Community Affairs Board (CAB), an official board of the Associated Students Legislative Council comprised of students who do community service events, went on a trip to Ferguson, Missouri, during spring break to conduct community service in the city.
During their trip to Missouri, students conducted street clean-up and personally spoke to members of the local community about police brutality, institutional racism and how the municipal court system in St. Louis county allegedly has a strong policing for profit undertone. CAB’s visit was prompted by the wake of violent protests sparked by the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August of last year.
Third-year political science and philosophy double major major and Alternative Breaks co-coordinator coordinator Jeremiah Copeland said the event was entirely different from other CAB events he has attended due to its social justice focus and level of personal engagement with local community members.
“I thought that the trip was very powerful and a great experience,” Copeland said. “The social justice aspect of the trip was something completely different than CAB has ever really done before, so it was a refreshing experience.”
Copeland said he has been on other alternative spring breaks, but this trip was more focused on social justice work and remolding systems of power for positive change.
“I have been on an alternative break to Colorado for flood relief and Oakland to work with foster youth and at food banks,” Copeland said. “Those were more volunteer oriented, and this Ferguson trip was more learning about the multitude of issues that are affecting the area and what we can do to help.”
Copeland also said the alleged presence of racism in law enforcement in the nation is an issue that must be dealt with on a local and federal level.
“I think that the Michael Brown case has brought to bright light the racism that is present in many police departments across the nation. It must be stopped,” Copeland said.
CAB member and first-year Xuewen Sherry Li said the said the situation in Ferguson was upsetting but sparked a vital impetus change in the nation.
“It’s sad that this many lives had to end before the silence was broken, but I think awareness and solidarity has brought people from all across the country together,” Li said.
According to Li, the trip was an impactful experience for her and for all Gaucho participants.
“It was absolutely amazing, this trip has made me realize that I don’t have to get on a plane to make an impact,” Li said. “All around me are breaches that can be fixed and voices to fight for.”