Ferguson and Beyond: Building Communities Where ‘Race Matters’; Sylvester Brown Jr.

The racial unrest in Ferguson has been fueled by a more than 115 year-old phenomenon. Since the early 1900s, African Americans in St. Louis have been legally restricted, confined or relocated into areas where they were not always welcomed. Due to “white flight,” limited vision and few resources to start businesses in their own communities, blacks have been trapped in pockets of poverty throughout the region. This poverty-especially generational poverty-is the root cause that fuels crime, illegal drug activity, family dysfunction, chronic illnesses and hopelessness in many low-income St. Louis neighborhoods. In this discussion, Sylvester Brown, Jr., director of the Sweet Potato Project will detail a plan where everyone and anyone can help build vibrant and economically vibrant African American communities in the St. Louis region.

Sylvester Brown, Jr. is an award-winning journalist, former publisher of Take Five Magazine and former metro columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has worked as a researcher, consultant, and contributor with numerous authors including Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, Tom Burrell, and Chef Jeff Henderson. In 2012, Sylvester partnered with the North Area Community Development Corporation to create the Sweet Potato Project. The mission of the Sweet Potato Project is to restore economic activity in North St. Louis by creating alternative and progressive ways of producing and distributing locally grown products and to teach young men and women sustainable business and entrepreneurial skills that can change their lives.