StoryCorps: Interracial couple travels to Ferguson, Missouri
Helene Matumona was born in Zambia, but grew up in Canada.
“Chicago is very different from Vancouver,” she says in this week’s StoryCorps. “When you’re here, you really feel like you’re black. I think that’s how I would describe my stay in Chicago: I feel black.”
“I’m not trying to divide myself,” she says. “You know, ideally I want to live in a society where there aren’t tensions. Where we can all just be cool with each other.”
Matumona came to the booth with her husband, Lucas Weisbecker, who is white. He asked her about their recent visit to St. Louis and the protests in nearby Ferguson.
“It was just really tense at times," she says. "Because you could feel the anger and you could feel just how fatigued the African-Americans in St. Louis were.”
Weisbecker asks: “Going to those protests, did that change your idea of what it means to be black?”
“Yeah. Cause I’m an African immigrant," she says. "And I feel like there’s a difference there. Versus being an African-American and going through these struggles, the Civil Rights movement and slavery and all that. There’s definitely a different story there. There’s a different fight.”
“I went down there to try to see what was happening,” Weisbecker explains. “To try to feel the vibe of what was going on. And try to get a story from people that are actually there and experiencing like…because obviously there’s a lot of underlying issues beyond just one kid getting killed. People react that way because there’s a systemic problem and it’s not being addressed.”
“And you go down there and you see kids being basically fed up with the way things are and trying to make a difference,” Weisbecker continues. “The one thing I kept thinking about though was how is this actually going to make a difference in the end.”
“There needs to be a direction. And there needs to be somebody or a group or an idea that puts everything into a direction, because if there’s no direction it’s just going to be unbridled anger, which is justified, but it is not necessarily going to change what it is that people are upset about.”
“It was so cool to see people out in the streets talking about politics and the issues. And I think that’s the first step to developing a direction. And you really need to be so on point to make change. And it was like: We were marching, We were yelling. We were talking. And it was just like: Okay, what’s the action? What are we going to do?”
“I’d say, I left with a lot of questions."