“Our children must be able to walk to school and play in the park in safety.”
-- Governor Jay Nixon, October 21, 2014
Earlier this week, I was commissioned along with fifteen other individuals to serve as a member of the Ferguson Commission. The Commission’s task is to examine the social and economic conditions exposed by the civil unrest in wake of the death of Michael Brown and to make specific policy recommendations to make St. Louis a stronger, fairer place for all. In prayerfully discerning the call to serve on the Commission, I reflected on the Governor’s comments and marked the similarities between the Commission’s charge and Deaconess’ mission and values.
In the spirit of our faith heritage, the mission of Deaconess Foundation is the improved health of the St. Louis metropolitan community and its people. Using a public health lens and orientation, Deaconess believes that we can assess the health of our community by measuring the well-being of our most vulnerable children. Deaconess works to align the philanthropic, social, and civic sectors to develop a setting where children can thrive. The Ferguson Commission will recommend specific policies to create an environment that allows children throughout the region a better future - a city where they can walk to school without fear and play safely in parks.
The Commission also aims to create a more just and equal society for everyone in our region. Deaconess believes justice is required for the full achievement of individual and community health. Justice also means listening to the voices of the community. Through our grantmaking and collaborative engagement at both the grass tops and grassroots level, Deaconess works to amplify those voices. The work of the Commission will complement our endeavors with its responsibility to hear from people of diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. Those conversations will inform the Commission’s concrete recommendations to make St. Louis a stronger, fairer place for everyone.
The collaborative efforts of the sixteen men and women on the Commission reflect the Foundation’s value of hope. We believe positive health changes can occur through cooperative, intentional and well-planned efforts. Through deliberate (and sometimes difficult) conversations, the Commission hopes to address some of the seemingly intractable issues brought to light in the aftermath of the civil unrest.
Finally, at Deaconess, we believe the call to serve is a privilege. We are blessed to serve the children and youth of our region. We pray that the Spirit will guide the Commission’s work. Please keep us in your prayers as we work through these important issues.
For more information on the Commission’s work, click on the following links:
From the United Church of Christ: UCC's Starsky Wilson to co-chair Ferguson Commission
St. Louis American: Rev. Starsky Wilson co-chairs Ferguson Commission
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The Ferguson Commission: In Their Own Words