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Ferguson One Year Later: Turning Anger to Action

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At American Friends Service Committee Freedom Schools in the St. Louis area, teenagers and young adults look for ways to be agents of change. Credit: Joshua Saleem
At American Friends Service Committee Freedom Schools in the St. Louis area, teenagers and young adults look for ways to be agents of change. Credit: Joshua Saleem
August 7, 2015

ST. LOUIS - The cameras have stopped rolling and the national news crews have gone home, but in the year since the shooting death of Michael Brown, grassroots programs have been driving change in Ferguson.

In the past year, said Joshua Saleem, who heads the peace education program run by the American Friends Service Committee, the group has offered three Freedom Schools in the St. Louis area - workshops where young people meet to talk openly about poverty, race and oppression, and strategies for involvement "to shift their understanding of racism from an individual kind of 'I hate you' kind of mindset to a perspective of racism that involves how systems and institutions operate and deal with and interact with people of color in this country."

Saleem said much more work still is to be done, but noted that since last August's protests over Brown's death at the hands of Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, the Department of Justice has released four separate reports detailing racially discriminatory and exploitive policing, officer misconduct and mismanagement. Ferguson also has a new interim police chief and the city council has diversified.

Aja McCoy, 19, of St. Louis was one of the participants in this summer's Freedom School, which she said has empowered her to look at the issues surrounding racism from different angles and to actively seek out ways to be part of the solution.

"I have been talking to my fellow church members, my parents, my community," she said, "and it makes me want to be more involved in my community, as well as do greater things for the African-American community as a whole."

In addition to the Freedom School workshops, the American Friends Service Committee also has launched community gardens in the area, and has programs in place in three St. Louis-area high schools in which teens learn to mediate conflict with their peers to avoid violence.

More information on the program is online at afsc.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO