A Student Responds to Ferguson

Ed speaking picture

In the wake of the recent grand jury decision in Ferguson and prior to the Eric Garner verdict, we asked some DePaul UMIN student leaders to share their views.  Sankofa Coordinator and MOVE President Edward Ward shares his perspective in the following piece.  We invite you to join the conversation. 

Power Concedes Nothing Without Demand

I can’t help but feel concern and disappointment at the backlash the protesters and looters are receiving in Ferguson. I often hear people say that those who feel oppressed should peacefully protest. The truth is that if the oppressed adhere to the notion of peaceful protest, they are well on their way to being further oppressed. To peacefully protest would be to protest under the terms and conditions of the oppressor. Before the verdict, those in Ferguson marched around the town parroting recitations of the phrase “No Justice, No Peace” The verdict reached by the grand jury proved that justice would not prevail, thus leaving those in the town of Ferguson to deny its residents peace. They’ve sent shockwaves across the nation. Although looting occurred in the town of Ferguson I didn’t think they were breaking the law. The law was created to uphold the will of the people, however, when you look at cases like Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and many more, you find that instead of the law upholding the will of the people it has killed the people, therefore making the law itself illegal; leading me to believe that the law has been broken from the very beginning. And you cannot break what was broken from the time of its establishment.

Injustice was sewed into the fabric of America, and those who wear the garments of American liberty wear the garments of injustice. The people of Ferguson have planted the seed of a new revolution. We need reform now more than ever. Many ignore issues of Police brutality against black men by stating “Blacks kill each other every day.” However, they forget that Blacks were systematically divided so that countries of European decent could conquer. Black on Black crime is a result of perpetuated racism. Many don’t understand why the looters looted stores and franchises; the reality is that they’ve fallen victim to corporations like those they’ve destroyed.

“For Private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, and make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, all at a fraction of the cost of ‘free labor’”(From the book “Are Prisons Obsolete” by Angela Y. Davis, 2003).

Not only was and is police brutality an issue, the very presence of the prison industrial complex says that those in prison are new day slaves. Currently millions of Black men are in prison, and it’s because the system in which we live under profits off of the criminalization of Black Men. Before black men can be criminalized they have to first be dehumanized and demonized so that when they are jailed and/or killed it is justified. The reason Ferguson has proved to be the example which many others need to follow is because they’ve gotten the attention of their oppressors. They understood the one thing it took to get their voices heard; they simply interrupted the status quo.


Edward Ward is a DePaul Senior majoring in Political Science


Help us, O God

In the wake of last night’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, wrote a prayer to share with our community:


Merciful God,
Come!  Help us!
We always seem to get it wrong,
and again, today, we need your help.
Over and over it seems that
we fall short
and manage to be blinded and driven
by our fear, our pride, and our self-centeredness
despite our best efforts and good intentions.
And so,
we harm each other
and end up putting further obstacles in the way
of the justice and peace you desire –
and we desire, in the end –
and which you have gifted to us,
if we would only recognize it
and enact it.
Help us to settle for nothing less
than the goodness,
and service
which you help us to imagine
and which you model for us.
Help us, O God,
to remember and to become who we are
and who you created us to be
as a beloved community.



This past weekend I was on a road trip with my wife back to our home town of Edmond, Oklahoma. As we drove the 12 hours cross-country to reach our destination, we passed through many different towns and cities. About 4 hours outside of Chicago we started to drive toward St. Louis. As we saw signs for SL and its surrounding suburbs my mother called to make sure I was safe.

“Safe?” I thought, “That is a strange thing for her to say.” Why would she be concerned for my safety when driving through a place like Missouri? Nothing ever seems to happen there.

Then the name “Ferguson” flashed through my mind. I recalled the news stories, the social media posts. I thought of the news clips and images of police in full riot gear and armored vehicles roaming the streets of this small American town. I quickly took out my phone and asked my wife to look up the location of Ferguson MO.

“It’s on the other side of the state” I thought to myself.  “It won’t have anything to do with me, or my short amount of time spent here in Missouri.”  But lo and behold, Ferguson was fifteen minutes from our current location, just north of the city.

We see things on the news. We hear things on the radio. We engage with posts on facebook and twitter. We know about the world around us and events within an instant of their occurrence, but how often do we stop and think about its true effect on our lives?

The Middle East is so far away, how would anything going on there really have anything to do with us? Ebola virus, doesn’t that come from another continent? Darfur, Syria. How can I, living in my own little reality here in Chicago, have any connection with these events?

Herman Melville once said “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men…”   But finding those fibers can be difficult at times. Sometimes it is realizing your location in regards to an event that opens the door. Ferguson is not far away. The people affected by this are not in a distant land, separated by oceans and mountains. These are my neighbors. These are our brothers and sisters and they are mothers and children who live only a small drive away. Who live next door.  Unjust treatment of African Americans is happening all over America.  All over my city.  To my co-workers and to people living on my block.

One of the things I do to bond, to strengthen the fibers that link me with my fellow man, is educate myself. If you know about what is going on, then I think you start to care. So I say find ways to educate yourself about issues that concern you. Take the time to do your own research and don’t take for granted what one sources tell you – you have to shop around for the truth.

Secondly, I pray.

A rabbi once told me that Prayer is like clapping along to a song. It might not change the song itself. It does not fix the chorus you don’t like, or change the words, or alter the notes, but it allows you to actively engage with the song. When you clap, you are an active participant in the music, you engage on a personal level.

When we pray, we show that we are active participants in the world around us. We show ourselves that empathy and thought are crucial to how we see the world. Even if our prayers might not directly affect the outcome of a situation, we are there in spirit. We are joining the greatly collective of humanity that is hoping for peace and love in this world.

When I read, I understand.  And when I pray, I empathize. Knowledge and empathy are the first steps to action. In writing this blog I am wondering where knowledge and empathy of the events of Ferguson and all over the nation can take me. I feel the need to act.  How about you? Maybe knowledge and empathy will inspire you to sign a petition, join a march, call your legislators or share your knowledge with others. What to do and how to change the world we live in are up to us.

Matthew Charnay serves as DePaul’s Coordinator for Jewish Life.