Investing in Racial Healing and Justice with Angel McCain
September 15, 2023
“I’d love for the education space to meet students and families where they are and adapt to them instead of the other way around. I think families, they have voice. And decision making power when it comes to the education of their children. And I’d like to see the education space lean more into that. And support that.Angel McCain
Today’s guest is Angel McCain, St. Louis Region Program Director for the Education and Training Organization, who works with Forward Through Ferguson to create equity in education. Angel sits down with Staci to discuss FTF’s Community Governance Board, having the hard discussions, and healing through community.
Tell us About yourself
- St. Louis region program director for the Education and Training Organization
- Here today representing the Racial Equity and Justice Fund with Forward Through Ferguson
Personal K-12 Story
- East St. Louis through and through, K – 12 the entire time.
- Went to Manners Elementary School.
- East St. Louis Senior High School
- From there, went to college ISU and then SIU.
Can you talk to us a little bit about, one, what’s the Community Governance Board? And two, what is Forward Through Ferguson?
- It’s like a community commission or a nonprofit
- It is a nonprofit and it was created in response to the Ferguson Commission’s calls to action
- Back in 2014, then Missouri governor got a group of folks together, some leaders together, and charged them with investigating socioeconomic inequities in the region.
- So they produced a report and now Forward Through Ferguson exists to kind of lead the charge, act as a launch pad for addressing the calls to action in that report.
- The report took a deep dive into the inequities we see in our region. And they broke it down into three areas
- justice for all, where they’re talking about police reform and court reform, youth at the center. Obviously, that’s going to be our education structures and our policies and things we’re doing to support our young people.
- Opportunity to thrive – everything else we see in our community that impacts a person’s ability negatively impacts a person’s ability to move forward (housing, that’s health care, that’s transportation, that’s reasonable access to grocery stores)
You mentioned a community governance board. What does that mean?
- Extending the work that FTF is doing to address those calls of action lined out in the Ferguson Commission’s report, there was a St. Louis Healing and Justice Fund created
- And with the goal of reimagining philanthropy and what that needs to look like for our communities, FTF and those folks decided to create an outside sort of entity
- Community members
And so a part of why we invited you here today is we received a grant from this racial Healing Injustice Opportunity. Why did you guys decide to put out this grant and to make this $800,000 investment across so many organizations in the region?
- “So I think at the root of this, it’s about putting resources in the hands of people in organizations who are doing the work and bringing the community into decision making spaces. Right. And so the part of this addressing the cost of action and reimagining what our communities and our spaces should look like, it was just very important that we think about what things cost and what people need to move forward these missions and create the change. ”
What sets Forward Through Ferguson’s grant making process apart from other organizations? And why was it important for you all to be different in how you approach the way that you do community giving?
- We didn’t do any guesswork, right? We brought community members into the decision making space.
- intentional about creating a process that lifted everybody up, even folks who didn’t necessarily receive grant funds this time around
- it was meant to be accessible and healing, and the whole process was designed to create community.
What are some of the challenges that you can say were identified in the report that you all tried to tackle through the way that you or through the organizations that you decided to fund this year?
- I just think through and through the calls to action outline very real issues with systemic racism, right. And just issues with getting resources to organizations and folks who need them and including folks in the communities in the decision making.
- we think about how our young people are struggling in these communities and in these schools that aren’t necessarily meeting their needs a lot of times because of limited resources. So I just think systemic racism just kind of really summed it up. Not to be the dead horse, but it truly is the culprit when you.
- “And it extends well beyond the classroom. We look at our communities and so many of our babies are living in food deserts. Right. There are just so many limitations. And so I think one of the great things about this process, this fund, this reimagining FTF, is that it’s really focusing on the core issues. Right. I have never worked alongside or been a part of any organization that unapologetically called out white supremacy and systemic racism as true problems that absolutely need to be addressed. Right. There’s always this sort of tiptoeing around with DEI things and the trainings, but the hard, cold truth, like saying the thing, I think that’s what is happening in this space, and I think it’s absolutely what’s going to be necessary to create long term real change that we can see in our everyday lives. ”
But what does it mean for you or for the committee, for an organization or a person to be able to have a community impact?
- Bringing everyday people who are wanting to see change into the space and putting the decision making power in the hands of those folks, believing folks in our communities when they tell us they need something
If school is our first introduction as citizens at a really young age, what do you think is the role that education will play in the future development in St. Louis and some of the changes and things you would hope to see, given the investments that you guys have made?
- I think there needs to be a lot of rethinking when it comes to the role education needs to play for our students
What are your personal hopes as a voting member in some of these initiatives and things that you would hope or would want to see from education as it’s progressing forward through the community investments that you guys are making?
- I’d love for the education space to meet students and families where they are and adapt to them instead of the other way around
- I think families, they have voice. And decision making power when it comes to the education of their children. And I’d like to see the education space lean more into that right. And support that.
- “Yeah, I’d love for the education space to meet students and families where they are and adapt to them instead of the other way around. I think families, they have voice right. And decision making power when it comes to the education of their children. And I’d like to see the education space lean more into that right. And support that. “
Given that Forward Through Ferguson was born out of such tragedy, what gives you hope for the future of St. Louis? The kids of St. Louis and the ways that we educate our kids in St. Louis?
- Organizations like FTF, entities like the CGB, there are folks out here really being intentional and thoughtful and unapologetic in the quest to right the wrongs that we’ve seen in our communities for so long.
- I’d never been a part of something where folks were just so unapologetically. Like, no, this is a white supremacist value, and we are not going to you know what I mean? Just that right. That is what gives me hope.
- “There are people saying the hard things, having the hard conversations for real. Right. And being very intentional about holding folks accountable. And so I think that’s so important. It’s kind of like a whole different level of advocacy. So I think that’s what gives me hope.”
Now, if somebody wants to support the work of Forward Through Ferguson or help to continue the pilot program of the Racial Healing and Justice Grant, how do they get involved?