Reflection: Pilgrimage to Ferguson

I have been a congregant of St. John’s, Ross my whole life. When I applied to pilgrimage with 24 other Episcopal young adults into the community of St. Louis to address social justice and racial reconciliation, the first word that came to mind was ‘delicate.’ I have lived a relatively privileged life in a very progressive area of California. I don’t suffer every day with the fear of being racially profiled or discriminated against due to the color of my skin. So when I got on a plane from California to St. Louis to make a documentary, my immediate thought was how this was a delicate topic in which I should tread lightly. If I am not a person of color, how do I have a right to speak out? The pilgrimage forced me to confront my own ignorance and has compelled me to be a voice for change.

Ferguson is just one municipality in a city, in a country, in a world of racial injustice, and it is far from delicate. It is home to many strong and powerful advocates for change, and I had, in the past, unintentionally used my privilege to shy away from the harder parts. Admitting to this is progress, but talking, sharing stories, and walking hand and hand with the people who face prejudice and oppression is the change we seek. While on the trip we met with some amazing community members who spoke strongly on issues that extend far beyond St. Louis. The problem of racial inequality did not begin with the killing of Michael Brown. It has been an ongoing issue for decades, and we must wake up to it. 

While on this pilgrimage, my challenge was not only to experience the community, but also to film it. I am a film student in Santa Barbara. I was tasked with putting together a documentary of my time in Ferguson. Coming into a city that has been swarmed with cameras and news crews for the last year was beyond intimidating. Respecting the community was my biggest priority, but I learned that everyone there has a story. My film is coming together as a collection of what happens in Ferguson when the news crews aren’t looking. I am want to show my congregation and the community that St. Louis is more than the protests and tear gas in the news. What I found were strong, passionate, committed people working for social justice. Many causes, one hopeful heart.

While I was in Ferguson I met some amazing young adults. We laughed, danced, and cried together, and in the end I realized I didn’t need to travel there to make a difference. The power is within me. As a Christian, I can no longer turn away from the truth. Talking with my community and fighting for change is easier than ignoring the headlines in the news. We are all united through the church and have infinite opportunities to connect with one another through the power of our faith and the outreach of social media. Reconciliation benefits every race. So be present. Listen. Speak out for what is right. Be the change. The time is now.