You Want To Help Ferguson? Get In Touch With Its Leaders: Committeewoman Says It’s Time To Participate Politically
Patricia Bynes, democratic committee person of Ferguson Township, has the best advice for those looking to help Ferguson right now:
“My message for anybody who wants to help Ferguson: you need to get in touch with its leaders, because that is who can tell you exactly what’s going on,” she said during our telephone interview.
And according to Bynes, the word is that the people are tired.
More specifically the residents of Canfield Green apartment complex, who have been traumatized by not only the shooting (including having the uncovered body of 17-year old Michael Brown laid for four hours outside of their windows), but also by the SWAT, the tear gas and the national media, who have descended on their door steps.
And in some small ways, they are also worn out by the people, who are only trying to help.
“They can’t take the marches, which start at 10 a.m. and goes on through the day into evening and into the early morning hours. They are tired and they can not sleep. Sometimes they don’t know what day they are going to be able to get out on the street and the neighborhood because of all the police barricades, to go to the work.I spoke to a resident just yesterday and he said that he is trying to break his lease to get out of Canfield. They want to see justice for Mike Brown, but it is becoming too much.”
Bynes, who has been committee person since 2007, wonders if we are setting the local residents with protest-fatigue and more importantly, how that will effect them when it is time to organize for the long haul. And she would understand the difficulty in long term organizing.
Although she regularly keeps the ear of township, city and state officials, Bynes’ position is on a volunteer basis. It’s one she does while still working a full time gig within the United States Soybean Export Council. And it is a position she says she does out of pure passion for the community since she was first appointed after the previous committeewoman, 70 year old Phyllis Foulks retired. Bynes has since run for the position and won the election.
Although she does not physically live inside of Ferguson, she does like a couple of minutes away within the unincorporated St. Louis county, which is a part of the large matrix of 90 municipalities and 28 township, which makes up St. Louis County. Still, as committeewoman for the area, she is somewhat vexed by a number of politicians in particular, who she says have been “talking for the city” and have failed to reach out to current leadership within the Ferguson community.
Political leaders like Antonio French, who is an alderman in St. Louis City, a twenty minute drive away from Ferguson. Also Mo. State Senator Jamilah Nasheed, whose district has no jurisdiction over Ferguson.
“Two of the largest, loudest voices that you hear, have nothing to do and can’t truly help on the ground, for real, when it comes to creating legislation and policy for Ferguson,” she said.
Legislation, policies and other efforts to address what she calls the lack of political interest by young people. Bynes believes that young people in Ferguson bare the brunt of a lot of these actions against them including being targeted by law enforcement.
Bynes would know considering she didn’t really get into politics until the age of 31 (she is 34 years old now). Prior to that, she said that she had been running with an activist group of people and had always been against the status quo. However she said she began to realize that in order to change the system people, particularly good progressive people, had to be willing to work to write and implement rules, which make the police and other figures more accountable.
“And that is what I need young people to understand. Just because we are right and just because we are visible angry, that is not enough to actually change what’s going on. And we have to think how can we implement the change we actually need and that means getting a voice at the political table,” she said, also adding: “What folks don’t seem to understand is that the status quo works very well for many people and not many people are going to be willing to give up their position of power. Therefore you have to be willing to step up to the plate and take it.”
Even if it means starting out for smaller political seats – like committee person, she said.
Bynes asserts that she is not trying to preach to the young activists, who she feels has been courageously protesting in the streets of Ferguson for nearly a month now. Instead, she is only seeking to address a lack of political participation in the area, which she says contributes to much of the discomfort of Black residents. As she asserts, there are two Fergusons: the White Ferguson, who doesn’t have a problem and loves the community the way it is (as indicative of the ever popular I “heart” Ferguson window signs, which litter downtown) and the second Ferguson, which is out in the streets, protesting now.
Bynes said that she is inspired by the young activist and wants to work with many of them. Her aim to help those interested in running for office, to offer political and campaign training and assistance. But as she also advises, this can only come after the youth are finished protesting out in the streets and have given serious consideration to what they feel like the issues are.
And after they have given residents, particularly around the Canfield Green apartment complex, what she calls “a rest.”
“What I need people to understand is that this is a long term,” she said. “If you really want to help Ferguson, you help us knock on these doors. You help us make these calls. You will help us motivate these residents to vote and run for office.”