This week marks three years since the death of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed in Ferguson. After the death of Brown, the city searched for ways and reforms to improve the morale of the community for the better.
The tragedy turned into an opportunity, said Councilman Wesley Bell, who is the co-chair for the third annual Ferguson Unity Weekend event. It’s a partnership with local organizations to continue working to bring the community together.
“Emphasis on bringing our residents, our city leaders, and our community leaders together — to work together,” Councilman Bell said. “When we talk about going back to normal, we are talking about a new normal where we support our community and our community is a part of that moving forward.”
While the national spotlight is no longer on the city of Ferguson, the healing of this community continues to be an ongoing process. The Ferguson Unity Weekend hopes to bring the community one step forward in that healing process.
Councilman Bell said there's no better way to do that than bringing residents together. He said seeing the look on kids faces when they get their book bags is priceless. Last year on Unity Weekend, there were 850 book bags and school supplies handed out to kids. On Sunday, there were more than 1,000 book bags passed out.
“Nothing is more important than education,” Bell said.
Although the national microscope is gone, Ferguson has become known for Michael Brown, which has invited a lot of negative attention. Bell wants people to know “good things” are happening in Ferguson.
“We are emphasizing community,” Bell said. “That means bringing people together. That means finding what the need is and filling that need. So we are going to keep doing that and keep moving the city forward.”
Ferguson resident Tiara Gilliam brought her son, who is heading into his first year of school, to the event. Gilliam said the backpack and school supplies were a big help.
Gilliam said tensions have eased since the unrest following the death of Michael Brown.
“I’m grateful there are no more shootings and people [looting],” she said.
She said it’s been better, but thinks there needs to be more events like the Ferguson Unity Weekend.
“It keeps people busy,” she said.
Gilliam said community-oriented events will help people think more positively.
On top of handing out book bags, families enjoyed snow cones, cotton candy, kettle corn and more. The Urban League, Metro and many more organizations set up informational booths as well.