The Two-Way
4:06 pm
Sun August 17, 2014

In Ferguson, Local Faith Leaders Call For 'Different Dialogue'

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 1:56 pm

On a quiet morning after another difficult night in Ferguson, businesses along the streets put up signs in their windows reading "I Heart Ferg." Former Mayor Brian Fletcher is passing out more.

"We're going to raise $5,000 by tomorrow at noon for yard signs," Fletcher says.

Overnight clashes led to one shooting and several injuries. The nightly protests started after last Saturday's shooting death of an unarmed black teen — Michael Brown — at the hands of a white police officer.

So many questions remain unanswered here, fueling anxiety that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon tried to address on a number of national networks. He emphasized on ABC that his office was not happy with the release of a surveillance video showing Brown purportedly robbing a convenience store.

"It appeared to ... cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw," Nixon said.

At the predominantly black Greater St. Mark Family Church, the Rev. Audrey Hollis says there's a real reason for raw emotions.

"The underlying current of racism is still very real in the city of St. Louis," Hollis says.

But sermons at both black and white congregations sounded similar messages — calling for the tough community conversations that haven't happened yet.

"The problems are deep and systemic," said pastor Mike Trautman, in his message to the overwhelmingly white First Presbyterian Church of Ferguson. "Too many people have stood tall in this community over the years to allow this event to unravel all the good work that has happened."

For more than a decade, Trautman has been working on community issues here with interfaith ministry volunteer and Ferguson native Toni Burrow. She's called this place home for 64 years.

"One of the things that hurt me so is that people come from outside of Ferguson to do for us," Burrow says. "If you look around at the things that go on in Ferguson, the lives that we live, we don't need that kind of help."

These longtime friends say they're seeing Ferguson come together during this tough time.

On the main drag where protests go on nightly, Ferguson residents have been showing up to help clean up. Volunteers have turned a parking lot into a place to drop off food and supplies. And community leaders see this moment as a pivot point.

"My fear is that it will be business as usual when this dies down," Burrow says. "And it will die down. It always does."

For now, the tensions wear on. Trautman is using his pulpit to push for changes.

"I am hoping that out of this we can renew the dialogue," Trautman says. "But we have to have a different dialogue. We have to learn to talk to one another a little differently."

But first, they're praying for peace. On Sunday night, the newly instituted citywide curfew gets its second test.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. Arun Rath is away. I'm Tess Vigeland. The St. Louis community of Ferguson remains at the center of civil unrest. Overnight, police tried to enforce a midnight curfew, but ongoing clashes led to several arrests. The protests started after the shooting death eight days ago of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. The U.S. Justice Department is now stepping in to perform a second autopsy on Brown. At Memorial moments ago, Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol spoke to a large crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAPTAIN RON JOHNSON: I'll stand tall with you, and I'll see you out there. Thank you.

VIGELAND: NPR's Elise Hu is in Ferguson. She has this story of how the small town of 21,000 citizens is dealing with it all.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: On a quiet morning after another difficult night in Ferguson, businesses along the streets put up signs in their windows reading, I heart Ferg. And the former mayor, Brian Fletcher, is passing out more.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIAN FLETCHER: We're going to raise $5,000 by tomorrow at noon for yard signs.

HU: So, many questions remain unanswered here, fueling anxiety that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon tried to address on a number of national networks. He said this to ABC.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON: People are legitimately upset. I mean, an 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was shot in a street of his hometown. And that scratches a nerve and opens old wounds.

HU: At the predominantly black Greater St. Mark Family Church, Reverend Audrey Hollis says there's a real reason for the raw emotions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REVEREND AUDREY HOLLIS: The underlying current of racism is still very real in the city of St. Louis and in Missouri as a whole.

HU: But sermons at both black and white congregations sounded similar messages calling for the tough community conversations that haven't happened yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PASTOR MIKE TRAUTMAN: The problems are deep and systemic.

HU: That's pastor Mike Trautman in his message to the overwhelmingly white First Presbyterian Church of Ferguson.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRAUTMAN: Too many people have stood tall in this community over the years to allow this event to unravel all the good work that has happened.

HU: For more than a decade, Troutman has been working on community issues with interfaith ministry volunteer and Ferguson native Toni Burwell. She's called this place home for 64 years.

TONI BURWELL: One of the things that hurt me so, is that people come from outside of Ferguson to do for us. If you look around at the things that go on in Ferguson, the lives that we leave, we don't need that kind of help.

HU: These longtime friends say they're seeing Ferguson come together during this tough time. On the main drag where protests go on nightly, Ferguson residents have been showing up to help clean up. Volunteers have turned a parking lot into a place to drop off food and supplies, and community leaders see this moment as a pivot point. Toni Burwell.

BURWELL: My fear is that it will be business as usual when this dies down, and it will die down. It always does.

HU: For now, as tensions wear on, pastor Trautman is using his pulpit to push for changes.

TRAUTMAN: I'm hoping that out of this, we can renew the dialogue, but we have to find a different dialogue. We have to learn how to talk to one another a little differently.

HU: Hope for reconciliation. But first, they're praying for peace. Tonight, the newly instituted citywide curfew gets it's second test. Elise Hu, NPR News, Ferguson, Missouri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.