Spotlight on Shaw: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

By Laura Kinsell-Baer | 2 Comments

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By Lawrence Johnson, President

Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association

With the shooting of Vonderitt Myers Jr. in Shaw coming on the heels of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Kajieme Powell in Riverview, many people were left feeling, “here we go again, the same old, same old.” In a sense that’s true. With the growing social/economic divides, prevailing racism, and escalating fear in our society, such tragic shootings are likely to continue.

BUT SHAW IS NOT FERGUSON OR RIVERVIEW

A study done of communities in New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy found that a key element in them overcoming the storm’s damage and restoring confidence was neighbors helping neighbors, which they called “social resilience.” And in Shaw we see many neighbors helping neighbors in response to the shooting of Vonderitt Myers.

There has been no explosion on the streets of Shaw because of persons like Alderman Steve Conway, who has been on Nextdoor, on Twitter, and in the streets monitoring and reporting the movements of police and demonstrators in Shaw, so as to avert confrontations. And Cara Jensen, who organized a Peace Rally for the Myers family, supported by Birdie Chandler and Ben Phillips. And Dr. Rev. Jacquelyn Foster of Compton Heights Christian Church, who hosted a Prayer Rally with the following speakers:

o   Father Matthew O’Toole, St. Margaret of Scotland Church

o   Michael Gregory, Head of School, Tower Grove Christian Academy

o   Rev. Brenda Booth, Executive Director, Isaiah 58 Ministries

o   Pastor Keith Scarborough, The Word at Shaw Church

Others who have contributed to the calm in Shaw are Emma Klues, Laura Kinsell-Baer, and Stephanie Herbers, SNIA’s Communications Committee, which drafted a statement and talking points, fielded questions from the media, and manned the various social media platforms of the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA). SNIA’s Safety Committee, particularly Paul Fehler and Emmett Coleman, as well as Monte Abbott, spent many days and nights on the street responding to rumors and demonstrations. Berhe Beyent, Manager of Shaw Market, also was a calming influence by his “open door” to the Myers family and friends, and to the demonstrators.

After Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Cbabi Bayoc conducted community conversations at Shaw’s local bakery and art studio, SweetArt. Gerry Rauch approached SNIA suggesting a further response in Shaw to Michael’s death, which became the Shaw Conversations. Originally intended as three Conversations to discuss the impact of the situation in Ferguson on Shaw, it evolved with the shooting of Vonderitt into five Conversations of personal responses to the shootings and ways and means for uniting/strengthening the Shaw community.

Lucy Reinhart attended the first Conversation and kept coming after a rock was thrown through her window on Flora; Kevin Chestnut, Becky Reinhart, Jim Oleskevich, Reggie Till, and Annie Rice have served as moderators/recorders at the Conversations and Rosemary Burr & Michael Ferris have consistently attended the most Conversations.

Neighbors have also reached out to the Myers family. On the morning after Vonderitt was shot, Becky Ogier brought breakfast to the family. And Elaine Kidwell, Mary Samuelson, Diana Oleskevich, and Sharon West and others continue to supply meals and support to the family.

Finally, thanks to the Myers’ family who, throughout this ordeal, have counseled peace and non-violence. And to you, neighbors, whose names and deeds I do not know that are keeping the Shaw community together.

SHAW IS NOT FERGUSON OR RIVERVIEW

And I am happy & proud to be a resident of Shaw…

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Dave Boger says

In addition to all the wonderful folk mentioned in this article, we owe an even greater debt to the youth of Shaw, and especially Vonderrit's friends, who decided in the hours after his death not to respond with violence.

These young people made the first, most important, and most grown-up choice of all. I send a huge "Thank You" to all of them!

Pam B says

We are new to the Shaw Neighborhood - and feel very welcomed and safe - so glad we made the choice to join this community!