On Monday, the 16 people who make up the Ferguson Commission will meet for the first time.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has charged the group with addressing systemic inequity in the state like law enforcement practices, as well as education, housing and economic disparities.
Over the next year, the commission is expected to do nothing short of making the region a “fairer place for everyone to live.”
Nixon says he has appointed a mix of citizens to tackle some of the state’s most intractable problems.
“They include business owners and not-for-profit leaders. Teachers and lawyers. Police officers and community activists. Pastors and public servants,” says Nixon.
Along with some socioeconomic diversity, there are 10 men, and six women. Nine of the commissioners are African-American and seven are white.
Before any member even walks through the door, though, there are interpersonal gaps that must be bridged, says Bob Stains. He is with the Public Conversation Project, which facilitates dialogue around difficult community problems.
“There are these huge differences in experience that cause people to hear each other in different ways and that often leads to a lack of understanding, or no understanding at all,” he says.
To avoid getting bogged down, Stains suggests members take time to talk about their experiences and how those experiences have infused their passion for this cause.
In other words, before the commission gets rich and poor, black and white, to commit to social and economic justice, members themselves must walk the walk.