Walking Through Ferguson

(Written on the night of August 6, 2015)

Tonight, I walked through Ferguson.

The stage was set at the Hillel Institute at Washington University in St. Louis – we heard stories about marching in Selma 50 years ago, talked about the work of the Black Lives Matter movement, and raised issues of racism within the Jewish community.
We even ended with an impromptu Black Lives Matter chant, led fearlessly by a couple of members of the audience of 200 Jewish students.
Afterwards we took pictures and felt great about our contributions.
Then came the invite from the local rabbi – “Do you want to go see Ferguson?”
Being 15 minutes away from a place that I had ingrained in my head and heart for a year now, how could I refuse?

Tonight, I walked through Ferguson.

Our first stop was across the street from the Ferguson Police Department, looking shiny and new like a false beacon of hope.
We talked with the protesters, the heroes of the movement, and heard the stories that don’t make their way into all the newspapers or online – White vigilantes aiming guns at them, the solutions for pepper spray in your eyes, and their feelings about the progress of the movement.
We, most of us Black members of the Jewish community, took a moment for prayer to honor the space and the struggle.

Tonight, I walked through Ferguson.

Our next stop, not far from the police station, was outside an apartment building complex.
While feeling most of our surroundings felt incredibly normal, we drew our attention directly to the street.
There, in the street, was the place where Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown.
Stories, faces, and facts flooded my memory – “demon”, “high school graduate”, “cigarillos”, “unarmed”, “Black”, “White”, “self-defense”, etc.
We saw the loving memorial that had been destroyed in the last week, yet rebuilt by the resilient community.
We grappled with the reality of the situation – this was just a simple neighborhood.
And then came the frightening realization that this kind of murder, the most extreme form of oppression, this perpetuation of a racially unjust society, could happen anywhere and everywhere.
I saw. I heard. I fully understood.

Tonight, I walked through Ferguson.

Michael Brown

Evan Traylor is a rabbinical student and Jewish community builder, educator, activist, and writer. Through Judaism, he strives to bring more love, justice, truth, and peace into communities around the world.

1 comment on “Walking Through Ferguson

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing you Ferguson experience with us Evan, and thank you for continuing the conversation about racially motivated violence. I’d love to hear more about your unique perspective as a Jewish person of color.


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