In 2014, I was in the strange position of working at a newspaper covering racial unrest that was erupting in the little suburb where I happened to live. As I wrote that year, “That weekend was intense and surreal: I designed the front page of the Post-Dispatch each night, while watching on TV as my town convulsed with anger.”
I designed numerous Ferguson-related Sunday and Monday A1s for the Post-Dispatch in the subsequent weeks, months and years (See some here). I remain proud of all that work. But it was the one from the second night that will forever be ingrained in my memory.
Editor’s note: The following post is synthesized from accounts by Yoli and Jadzia.
One day after Josie finished her guitar class, we saw a lot of hot air ballon passing over our heads. One of them was getting increasingly larger and closer to the ground, so we decided to chase it. After trying to find where it was going, we saw it land behind the field at Walnut Grove Elementary. The balloon had come from the Forest Park race, even though it’d been cancelled.
The kids helped the pilot, Mr. Mike Wade, disassemble the balloon and put it away. That was quite an adventure, and exhausting to say the least.
What does one write in a Christmas newsletter after your little town has suffered civil unrest and become the center of international attention?
I’m not really sure, but here goes.
The first seven months of the year were memorable.
In April, for example, Yoli and I dropped off the kids for their AWANA class at church and decided to get away for a quick date night. We got a mocha latte and a snack and decided to walk along a trail at Creve Coeur Lake. We rounded the corner of the lake and just kept going. After all, how long could it take to make it back? But as the sun went down and bikers and joggers disappeared, we realized belatedly just how long a route it was. Our romantic walk became a race against time to get back to church that we will never forget.
In May, Yoli’s parents came to visit us. It was Don Hector and Dona Lucila’s second visit to St. Louis. They got to see the kids’ final days of school, Jadzia’s violin concert and the kids’ dance recital. We visited new places like the Science Center, the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Magic House. And we had a grand time seeing classic cars in old St. Charles (except the part where Joseph threw up all over everywhere).
In July we headed south to visit friends in Houston and family in San Antonio. It was cool to get a tour of my dad’s new business, called “City Plating.” We played putt-putt golf with mom and dad, the kids found frogs near Nan’s pool, we swam in the Guadalupe River (and so did my iPhone), we spent a morning at Kiddie Park. It was a great few weeks.
And then came August. Michael Brown was shot on Saturday, Aug. 9. That weekend was intense and surreal: I designed the front page of the Post-Dispatch each night, while watching on TV as my town convulsed with anger.
In those early days our family felt so sad and uncertain. What was happening? Many times we had difficult conversations with our kids. We prayed for the Browns, we prayed for justice, we prayed for peace.
I attended city council meetings and residents-only town halls. I learned of the cycle of tickets, warrants, and arrests driven by poverty. My eyes were opened to injustices I had been ignorant of.
It has been a long four months. The struggle in Ferguson has gone global. “Ferguson” is now a hashtag, a symbol known worldwide. Many people think they know our town, but they don’t. There is a resolve here to turn this tragedy into something good. To reform — and to rebuild, as we did after the Good Friday tornado in 2011.
Just as I began my drive to work, I noticed they were having Ferguson Sunday Parkways just down Darst from our house. This is one of many fun events Ferguson holds in different neighborhoods throughout the year.
I had forgotten it was coming up, and that it was so close to home. So, I called Yoli and let her know.
What a great afternoon we had enjoying the artistry of Jadzia and other Ferguson kids!
The event was designed as a response to recent events in Ferguson and throughout St. Louis. Students from across the Ferguson-Florissant school district and neighboring districts sang, acted, and spoke in order to bring peace, joy and love through the arts.
Jadzia and a number of her Vogt schoolmates participated. Here is a video I made of some of the highlights:
Monday night, the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service held its first town hall meeting in Ferguson.
The town hall meetings were closed to everyone but Ferguson residents. The media were not allowed. Though I am employed at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I am also a Ferguson resident. I wanted to attend a town hall and I was allowed to.
Just over a week after the Michael Brown shooting, I was struck by the idea of photographing church signs in and around Ferguson. I figured many of them would have messages related to the shooting and its aftermath.
On Sunday afternoon, I drove around for a couple hours visiting churches in Ferguson, Dellwood, Berkeley, Cool Valley and St. Louis County. I found some interesting, relevant signs, but not as many as I had hoped.
Here are some of the signs I photographed:
Some of these photos were published in the Monday morning Post-Dispatch, and a gallery with more photos is available at STLtoday.com.