Jean Allman, PhD, J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and director of the Center for the Humanities, Arts & Sciences
Just a week ago, I was sitting in Bolgatanga, in Ghana’s Upper East region, finishing up a little research and listening to the Sunday news bulletin on the BBC World Service. Most of the stories had grown alarmingly predictable over the course of the week: the uncontrolled spread of the Ebola virus in the West African subregion, ISIS aggression in Iraq, the fragile cease-fire in Gaza.
But on Aug. 10, “the top of the news” beamed to northern Ghana by the BBC was not just from the Middle East, or Ukraine, or Liberia. It was from St. Louis: Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, recently graduated from high school, had been shot dead on Aug. 9 by a white police officer in suburban Ferguson, Mo., in broad daylight.
In the tumult that has followed — vigils and protests, tear gas and military assault weapons, a curfew and a state of emergency enforced by National Guard troops — Ferguson has joined Iraq, Gaza, and Ebola at the top of news bulletins across the globe.
As we prepare for the hectic beginning of another school year, we must not lose sight of the tragic events that have unfolded just ten miles north of us. The Center for the Humanities’ mission calls for us to contribute, in whatever ways we can, to expanding scholarly and community understanding of what has happened in Ferguson and why. How might we serve as a resource in the ongoing quest for justice? What can we bring to the long and difficult struggle to build a just and sustainable peace in our community?
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