On Friday, September 15, 2017, Deaconess announced that it will invest $100,000 in a public policy campaign which pursues change through grassroots advocacy, civic engagement and community organizing focused on at least one of the Ferguson Commission Calls-to-Action. The Foundation is seeking applications from community organizations, coalitions and public campaigns positioned to focus the region’s energy on the civic engagement required to move in the direction of racial equity the Commission set forth in its work. The announcement came within hours after the verdict in the Jason Stockley case, which ignited local protest reminiscent of the Ferguson Uprising.
On September 14, 2015, the Ferguson Commission released Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity report. The Commission’s report provides specific policy recommendations to move the region toward racial equity and justice in light of our history and contemporary challenges. “Two years later to the day, the nature of imbedded and implicit bias in the region’s systems of public safety and judicial accountability were highlighted again. The community’s distrust of these systems comes at a high cost, borne out in preparations for the Jason Stockley verdict and protests since throughout the region,” said Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation’s president and CEO and former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission.
The costs have piled up across the nation in civil suits paid by cities to victimized families (including the now controversial Anthony Lamar Smith settlement) and the billions of dollars racial income inequities cost the St. Louis regional gross domestic product. Wilson and Deaconess are among the chorus of local voices pointing back to the Commission’s report as critical to current progress.
In light of the Stockley case, most have focused on the “Justice For All” section of the report, which makes recommendations regarding civilian oversight of police, use-of-force, independent investigation of police-involved shootings and de-escalation in demonstration protocols. All of which will require the building of public and policymakers’ will to mobilize and organize for change. Deaconess’ announcement, though, shines light on another “Signature Priority” from the Racial Equity section of the report, creating a “25-year managed fund to solely support racial equity infrastructure for all sectors.”
Wilson reflects, “Sustained investment in civic participation could curb regional conflagrations - like the ones we’re experiencing now - by including and affirming the voices of people affected in policymaking. The very charitable nature of our region is a strength that must be innovated to make this happen. My colleagues and I, in philanthropy, have more of a role to play.”
The Policy Campaign grant is made possible through philanthropic partnership between Deaconess Foundation and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. Applications are available at www.deaconess.org and are due November 1, 2017. Campaign activities can take place through December 31, 2018.
Deaconess Foundation invests in the well-being of children, engages our region around the plight of youth, and advocates for change. The Foundation envisions a community that values the health and well-being of all children and gives priority attention to the most vulnerable. Deaconess believes this community can only exist if the allocation of power and distribution of resources, benefits, opportunities and burdens are not predictable, nor determinable by race. To accomplish this vision, Deaconess pursues child well-being through public policy and racial equity
A ministry of the United Church of Christ, Deaconess has invested more than $80 million to improve the health of the St. Louis community since 1998 and believes healthy, hope-filled futures for children benefit the entire region. The Foundation’s grantmaking footprint includes St. Louis, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin Counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties in Illinois.