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My Experience Walking Through Ferguson

My Experience Walking Through Ferguson

Last night, I walked through Ferguson.

The stage was set at the Hillel Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, where we heard stories about marching in Selma 50 years ago, talked about the work of the Black Lives Matter movement, and raised issues of racism within the Jewish community.

We even ended with an impromptu "Black lives matter" chant, fearlessly led by a couple of members of the audience of 200 Jewish students.

Afterward, we took pictures and felt great about our contributions.

Then came the invite from the local rabbi – “Do you want to go see Ferguson?”

Being 15 minutes away from a place that I had ingrained in my head and heart for a year now, how could I refuse?

Last night, I walked through Ferguson.

Our first stop was across the street from the Ferguson Police Department, looking shiny and new like a false beacon of hope. We talked with the protesters, the heroes of the movement, and heard the stories that don’t make their way into all the newspapers or online – White vigilantes aiming guns at them, the solutions for pepper spray in your eyes, and their feelings about the progress of the movement.

We, most of us Black members of the Jewish community, took a moment for prayer to honor the space and the struggle.

Last night, I walked through Ferguson.

Our next stop, not far from the police station, was outside an apartment building complex.

While feeling most of our surroundings felt incredibly normal, we drew our attention directly to the street.

There, in the street, was the place where Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown.

Stories, faces, and facts flooded my memory – “demon,” “high school graduate,” “cigarillos,” “unarmed,” “Black,” “White,” “self-defense,” etc.

We saw the loving memorial that had been destroyed in the last week, yet rebuilt by the resilient community.

We grappled with the reality of the situation: This was just a simple neighborhood.

And then came the frightening realization that this kind of murder, the most extreme form of oppression, this perpetuation of a racially unjust society, could happen anywhere and everywhere.

I saw. I heard. I fully understood.

Last night, I walked through Ferguson.

Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, serves as the associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, after spending two years as the inaugural URJ presidential fellow for millennial engagement. Evan graduated from the University of Kansas studying political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. He is a past NFTY president, Kansas Hillel intern, student member of the Hillel International Board of Directors, and co-founder of the Hillel International Student Cabinet.

Evan Traylor
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