One year ago West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. was the focal point of both peaceful protest and civil unrest following the August 9, 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. Some businesses still show signs of an upheaval that left parts of the city smoldering in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision to not charge Wilson in the killing of the unarmed teen.
Despite such stark reminders of Ferguson’s troubled past, the city’s residents, leaders, and officials believe there are signs of progress.
Watch the video above as local officials, community leaders, residents and activists talk about what has changed — and what still needs addressing — in the exclusive video report by NewsOne correspondent Tim Lampley.
One year later the Quicktrip mart, considered ground zero for protests, has been demolished and a community empowerment center will soon stand in its place. The move spearheaded by The Metro St. Louis Urban League and its president Michael McMillan.
McMillan spoke with NewsOne about the promise of the new facility saying, “We were excited to take that property that unfortunately was a sign of blight and decay and turn it into a phoenix rising out of the ashes.” McMillian explained the center will provide services, offer job Ferguson opportunities, teach financial literacy and to provide other resources through the Urban League’s partners.
Meanwhile, leadership in the St. Louis suburb has changed in the last year. As a result of a city council election in April, disproportionately low African American representation on the legislative body has tripled.
Newly elected Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell, who is optimistic about the changes being made in Ferguson, said, “there’s a comprehensive holistic approach to solving a lot of the issues that we are confronted with today.”
As previously reported on NewsOne, a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found years of systematic discrimination and rights violations against Black citizens by the Ferguson Police Department.
Since last August Ferguson has appointed a black interim police chief, 50-year-old Andre Anderson, who says his first goal is “simply to build trust.”
During his chat with NewsOne, McMillan said, “I think all of the protesters should be proud of the fact that people who wanted to see change in the 121-year history of Ferguson that the work they did laid the foundation to provide us with the fact that for the first time in history half of the city council is African American, the city manager is African American, the police chief is African American.”
Despite such changes, some still see remnants of an older, less inclusive version of Ferguson. Twenty-eight-year-old activist Darren Seals is deeply skeptical, and told NewsOne’s Lampley he does not see a difference at all.
“Look around you, what’s different for the people who live everyday in Ferguson? Nothing: Still poverty, still homelessness; still hopelessness — and a bunch of gone businesses that ain’t coming back.”
Seals believes, “Nothing’s changed for the positive.”
Ferguson resident Sophia Cage sees things differently. She views the city attempting to move forward as a positive saying, “ It’s like they are trying to make a change for the better.”
SEE ALSO: NewsOne’s #Ferguson Revisited Coverage