For the New York Daily News, I covered what Ferguson is like on the ground one year after the killing of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. I limited my interviews about Ferguson to people who actually live in Ferguson. An excerpt:
“It feels like they just shuffled the chairs on the Titanic around. They replaced people with others who have the same attitudes,” Rice told me the next day as we sat in a Quiznos next to the police station. A white officer from the nearby town of Jennings entered the restaurant and greeted Rice warmly. Rice noted that there are some officers who want to do right, but they are not the majority.
“Officials haven’t made changes on their own,” he says. “All the changes that have been made were because they were dragged kicking and screaming to make them. When did they extend the olive branch, or make a good faith offering? No one is doing anything just because it’s the right thing to do. When that happens, then I will know that they have learned.”
But despite a violent and tumultuous year, both Rice and Hudgins say they do not want to live anywhere else. The problem, they say, is not the people of Ferguson but those who create and enforce community policies, often ignoring the plight of the black population.
“People in Ferguson love each other,” says Rice. “I mean, neighbor to neighbor. Every door we knocked on for the recall campaign, people would tell us how much like liked the guy next door. ‘They’re my friends, they have the keys to my house.’ It’s a neighborly community, there’s no getting around that. In a way, it’s right that Ferguson doesn’t have a race problem — it doesn’t. City Hall does. The community does not need policing. They need a better relationship with the police.”
“I love Ferguson,” says Hudgins. “There’s definite possibility here. I’m still optimistic. If blacks had the political power they should have, this would be a very interesting place.”