Ferguson’s moment to lead the movement for healthier living and learning communities

/ 14 November 2014 / Shawna
John Jackson, The Bay State Banner, November 14, 2014

These are necessary “right now” issues because being able to access education, health, government and law enforcement systems in a positive way are all necessary components of healthy living and learning communities. The key point is that there will be audits and oversight to review the facts and local, state and national leaders must also bear the responsibility for improving the overall ecosystem.

In Ferguson, the graduation rate for all students was 69.8 percent in 2010-2011, the most recent school year in which statistics were available. For blacks that number was 67.6 percent. Michael Brown was one of them. Just eight days before his tragic death, he had completed an alternative education program from Normandy High. He was enrolled as a freshman at Vatterott College, a technical school where he wanted to learn about heating and cooling systems. He told some of his friends that one day he wanted to start his own business.

He didn’t get that chance. During Brown’s funeral service, the question was asked whether the tumultuous days after his death were part of a fit or a movement. “A fit is when you get mad and run out for a couple of nights,” the speaker explained. “But a movement means we’ve got to be here for the long haul, and turn …our demonstrations into legislation.”

A good first step toward a movement could be as simple as changing the dates of local elections. As it is now, city elections are held in April in odd-number years. But state and federal elections are held in November in even numbered years. Without the attraction of state and federal candidates, local turnout is low.

With that small step, the system in Ferguson can be changed — and a movement given life.

It’s up to the people in Ferguson — with the help of national leadership — to determine whether they will have a short-term fit or a long-term movement. It’s up to advocates across the nation to turn other American “Ferguson-like” ecosystems to more healthy living and learning climates.

John Jackson is CEO and President of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.