On Saturday, December 13, 2014, Mai Du, of Wah Lum Academy in Malden, brought a call to action from the community. Du hosted a forum entitled “An Honest Conversation of Ferguson and Beyond.” She wanted teens and children to speak their thoughts on the happenings of late, and to get more involved.
The group of about 75 people consisted of teens, younger children and adults. The program was facilitated by a group of teens.
In the beginning, large blank papers were placed around the room for participants to place stick-ums on, according to categories including fears, hopes and questions, etc.
The leaders reviewed what had happened in Ferguson, with the known facts. Then participants were given a pre-determined subject to discuss in small groups of six. People were grouped with diverse ages, races and ethnicities. The groups were given about 20 minutes to discuss among themselves. Then, all joined again in the large group to share what came out of the small groups. These groups met three-to-four times with different questions, and would again join the larger group to discuss.
Mai Du (left with teen leaders presenting the program)
One child responded that “the policeman should have asked questions before shooting.”
Another young woman spoke of being part of a bi-racial family. She has witnessed the differences in how her white family members function in society so freely, yet her black family members have been followed in stores, stopped by police for no apparent reason. She shared the pain in observing the differences noted when she visits relatives in other states from when she was in Massachusetts.
One man felt there was no racism in the killing of Michael Brown. He stated that the autopsy showed that M. Brown had gun powder on his hands, and thus he was in close proximity to the police officer. The police officer was probably fearful for his life.
A young boy, about 7 or 8, said that at his school, the Asian children are considered smart and that the black children are considered not-so smart. He hoped to see a world where all children were seen the same.
The meeting ended with everyone getting in a circle with a ball of yarn thrown around. If someone raised their hand to speak, the yarn was thrown to them. Many people, young and old, used this time to speak on how much this meeting meant to them. One woman hoped that this type of meeting would be continued and not be a one-time-only event. A college student voiced how real the diversity was in the room. She mentioned that she had done a college entrance paper on diversity, but this forum made it all real. The yarn ended on the floor looking like a spider web across the room which signified how we are all connected.
The teens are in the process of planning next steps that will grow out of this discussion.