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Krewson adds racial equity director to Cabinet from Forward Through Ferguson

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ST. LOUIS • Incoming Mayor Lyda Krewson has chosen a former consultant with the Ferguson Commission as a senior adviser overseeing racial equity.

Nicole Hudson will serve as director of racial equity and priority initiatives. Hudson will leave her staff position with Forward Through Ferguson, a nonprofit formed to put in place the changes proposed by the Ferguson Commission. She served as communications director for the commission.

Hudson said she gave a lot of thought to what her title should be when joining Krewson's staff, although she is not a fan of such labels.

"My instinct is to think that titles are worthless and it's all about what people do that matters," Hudson said. But after several conversations with Krewson and close friends, "racial equity" had to be a key component to show that it was a clear priority. So did "senior adviser," to assure that she was not just there because of the color of her skin, she said.

"I'm not naive enough to miss what some people see as me being tokenized or put in racial equity as the brown girl," Hudson said. This position assures her a place at a prominent table to keep the momentum of the Ferguson Commission going, she said. Krewson will be sworn into office on Tuesday.

Hudson said her work will cover three main areas: service equity, assuring every resident, no matter the ZIP code, has the same access to everything from trash service to public safety; providing a transparent system to make it easy for all residents to know about public meetings and who to call for various city services; and ending childhood food insecurity, something that was highlighted during Ferguson Commission meetings.

"That was gut wrenching," Hudson said, finding out that children in some parts of the region were needing to be asked if they were hungry because access to food cannot be taken for granted.

Three months after Michael Brown's death, in August 2014, then-Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon formed the Ferguson Commission to study socioeconomic conditions highlighted by the protests and to recommend solutions.

The commission produced a  nearly 200-page report with 189 "calls to action." Among them: ending predatory lending and poverty; improving training for police officers; consolidating police departments and municipal courts; and providing equitable access to rigorous courses in high school.

As the commission wrapped up its work in December 2015, five former members agreed to serve on an interim board of a nonprofit called Forward Through Ferguson to advocate for the changes put forth in the report. 

"We define racial equity as a state in which outcomes can no longer be predicted by race," Hudson told the Post-Dispatch last year. She acknowledged then that it would take decades to fix problems that took decades to create. The key, she said, is getting others involved and educating people about what led to the disparities.

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Doug Moore is a former reporter for the P-D. Currently, policy director for St. Louis County Council.

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