Church Leaders Look To Educate, Encourage And Calm St. Louis Parishioners
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
This morning's news takes us around the world in protest. We'll hear in the next few minutes about acts of protest and the response in Hong Kong, online and near Ferguson, Missouri.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
CROWD: (Chanting) No justice, no football. No justice, no football.
INSKEEP: No justice, no football, they were chanting. Protesters outside yesterday's home game for the NFL's St. Louis Rams. It was one of many demonstrations over the weekend calling for justice for Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. Last week, the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson caused riots. Yesterday, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles confirmed Wilson has now resigned.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES: There is no severance agreement with Officer Wilson and the city of Ferguson. Now is the time for the city of Ferguson to begin its healing process.
INSKEEP: The mayor announced a new program to recruit more minority police officers. St. Louis Public Radio's Emanuele Berry reports the effort at healing was also taking place in churches across the region.
TASHA DAVIS: We thank you, God, for peace on today, God.
EMANUELE BERRY, BYLINE: Tasha Davis is leading more than 50 people in a prayer under a large, white tent in a parking lot just outside Ferguson. Just feet away, the cinderblock building that once housed the Flood Christian Church is destroyed, still marked with black ash from a fire set during chaos last Monday evening, the night a grand jury announced its decision not to indict Darren Wilson. Davis says this last week has taken a toll on the congregation.
DAVIS: Emotions are really all over the place. I'm grateful. I'm thankful. I'm sad because I understand that it could've been worse.
BERRY: Davis says authorities are currently investigating the fire, trying to determine if it was a targeted attack against the church which Michael Brown Sr. attends. Despite the damage, Davis says she's hopeful about the future of the church and the region.
DAVIS: You know, when our children get older and grandbabies will look at this, you know, being on the history books, and we'll be able to see how St. Louis was able to come back together again.
BERRY: Twenty minutes from Ferguson in downtown St. Louis, the Rev. Michael Kinman of Christ Church Cathedral is practicing his Sunday sermon. He's having some technical difficulties.
REVEREND MICHAEL KINMAN: I have it already queued up, and it's just not playing. And I'm not sure why.
BERRY: Fiddling with his iPhone for a moment, he finally gets the song to play.
KINMAN: There we go.
BERRY: Just over half of Kinman's congregation is white. And he hopes this song will inspire his church to have difficult conversations about race.
KINMAN: I think one of the tasks for us as white people - and it's radio, you can't tell I'm a white guy - is to say, OK, yeah, this may be hard for us now, but as Jon Stewart said this perfectly, he said, you know, you're tired of hearing about race? Try being black.
BERRY: Kinman notes not everyone is willing to talk about race.
KINMAN: We've had people leave the congregation because we keep talking about this. We've had people join the congregation because we keep talking about this.
BERRY: Race is something the Rev. Traci Blackmon is singing about at a rally in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton.
REVEREND TRACI BLACKMON: (Singing) Until the life of a black man, black mother, son.
BERRY: It was one of many protests organized in the St. Louis region this past weekend. A question many in the area are asking is when the demonstrations will stop. Blackmon says not anytime soon.
BLACKMON: We are here making people uncomfortable because whether you know it or not, your liberty is connected to mine. What is being uncomfortable compared to being dead?
BERRY: Blackmon called on marchers to take that discomfort to leaders in the state capital, Jefferson City.
BLACKMON: We are coming to you. If you don't come to Ferguson, Ferguson is coming to you.
BERRY: Blackmon says when they come, they will come in peace, but also in power. For NPR News, I'm Emanuele Berry in St. Louis.
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Correction Dec. 1, 2014
An earlier headline on this story incorrectly referred to Ferguson, Mo., parishioners. The churches are in the St. Louis area but none are in Ferguson.