by Daniel Gerdes, Brown School practicum student and Partnership Performance Coordinator at Social Innovation St. Louis

It’s been another difficult week here in St. Louis; this summer has seen a lot of challenges for our community. I wanted to share a personal reflection on the Stockley verdict and what I’ve witnessed in our community over the past several days.

After our Thread STL member meeting on Monday, I was reminded of the importance of being in community when we experience collective trauma. Hearing the perspectives of my colleagues was grounding and reassuring. I also couldn’t help but connect the events of the past several days to Thread’s guiding principles.

Authentic Community Voice – No decision about us without us.

We are authentic when we put community at the center, working with, not for or on behalf of, our constituencies. This is rooted in mutual trust and relationships.

While some view this weekend’s protests as reactionary and unhelpful, I see them much differently. This is not the first time our community has taken to the streets to call for justice. It’s not the first time this year, or even in the last month that members of the St. Louis community have taken to the streets to make their voices heard on issues important to them. So, what’s going on here?

I hear our fellow community members asking for someone with power and authority to truly listen to their pain, but getting no response. What happens when our voices aren’t being heard? We try different strategies, like protesting, to get someone to listen. To me, the actions across the city this weekend provide clear evidence that authentic community voice is not valued in our city.

Protests are a powerful demonstration intended to disrupt. They are intended to redirect focus from our daily lives to issues of critical importance. Over 1,000 people gathered at Maryland & Euclid on Friday night to call on the board of aldermen, their fellow citizens, the police department, service providers, schools, religious institutions, and everyone in between to listen to and feel the pain of our black brothers and sisters.

As a community activist, future social worker, and policy advocate, I call upon all of us to think deeply about our roles as this movement continues:

  • How do the actions over the past week relate to your community partnership?
  • How will you show up to sustain the push for justice in St. Louis?
  • How can you leverage your knowledge, skills, connections, positions, and resources to this end?
  • How will you work to ensure your constituents are not only heard in your partnership, but have a role in visioning, planning, and decision-making?

This weekend has provided yet another opportunity for us to revisit the ways we live out our guiding principles. Our communities are crying out for help – it is our duty to listen, to learn, and join forces with them to build an equitable, just, and thriving St. Louis.

If you are struggling to process everything that’s happened over the last week, you’re not alone; feel free to reach out to Thread staff or any of your Thread STL colleagues listed in the directory.