Twenty-five years later, Covington is unrecognizable. Houses are...

Twenty-five years later, Covington is unrecognizable. Houses are dilapidated. Young people are lost and out of order. Murders are becoming all too common. Parents are unengaged. The Community Center is closed. Today, small town Covington is Compton. It is Chicago. It is Ferguson. It is like other black neighborhoods after the crack epidemica she'll of it's former self.

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When Oprah's network announced Iyanla Vanzant was going to Ferguson to tape a special report for her hit show "Iyanla Fix My Life," many people on social media where not impressed. Some thought she was exploiting the situation for ratings and others thought it was too soon. As a long-time fan of Iyanla's work, I withheld judgment and waited for the episode to air. When it finally did on Tuesday night, I was moved and glad that she had made the journey to Ferguson at this specific point in time while tensions where still high and the national spotlight remained on the Missouri suburb.

Iyanla's journey to Ferguson gave us a glimpse of raw emotions of a lot of hurt, pain, anger, and frustration of a disenfranchised community. But what it really uncovered was that there is no real "community" in Ferguson, at least not in the sense of one that is high-functioning and effective. Community is a word that has been used loosely, but it entails more than simply people living together in a specific geographic area. And Ferguson, like many other neighborhoods, is a broken fragment of what used to be a real community. Middle-class flight, lack of resources, failing schools, scarce jobs, and an unjust criminal justice system has left neighborhoods like Ferguson as low-functioning, loosely organized living quarters with missing leadership, structure, and systems to guide residents not only through the riots, but in general day-to-day living. And how a community functions is imperative to how it is defined, perceived, and how the community is treated.

Police brutality on poor, black neighborhoods like Ferguson is the equivalent of bullying. Bullies pick on those they perceive as weak and vulnerable. They know who to mess with and who not to. Throughout the episode, residents expressed feelings of "disrespect" by the police and city leaders. Iyanla declared that she was there to "interrupt the pattern" and help Ferguson to "heal" from the pain and anger and how to stop the disrespect. What she attempted to do was to show residents of Ferguson how to channel their anger in a more productive way to get the results they wanted by being a higher-functioning, organized community.

In one segment, Iyanla held a roundtable discussion with 13 black men who had been on the front lines of the Ferguson protests and riots. She first apologized to the men for failing them when she stopped teaching as an elder in the community to usher in the younger generation. She explained to them that they we're warriors, but that they weren't given the necessary tools they needed to succeed. She later wanted to know where we're the elders and leaders in their community. Why are they silent? Why are they continuously allowing the "disrespect" to happen in Ferguson?

In strong, high-functional communities, elders and community leaders are the ones who establish behavioral norms and values that are both acceptable and unacceptable. Members within the community are taught what's appropriate behavior, what's not, and those who come into the community breaking the rules will be swiftly dealt with. At one point Iyanla poignantly asked, "When you kill each other, are you giving people permission to come in and kill you?" In other words, are the men of Ferguson being disrespected by the police because they are disrespecting themselves? Are they showing the police (and others) how to treat them? Some may argue that one has nothing to do with the other, but I disagree. If we aren't valuing our own lives by killing and ultimately disrespecting members of our own community, how can we expect others to do the same? Respect is earned and is not always automatically given. So again, where are the elders, adults, and community leaders to tell these young men and women that they are valuable, what their expectations are as a member of community, and that their lives matter? Moreover, who is holding members of the community accountable for bad behaviors?A long time ago in black communities, whenever someone misbehaved, they we're chastised and punished by other members because they did not want trouble for the rest of the community. They knew that if they weren't self-governing and self-accountable, they we're inviting "white folks" to govern for them and it wasn't done in love either. This was a necessary survival mechanism. Today, when members of the community kill, assault, and display other ill behaviors, people turn their heads and look the other way. And because of this, we have invited the police in as overseers to govern us in ways that are disrespectful and sometimes deadly.

Iyanla then went on to ask these "warriors" to tell their stories, and of course, we heard the usual: men being raised without fathers, the overall disrespectful treatment of blacks, and getting caught up in the criminal justice system. But Iyanla also put the spotlight on another issue that was eye-opening. Many of these men had no outlet to articulate what they wanted or how to make their voices heard. This demonstrates another big problem within Ferguson and other black neighborhoods in general. In order for communities to sustain and to be effective there has to be structure and systems in place to foster mutual support. Systems are the way in which collective decision-making is made for the best interest of the community. In my old neighborhood, we had The Community Center which was dubbed "the heartbeat of the community" and it was. Not only was it a community gathering place but it was a place we went to for individual resources and advocacy. If we needed anything or got into trouble, The Community Center had our backs. It was our safety net. Who has the residents of Ferguson's backs? Where do the residents of Ferguson go to get direction and guidance on what to do for their community and how to make their voices heard in a constructive manner? In black communities, typically, the Church has been at the forefront of these hot bed issues, but the younger generation is moving away from church and organized religion to guide their decision-making. So where is the meeting place everyone knows where to go to obtain mutual support to tackle community problems? Who are the leaders everyone trusts to guide the community, not just in this situation, but on a daily basis?

Over the years, we have been conditioned to believe that change comes about through voting, marching, protesting, and when issues reach a boiling point, through rioting and boycotting. While these tactics have their place in creating change, these things alone cannot be the beginning and the end, nor can they be done as a reactive, piecemeal approach. We have to get smart and strategic and the way to do this is through community organizing. Community organizing is a process used to empower the "powerless," to give a unified voice, to coordinate a power-base to make effective change, and it is a means for residents to take charge of their own community. In order to fight injustices, oppose issues, or create impactful change, there has to be strong organization in communities such as Ferguson. Groups such as the LGBT, women's rights, Republicans, and even Latinos understand that effective organization is necessary in order to create real change and earn respect.

What are you going to do Monday? You have to know now. You have to know where you're going, where you're marching. Where you're going to meet, where you're gonna end up. Dont give them an excuse to determine how you grieve. You have to prepare. Whats the next move

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