At a July 8 event put on by the Baltimore City and County Chambers of Commerce St. Louis Regional Chamber President and CEO Joe Reagan, spoke about the unrest and problems in Ferguson, plans and programs put in place to fix the trouble within the community and the effect these programs have had on the city.
Billed as a City to City Dialogue, the event was held at the Cross Keys Radisson Hotel and was designed to promote discussion in hopes of providing solutions for the citizens and business leaders of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent riots.
Mr. Reagan gave a short speech followed by a question and answer portion where he spoke about the effect negative publicity had on Ferguson, the conditions that spawned what happened in Ferguson, and the ramifications of socio-economic disparity present in many neighborhoods.
When asked about the media portrayal of Ferguson and the effect it had on the community Reagan said, “Of course we wouldn’t choose this publicity but the eyes of the world were on us in tragedy and they will be on us as we create a better tomorrow.” Reagan believes that the image of Baltimore can change just as the image of St. Louis can but it takes the business community taking action. “It’s time for the business community to demonstrate leadership on these issues, said Reagan. “The best way for us to change the image of St. Louis is for us to begin change and begin healing these issues.”
Reagan believes one of these issues is the state of civil rights in America.” “I tended to lapse into the belief that civil rights belonged to a moment, the civil rights era, a time period” said Reagan. However Reagan believes the central focus of the civil rights movement has changed in recent years.
“Civil rights in the 21st century is about policing. Is policing about protect and serve or occupying with force? Does policing mean the same thing in all of our neighborhoods?” These questions have been asked increasingly over the past couple decades and the issue of police brutality has been brought back to the forefront in the past couple years as the public has watched tragedy after tragedy unfold in cities like Baltimore and Ferguson.
Reagan also said that a conversation must be had about not only the civil rights issues confronting our nation but the socio-economic issues many communities are faced with. “As an economic organization we can’t be satisfied if we have that (socioeconomic) gap widening and that disparity deepening, we will not get the community prospering in that way, this is a moral imperative to close the gap and create real hope but it is also an economic imperative.”
Reagan believes the business community should be held accountable and expected to make change in its community and that through directly attacking the issue of the economic gap and problematic policing within the city of St. Louis and cities like it, a measureable change can be made.