A panel of activists, researchers, community members, and other volunteers on Monday unveiled a new report with 189 "calls to action" to address the scourge of racial inequity in and around St. Louis, Missouri, illuminated by a year of protests following the police shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last August.
Brown's death at the hands of a white police officer galvanized new questions and demands over institutional racism in the U.S., with numerous agencies and nongovernmental bodies drafting their own reports and making their own recommendations on the factors that fuel Ferguson's systems of oppression.
But the Ferguson Commission's venture has been particularly anticipated, due in part to its solicitation of local residents and activists, rather than outside experts, to identify the complex elements at the core of those systems—and how to break down and rebuild them within the affected communities.
The report, entitled "Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity" (pdf), candidly addresses race as an issue to be confronted and worked through.
"[M]ake no mistake: this is about race," the report states in its introduction. "Our primary audience for this report is the people of the St. Louis region. The report is directed to the average citizens whose daily lives are affected by the issues we explored, and whose lives will be impacted by the calls to action we make."
"We believe that if we attempt to skirt the difficult truths, if we try to avoid talking about race, if we stop talking about Ferguson, as many in the region would like us to, then we cannot move forward," the report continues. "Progress is rarely simple, and it rarely goes in a straight line."
Within the 198-page report, the commission's findings are grouped into four overarching categories: Justice for All; Youth at the Center; Opportunity to Thrive; and Racial Equity.
Within those sections, the commission outlined 189 proposals to tackle issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, criminalization of poverty, and barriers to equality in majority-black schools.
Key recommendations of the report include:
- Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and ending predatory lending to reduce poverty;
- Establishing a public use-of-force database for the state of Missouri, revising use-of-force policies and training, and creating civilian review boards to improve community and police relations;
- Developing a comprehensive plan for responding to protests and demonstrations that prioritizes sanctity of human life and unobstructed media coverage of events;
- Increasing access to care for children and establishing platforms and health centers to support and monitor their well-being;
- Supporting career and college readiness;
- And empowering communities to advocate for their own equity.
The commission also recognized that it does not have the power to implement all of its policy recommendations. To that end, the report names a number of government leaders and agencies who do have the necessary authority to bring about those changes, including Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who has said his office will give the commission its full support.
One member of the panel, activist Brittany Packnett, in a tweet Monday called the report "the people's report, led by our community."
But, she added, it was "a step—not the only, not the first, and it can't be the last. Freedom takes work on all fronts."