Black Leaders Share Their Perspective During a July 18 Roundtable

By digging into the meaning behind slogans like “defund the police” and “get out the vote,” four local Black leaders offered modern insights and historic context for residents of North St. Louis County during “Facing Our Today for a Better Tomorrow: A Live Roundtable Discussion” on July 18.

The event was the first in a three-part series of roundtables leading up to Beyond Housing’s Community Conference the week of Aug. 22. The conference is an opportunity for residents living in the 24:1 Community to learn about local leaders’ perspectives and to share their own views—all of which will shape civic projects, policies, and initiatives during the coming decade.

During a robust and lively conversation moderated by Beyond Housing CEO Chris Krehmeyer, the panelists expressed their views about community safety and social justice—informed by their own lived experiences as well as their professional backgrounds. The panelists included:

  • Attorney Jerryl Christmas, a St. Louis-based lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in criminal defense, personal injury, and civil rights litigation.
  • Clay Farmer, the director of security and community engagement for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell. He is also an officer with the Normandy Police Department and has long worked to break down barriers between the local community and law enforcement.
  • Dr. Gena Gunn McClendon, who directs the Center for Social Development’s Voter Access and Engagement and Financial Capability and Asset Building Initiatives at Washington University.
  • Dr. Katrina Thompson Moore, an associate professor of history at Saint Louis University who lives in the 24:1 Community. Her research explores the interplay between race, gender, and popular culture. She is the author of Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery.

Perspectives on community safety and social justice

When calls arise to “defund the police,” the goal can vary depending on the speaker. For Capt. Farmer, reallocation is important—channeling more money toward training and mental health care for police officers, to counteract the trauma of their job and “the pressure they feel to get it right 1000 percent of the time.” He also supports increased police-community communication, a shift toward more community policing, and changes to the juvenile justice system.

By contrast, Mr. Christmas feels strongly that police budgets should be cut across the board and more money should be spent on education, particularly in the early years so children from disadvantaged communities don’t start out behind their peers.

Dr. Gunn McClendon’s view is that it’s not possible to address the systemic problems with law enforcement culture unless more money is spent toward specific outcomes around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The multi-faceted responses underscored Dr. Moore’s observation: “You ask people what they want, and you get lots of different answers. There are no easy sound bites.”

Panelists also explored topics including voter education, how the civil rights movement has changed since the 1960s, and more.

Upcoming Events

The next live roundtable discussion on Saturday, Aug. 1 is titled “Facing Our Today for a Better Tomorrow: A Live Roundtable Discussion with Candidates for St. Louis County Executive.” This event will give residents of the 24:1 Community insights into where each candidate in the Aug. 4 primary stands on important issues like community safety, social justice, economic development, education, and more.

Guests include:

  • Paul Berry (Republican)
  • Ed Golterman (Republican)
  • Elizabeth Betsy Mitchell (Green party)
  • Mark Montavani (Democrat)
  • Sam Page (Democrat, current County Executive)
  • Jamie Tolliver (Democrat)
  • Jake Zimmerman (Democrat, current County Assessor)

It streams live on the 24:1 Facebook page starting at 10AM.

The third live roundtable discussion on Saturday, Aug. 22, is “Engaging Families, Schools, and Community: How Do We Rally Around Our Kids?” In preparation for the start of the year in the Normandy Schools Collaborative on Sept. 8, hear from educators, board members, nonprofits, plus a student and parent. They’ll talk about the transition into an uncharted new year and how students will stay healthy, safe, and learning no matter what the next months bring.

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