Monthly archive for August 2019

Citywalk News for September

Our scars show proof our resilience

By Mayor James W. Knowles III

“Scars show toughness: that you’ve been through it, and you’re still standing”

Theo Rossi– American Actor

By now most people know that being Mayor is not a full-time job, of course some days it seems to take up all or most of my time. As my full-time profession, I work for a company that owns and operates motor vehicle license offices across the state of Missouri. Though I’m an executive in the company, dealing mainly with administrative issues, from time to time I still find myself training managers in our offices and even working the counter processing transactions when needed. It’s that time, doing the most basic job in our company, that I still love the most. It’s and opportunity to interact with the general public all day. Most everyone must come through the license office at some point during the year. People of all ages, races, and backgrounds come to take care of their business, and, for me, those interactions and conversations with customers are often enjoyable, and sometimes enlightening.

Last month, while working the counter in the Florissant Office, a customer came through my line that made me ponder things that were then transpiring in our community. It was the week of the 5-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death and the ensuing unrest. Media from all across the world had taken this opportunity to spend the previous weeks trying to relive the events of the past and pick at the scars that exist in our community and with some of our residents. While most of us wished to talk about the healing and the future, others (especially the media) simply wanted to re-live the pain of the past.

That week, in walks a customer to my line; an African American woman, probably in her late 50s. She is cheerful and pleasant with a glowing smile and a personality to match. All this even after waiting for 30+ minutes in line at the DMV, which is not enjoyable for anyone. I watched her hands as she proceeded to reach into her bag to grab her paperwork and I immediately noticed that her hands and arms were covered with scars and her fingers were mangled from what appeared to have been some severe trauma. As I waited on her I found myself momentarily speculating about her injuries and wondering about their source. What happened in this woman’s life to leave her visibly scarred and debilitated? How long ago did this happen? Is she still in pain? I could not imagine my reaction if I had undergone such pain and left with terribly visible scars.

But in that moment of introspection, I was suddenly struck by how she carried herself so confidently, without hesitation or shyness of her scars. Instead of covering her wounds or handing her head in shame, she acted as if her hands and skin were as perfect and unblemished as a models. As I processed her transaction I felt as if her example gave me perspective about things in my life, and certainly about things we went through in our community.

I imagined what life would be like for this woman if she spent her days staring at her scars and reliving the trauma that caused them. I imagined how her life would be and what her demeanor walking into my office would be, if she were constantly reminded of the trauma, the pain, and agonizing over the scars that it left behind. It seemed she was clearly better off viewing those scars as proof of her strength, and resilience. A badge of honor over what she has overcome and how she has persevered, not a Scarlett Letter of shame over what had happened to her.

Five years after our community endured its own trauma, this community has done a great deal to heal and persevere. He have our scars, some visible and some not. No matter what is rebuilt in our community, as long as the internet and the media replay images of the events that happened here, we will always have that visible reminder of our trauma. But scars don’t have to be a painful reminder of the trauma you faced, but rather a reminder about the obstacles overcome, the victory over adversity. And tearing at those scars are never productive, as that never truly allows for permanent healing to occur.

As a community, we shouldn’t be self-conscious or embarrassed by our scars, but rather confident that they exist because we still exist; and that we have overcome and in large part have moved forward. I was glad to see that during

the 5-year anniversary, those who wished to pick at the scar, point fingers, and stir emotions where overshadowed by those of us who wish to look forward and not relitigate the past. We shall always have the memory of the unrest that occurred here, but as long as this community stands tall and strong in its present day, the scars will continue to tell a story of triumph, not just be a reminder of tragedy.

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FERGUSON CITYWALK
110 Church Street
Ferguson, MO 63135
(314) 524-5197
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