team. We are also speaking with the team at the Normandy School Collaborative and other community agencies to make sure our Normandy corps members are prepared to begin classes next Monday.
You and our students are the leaders we need today.
I’m excited for all that you will accomplish this year, and proud to call you my colleagues in this fight for justice. Keep your huSTLe strong.
Forever #NormandyStrong, #StLouisStrong and together in the struggle.