New City Holds Panel and Community Dialogue About Events in Ferguson

 A panel of experts on race and racial advocates discussed the recent and ongoing events in Ferguson, MO, last Thursday at New City School. Our school is the only grade school in St. Louis to have held such a dialogue.

The panel members consisted of Sam Dotson , Chief of the St. Louis Police Department; Terry Harris,  Coordinator of Educational Equity and Diversity for the Rockwood School District; Michael Minta , PhD, Professor of Political Science and Black Studies from the University of MO-Columbia; Jessica Perkins , Co-founder of Vector Communications; and Randy Vines , Co-creator of STL-Style and St. Louis advocate. New City School Head of School, Tom Hoerr, PhD, moderated the evening.

Panelists opened with remarks, touching on several topics, including the underlying causes of the unrest in Ferguson, the long history of racial tension in the region, and the need to put more emphasis on education in African American communities.

“We’ve been indoctrinated with the notion that St. Louis is ground zero for racial disparity, but the reason it resonates across the nation is because it could happen in any community. St. Louis is a microcosm of the United States,” said Randy Vines.

After the opening remarks, the floor was opened for questions and discussion topics from 125 audience members, where the conversation remained focused on education and communication in the community. “We need to have these courageous dialogues. New City is the kind of school that the community can activate around. We need to continue these conversations,” said one audience member. The evening ended with small discussion groups, where members were asked to think of one thing they could do to help the situation.

New City School was founded on a tradition of diversity and acceptance, and continues to make an effort to foster and encourage conversations such as this. Said Stephanie Teachout, Director of Diversity at New City School, “Talking about race is not always easy, and it takes courage to say ‘I didn’t understand your perspective.’ We need to listen articulately to people.”