USA Today reported on Thursday that the town of Ferguson has seen a huge surge in voter registration since the August 9th death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Less than two months after Ferguson police officer shot the unarmed black teenager six times, the community of roughly 21,000 has seen over 3,000 people register to vote. Overall, St. Louis County is reporting that 4,839 have registered to vote since August 9th — 3,287 of those people live in Ferguson.
In the aftermath of the tragic killing of Brown, both established and new organizations have taken the opportunity to help affect positive change in the community. There have been concentrated efforts on a daily basis to reach out to members of the community and not only register them to vote, but to also educate, mobilize and energize residents when it comes to the political process within their city, county and state. This is seen as especially important due to the fact that while two-thirds of the city’s population is black, the mayor, over 90% of the police force and five of the city council’s six members are white. The town’s seven-person school board has no black members.
Brown’s death and the subsequent reaction by police to protests, have helped energize the black residents of Ferguson to get more involved in the political machinations of the city. It has helped them realize that some of the change they are desperately seeking can occur at the voting booth. If they want to stop the apartheid-like atmosphere in their city and county, they need to utilize the tools available to them and mobilize against the old guard.
Ferguson has become sort of a ground zero for activism and community organization in the past few weeks. A number of offices and organizations have been set up since the protests began in August. Antonio French, a St. Louis city alderman, opened an office on W. Florissant Road that houses his new organization, HealSTL. The organization uses volunteers to set up voter registration tables throughout Ferguson on a daily basis. It also has a website that provides a portal to the state to register to vote online. HealSTL also sells t-shirts and uses the proceeds to help the community.
However, it isn’t just HealSTL doing work in the community. Other grassroots organizations, mostly comprising of young activists from the greater St. Louis area, have popped up and are working with the young residents to motivate and educate them regarding the political process and the power of civil disobedience. Groups like Justice Core STL, Hands Up United, Operation Help or Hush, Lost Voices and Millennial Activists are on the ground daily in Ferguson and doing their best to get the word out. (I have spoken with Kayla Reed of Justice Core STL on multiple occasions. You can check out video interviews here and here.) Older organizations like Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment and Organization for Black Struggle have found new energy and are using their established connections to help organize activities in the community and abroad.
The protests continue on in Ferguson. While the mainstream media has largely moved its attention elsewhere, activists and demonstrators make their voices heard every day and night. Next weekend, a large event is planned in and around Ferguson known as Ferguson October (AKA A Weekend of Resistance). Local organizations are calling on people from around the nation to gather in Ferguson from October 10th through 13th to march and let their voices be heard regarding the epidemic of police violence against unarmed blacks. The weekend will consist not just of marches, but also planned gatherings and panels where there will be discussions regarding a number of issues.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).