Following the killing of Mike Brown, I did like many of my professional colleagues and made my way to Ferguson, Missouri as soon as I possibly could.

Over the course of two visits, I spent seven days there, spoke to dozens of people, got tear gassed once, attended Mike Brown’s funeral and generally fell in love with greater St. Louis. I’ve been on television three times and have written for both our print and digital properties about the crisis. Oh, and I’m heading back tonight to participate in the #BlackLivesMatter weekend of action.

That, however, does not make me an expert on Ferguson. It does not make me better equipped to speak on behalf of the people of this community than, well, the people of this community.

The story of Mike Brown’s killing, the powerful uprising that followed, and the abusive, militarized response of local police (that seem better suited to sample Aunt Bee’s pickles than to navigate a tank past a Dollar General) is one that belongs to many people: African Americans across the country, Black people across the Diaspora, those who came to support the local community and yes, even many of the journalists who were there to bear witness and tell the truth (We didn’t all opt for that route.) But we must not let our outside interpretations of this crisis, no matter how well intentioned, compromise the ability of the people of Ferguson and Greater St. Louis to speak. That goes not only for us talking heads, but for our activists brothers and sisters who want to help either on the ground or from afar. The way forward may be led by many forces, and the fight against police brutality is certainly larger than the death of one, two, ten young men. Still, we must let Ferguson speak for Ferguson.

To that point, is looking for people from Ferguson and Greater St. Louis to contribute short essays to “Ferguson Forward: STL Standing,” a series dedicated to highlighting local voices.

How have you been affected by the events of the past month? What do people across the world need to know about your hometown? We want YOU to be at the heart of the narrative and we want you to tell your stories.

Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

—Jamilah Lemieux, Senior Editor