St. Louis Promise Zone

Commentary by Erica Henderson, Exec. Director, St. Louis Promise Zone

St. Louis Business Journal

More Change is Needed to Combat Racism in St. Louis

Below is part of the commentary by Erica Henderson – read the full story in the St. Louis Business Journal  here.

On Aug. 9, 2014, the life of Michael Brown Jr. was taken in Ferguson, Missouri.

This event sparked a much-needed dialogue that continues today. An authentic overview of where we are five years later may cause some discomfort but can evoke change.

Over the past five years, foundational work of economic development and comprehensive planning for this impacted area [Ferguson/Jennings/Dellwood] has been laid and strategy is being developed toward implementation.

Collaborative community-based action is necessary to build civic capacity and leadership that is reflective of neighborhoods where we are working. It is our responsibility to prioritize the voices of residents who have much of the wisdom and clarity to drive their collective agenda — it is our role to empower them with the tools to do so.

We have yet to achieve a post-racial society and there is a significant amount of work ahead to get to an inclusive and transformative region. Policies and programs will fail if we don’t dismantle the foundation of the systemic racism and injustices that exist in addition to securing much needed fiscal support.

We’re optimistic for the journey ahead with new leadership and commitment toward racial equity and looking at economic and community development as being synonymous, just as building human capital is with building infrastructure. We must commit to intentional investment of resources, provide access and eliminate barriers in black communities. It is up to us — as a region — to make sure opportunities reach across race, class, municipal and political boundaries. While Aug. 9, 2014, is significant, this work transcends one point in time.