Saint Hilda's House

through the gates and into the city

Love and Anger on the Streets of Ferguson: Guest Post

This week we have a guest post from Rosemary Haynes of Deaconess Anne House, the Episcopal Service Corps site in St. Louis, MO.  It's an honest and authentic account of life in and around Ferguson over the last few months, and we are incredibly grateful both to her for writing and to all those who are standing together on the streets each night.

Love and anger are funny things.

A revolution has risen from anger in the town of Ferguson. The killing of a young black man spread anger across the nation. Truths about racism caused anger within the souls of many.

It’s a funny thing, though, anger.

I have been in the streets of Ferguson since September. I have seen how a group of protesters went from coming together in mutual anger towards the justice system to coming together because they’ve become family. It’s amazing to see and be a part of the changes that are happening in the St. Louis area. Each night on the front line means coming together with family in a fight for justice—it means protecting each other!  

“We have to love and support each other, all we have to lose are our chains”: this chant expresses the truth of Ferguson.  People of all races, religions, economic classes, and ethnic backgrounds have come together and become a family.  

And this is where love comes in: for even out of the anger at our justice system, love can be found.

I know this personally.  I know this because I felt God’s love for the first time in the streets of Ferguson. I know this because, since August, clergy have had an amazing part in this revolution; a part in which they put God on the front line to show that He can make a difference, especially through the works of the young people involved.

It’s especially amazing to come into an Episcopal Service Corps program that had already set an image of what our program year would look like in Ferguson. I didn’t anticipate that I would be one of the millennials standing on the front line in a fight for justice with people who I now consider family. I am thankful for the role that our program has in Ferguson, not only because I am in a year of discernment, but also because having the experience of being on the front line has helped me understand what it means to be a Christian.

To me, being a Christian is about spreading the word of love. It’s about being involved in a community. It’s about standing firm in your beliefs. I am trying to do all of these in the St. Louis area. I am praying with my feet firmly in the street each week.  I am praying for those who have to live in fear, especially those who have given up their careers and social lives to be an active part of this revolution.  I am praying for the people who aren't featured in the images the media is showing.  Many millennials (among others) have quit nearly everything to be activists. That is something to be proud of. The media, however, haven’t shown the world what it has been like for many of the peaceful protestors.  Instead, they have focussed almost exclusively on those who have looted and burned our city to pieces.  They have failed to mention that on the night of November 24th, when the non-indictment was announced, the police allowed pieces of Ferguson to burn for 45 minutes just as they let Mike Brown lay in the road for 4 hours and 32 minutes.

Maya Angelou says it best; “The night has been long, the wound has been deep, the pit has been dark, and the walls have been steep.”  Changes aren’t going to happen overnight: this revolution is a marathon, not a sprint. St. Louis, meanwhile, is so deeply rooted in racism that it’s difficult to describe what it’s like to live here. I’ve experienced it, I’ve witnessed it, and it just goes to show that the past 140 days are only the beginning. The tear gas, riot gear, and arrests each night haven’t gotten us out of the street. The killings of unarmed black men have kept us there. We will continue this fight until justice is served.

Those of us out here share a common dream for this city and the world: that the ones who do wrong will be held accountable, that justice will be served, and that we can look past skin color and only see the souls of one another.  Though this dream came in part from anger, it is sustained by love.  Now it’s time to act on the love which has developed from that anger.

We love our city. We love each other.

Rosemary Haynes

Deaconess Anne House- St. Louis, MO