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Ferguson forum challenges people to get #BeyondFerguson by finding a change to work for

Wellspring Church in Ferguson, September 21, 2015.
Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio
An audience member questions the panel at Wellspring Church.

Updated at 1:20 p.m., Sept. 22, with audio - Change can come to the St. Louis region, but people throughout the area have to be willing to do the work.

That was the message Monday night at a roundtable at Wellspring Church in Ferguson looking at the 189 recommendations outlined in the report of the Ferguson Commission.

Want to hear Part Two of the two-part "Ferguson Commission: Where Do We Go From Here?" panel? You can find it here. 

"I definitely believe that the whole region can take on this challenge," said Rasheen Aldridge, the commission's youngest member, a frequent protester and a panelist. "These are recommendations and changes that people have been asking for for years, things that should have been in effect even before I was even born, honestly. And as we look within the last year or so, not only in the streets but through the Ferguson Commission I’ve seen people come to us ready for that change.”

The report exists mostly in digital form, Aldridge said, so there's nothing to really "gather dust" as so many commission reports have in the past.

Ferguson Commission members Byron Watson and Rasheen Aldridge talk about their work at a St. Louis Public Radio-sponsored  forum at Wellspring Church in Ferguson. 9.21.15
Credit Robert Peterson | St. Louis Public Radio
Ferguson Commission members Byron Watson and Rasheen Aldridge talk about their work at a St. Louis Public Radio-sponsored forum at Wellspring Church in Ferguson.

The recommendations include expanded access to Medicaid and early childhood education, school-based health centers that address physical and mental health needs, and a special prosecutor to investigate police-involved killings.

Professor Terry Jones said some of the items that need legislative action will not happen this year, but many are possible.

For many, those suggestions go well beyond a mere political road map, said Willis Johnson, the pastor of Wellspring Church, which has hosted two other roundtables.

"These are in some cases lifelines, or shields of protection, or reservoirs for the sustenance of people to be able to not just live, but to be respected and treated and honored to live as all of us are inalienably gifted to live. And it gets tiresome to explain why the hell it’s important that you let me live," Johnson said to a standing ovation from the packed crowd.

Panelists urged audience members to find two or three of the commission’s 194 recommendations they support and lobby for them.

Listen: "St. Louis on the Air" will broadcast the panel on the program Tuesday and Wednesday.

Host Don Marsh is the moderator. Joining him:

  • James Knowles, mayor of Ferguson
  • Terry Jones, professor of political science and public policy administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • Byron Watson, a police officer with more than 30 years of experience in the St. Louis area, he is a member of the Ferguson Commission
  • Rasheen Aldridge, a community organizer and activist, he is a member of the Ferguson Commission and the director of Young Activist United St. Louis
  • Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio reporter
  • Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring Church

Relive: Couldn't make it? Follow the conversation with the hashtag #BeyondFerguson. 

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
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