Morris' Musings


Rev. Morris Hudgins, Senior Minister revmorris@westsideuuc.org

FERGUSON THEN AND NOW

Rev. Morris W. Hudgins

I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, in the 1950’s and 60’s. I am deeply saddened by the recent events, as the place where I walked to school and played baseball is now in flames. Since August, I knew I had to write about what is happening to my hometown.

When I grew up Ferguson was a quiet and peaceful place. I felt safe as I walked to school except when the dog in one yard would chase me when I got too close. I worked on an Organic Vegetable Farm close to my home. The farm was adjacent to another community, Kinlock, an all black neighborhood with a symbolic and in some places a real fence as a barrier from Ferguson. I was the only white person who worked there except for the owners.

Years later I would return to visit that farm and was quite surprised how the owners talked about the blacks that worked there. I was disappointed. On the other hand, the house where I grew up, and now owned by a black family, was impressive. It was a two-bedroom house with a large basement. My family, including six children, and Mom and Dad, was very comfortable there.

Things began to change. The barriers around Kinlock began to fall. My first experience of violence occurred when a black student and a white male began to fight at a bus stop. Integration did not occur on my street, but my parents knew it was coming. They decided to buy a new house in Florissant. North Florissant Ave, where most of the protests and violence are now occurring, was our way out of Ferguson.

The Ferguson I see now on television is not the Ferguson I remember. I remember candy and grocery stores and parks, not liquor stores, storage units and police stations. I feel that my family and others like us, have been part of the problem. We did not welcome the changes that were taking place. It was easier to move away than face the challenges that would come.

I admire those individuals who are now facing those challenges. The fact that blacks are under-represented in the police department and in the government agencies needs to be addressed. Ferguson is now on everyone’s radar, including the Fergusons close to where we all live. These problems brought to light are not just about Ferguson. They should be the concern of all of us across America.

Did we not see what was going to happen in Ferguson? I had no doubt that the grand jury would not charge Officer Darren Wilson. I also believe he was afraid for his life. When you see blacks as demons, fear is real. I have no illusions that Michael Brown was a saint. But did he deserve to die? No, he did not.

I served a church in Cincinnati, Ohio for seven years. The year I moved away an unarmed young black man running the other way was killed by a white officer. It was the twentieth such killing in a similar situation. There was rioting and looting in Cincinnati. Businesses moved from downtown to the suburbs. The nation did not take notice. Maybe now we will.

One day soon I will return to Ferguson. I will walk the streets where I lived and visit North Florissant Ave. My hope is that the protests will have a positive result. Better schools and more jobs for blacks are needed. I understand the corporations around Ferguson are responding. I hope the black community will move from the streets to the halls of governments, and to the police stations. Will this happen across America? Will we welcome the change? This will depend on us, wherever we live.


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Westside Unitarian Universalist Church

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