America’s unfinished business; Dr. Martin J. Rafanan, Executive Director National Conference of Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis (NCCJSTL)

While St. Louis has achieved success at some level in addressing racial polarization and other issues of bias and bigotry related to human identity, in no area can we claim to have fully created the inclusive society envisioned and championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The St. Louis we all believe in and have helped to build is still an imperfect place, in spite of great progress made in the past generation. Access and opportunity are not equal for all. As we imagine the equitable society of which we dream, hard work, moral strength, and dedication to purpose are not yet the only requirements for fulfilling the American dream. As we look to the future, how can each of us become the empowered leaders that make the dream a reality?

Ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1978, Dr. Rafanan ministered an African American congregation near O’Fallon Park on the northern part of the city for nearly 20 years. There he was “trained” by his parishioners to be aware of the structural impact of racism and to understand how cultural representations, public policies, and institutional procedures interact to maintain racial hierarchies that produce disparate and negative outcomes for people of color in the City of St. Louis.

As director of NCCJSTL, he has had the opportunity of increasing the size and scope of the organization’s work in St. Louis, collaborating with community leaders to develop new training programs and community initiatives that empower leaders to change institutions and transform community.