Ferguson, the ‘F’ word that’s guaranteed to divide a room into defensive ideological camps along the lines of who was right, who was wrong, and how to make it better. Thanks to the barrage of media coverage since the shooting of teen Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9, the blinding national spotlight has caused St. Louis to acknowledge the ugly skeleton in our closet: racism is alive and well.

The past 109 days of waiting and wondering built a powder keg of massive proportions. Stuffed full of racial tension, palpable fear, and citywide apprehension, the grand jury decision that was released last night blew the lid sky-high.

To some, no charges meant no justice, and a contingent of angry protestors has (once again) left a path of brutal destruction in the wake of their riots. Burned shells of buildings, shattered storefronts, and looted businesses dominated the national coverage of our poor, broken city.
What the media did NOT show were the peaceful vigils, the humble prayer groups, the candlelit tributes-this city is more than the actions of a few. We have hope, the most powerful tool in writing a different ending for the Ferguson community.
The national conversation today shifted to creating change, a word with magical properties. It makes the speaker feel singlehandedly optimistic while simultaneously releasing the speaker from any actual responsibility. I’ve noticed how the word ‘change’ carries a dangerous risk of inducing bystander apathy, and that is simply not an option for St. Louis right now.
Talking about change is empty rhetoric and a self-administered pat on the back. The overused and inspiring quote by Gandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” should have a Ferguson-specific version. St. Louis residents should adopt the following mantra: “Our city needs this change- find your personal ability to contribute and DO IT. Do it with pride, determination, and resilience until our dreams for St. Louis are a reality.” (I’ll get our mayor to think about using that as a 2015 mission statement for the city ASAP, y’all. I’ll keep you updated.)  
Similarly, saying that a community will heal itself is like putting a neat little Band-Aid on Ferguson with a ‘Get Well Soon!’ card.  That’s the thing about communities- they don’t exist in a vacuum. The entire St. Louis metropolitan area needs rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to kill the cancerous growth of racism.
So what's something we can do today to start creating change? Empower racial minorities economically. With financial stability comes personal confidence, the ability to voice opinions productively, greater community cohesiveness and increased civic participation. This long-term, sustainable approach can break the stranglehold of generational poverty by simply helping minorities access credit they otherwise could not.  
Kiva Zip does just that. We threw away the outdated and exclusive rulebook on creditworthiness, instead preferring to harness the power of social underwriting and connectedness across sociodemographic barriers to determine access to capital. Our borrowers are rejected loans by traditional financial institutions that examine credit scores, collateral, and cash flow. We welcome these creative, hardworking individuals to crowdfund loans for their small businesses by merit of their character, reputation, and relationships.
In St. Louis, we are bravely charting this path in our racially divided city, empowering one African American borrower after another through an amazing, dedicated Trustee. CAAAB, the Center for the Acceleration of African American Businesses, consults with minority entrepreneurs to refine a business plan and sends them to me, the Kiva Zip Fellow for St. Louis. I work with borrowers to explain the Kiva Zip process, assist in creating a marketing plan of attack to maximize the borrower’s networks, and let the unique crowdfunding platform do the rest.
After first assuring the safety of my borrowers who live in North County from riot damage last night, I started asking questions. Cassidy, 25 from Black Jack, about Ferguson: “It’s all so sad, but a very necessary struggle for our bondage as a people to be relieved.” Cassidy, who is currently hours away from her loan expiring, took a leap of faith to use a Kiva Zip to travel to give away her handmade, luxury handbags at the American Music Awards. Pursuing her dream to have her brand SheDandy next to Gucci, Cassidy studied retail management in undergrad and is currently getting an MBA to position herself as the next fashion mogul, defying the odds of being a young black woman raised in North St. Louis
Image of Cassidy's Loan Profile, which is ready and waiting for your contributions.

Andrew, 56 from St. Ann, said, “I believe the Ferguson events are a tragedy.” He went on to share his frustrations, and added, “But the systematic problems are long overdue to be addressed.” Andrew is the victim of a violent mugging that scarred his face and exacerbated his personal experience with racial discrimination in the court systems following a thirty year battle for worker’s compensation. But Andrew is not defined by his tragedy, rather he is known for his delicious, finger-licking good BBQ. Andrew used his first $5,000 Kiva Zip loan to transition from food cart to a fully operational food truck, and he’s now fundraising for a second Kiva Zip loan of $10,000 to open his commissary as a sit-down and carry-out restaurant. The support from the lending community at Kiva Zip motivates him to succeed and push harder to reach his dream for Andrew’s Bayou Ribs, like this vote of confidence from a lender who contributed to his first loan and could not wait to support his second.
Image of Andrew's Loan Profile, which is ready and waiting for your contribution.

Proof of the power of social underwriting and the connectedness fostered by Kiva Zip.

There may have been no charges issued last night, but there are today. I charge YOU.
I charge you to make a microloan to a minority borrower.
I charge you to make a difference in your city by supporting local Kiva Zip efforts.
I charge you to help me change the discussion about Ferguson from failures to successes.
I charge you to use Kiva Zip to economically empower minorities, one loan at a time.
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