Let me joyfully introduce the first Ripple Person of the Ride! Tracy Berry-McGhee. She is the founder and creator of SistaKeeper STL. Tracy is an inspiring woman using the power of the spoken word and listening circles to give voice to girls in communities throughout St. Louis (and the nation.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4bW7jUmPrU
She kindly gave me a tour of her community yesterday.
We ate lunch at Cathy’s Kitchen and Tracy introduced me to Cathy Jenkins. Kind, warm and welcoming she stopped by our table to be sure the food was up to the reputation the restaurant had acquired. Tracy told me the story of how folks from Ferguson, locked arms in front of Cathy’s Kitchen to ward off violent protestors during the verdict protests. The restaurant has been a gathering place of kindness, love and warmth…for years…and still is.
She drove me to the Ferguson swimming pool, where kids of all colors flew down the swirly sliding board and families lay out in the sun.
She drove me through the apartment complex where Michael Brown lived. I saw the spot on the road where he died. There is now a newer square of black asphalt that covers the spot. There were apartments on either side close to the road, kids playing and folks sitting out on their porches.
There were split level homes, yards, businesses, churches. People were out cutting the grass, working on their homes, eating outside of restaurants and driving their cars. This is Ferguson
Tracy and I spent a good amount of time in her office…a very warm and welcoming space. A small table fountain gurgling peaceful waters and a faint hint of incense made for peaceful sounds and aromas. Posters of strong African-American women on the wall along and empowering quotes and words of wisdom were scattered everywhere.
We exchanged a lot of stories.
Tracy shared a story about when she first moved to a neighborhood in Florissant. Florissant is a neighborhood adjacent to Ferguson.
They had been in their house for less than a week when the house next door was Tee Peed. (For those of you who don’t know what that is…that’s when someone takes rolls of toilet paper and tosses them up into the trees. The toilet paper cascades through the limbs to the ground below…akin to tinsel on a Christmas Tree, but it’s toilet paper on really big trees).
Tracy shared, “This was a few years back and the Florissant neighborhood where we moved to was primarily white. My initial thought was…someone wants us out and they accidentally “marked” the wrong house.”
She was happy (and a little embarrassed) to learn that the house in question had been “rolled with Toilet Paper” on purpose. The high schooler who lived there had just made the cheerleading squad and her friends had congratulated her by performing this celebratory “rolling” ritual.
We talked and talked and listened to one another. Tracy’s program is powerful. She empowers through listening. She creates safe places for girls to share their fears, their hopes, their anger, their sorrows, their dreams…their love. She speaks of the feminine divine and the healing gifts it can bring to our wounded neighborhoods and the people who live in them. She has introduced Sista Keepers to hundreds of folks and wants to introduce it to hundreds more. I look forward to helping her however I can.
We finished up the day walking the Labyrinth at the Zion Church in Florissant, MI. I felt the peace I’d be searching for on my way out here, settle in. Finally.
I heard a distant train let go it’s mournful noise and thought of the poem my new and fast friend Robert, shared with me just this morning.
I found a cardinal feather.