Iyanla Vanzant: I won't 'betray' Ferguson community

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Iyanla Vanzant says she felt compelled to travel to Ferguson, Missouri, after watching hours of coverage on the unrest.

“I said you know what, I have an opportunity,” Vanzant said in an interview on Tuesday. “I’m going to take that opportunity. I want to know what the people on the ground are saying. I wanted to hear the untold story. I wanted to be there as it unfolded.”

Vanzant did not make her journey alone. The spiritual guru and host of the award-winning series “Iyanla: Fix My Life” brought along a television production crew.

The anticipated “Iyanla: Fix My Life – Special Report: Healing in Ferguson” airs tonight amid a wave of social media chatter.

Breaking from the tradition of the series format, Vanzant takes to the streets of Ferguson to embed herself in the community to promote peace and healing in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting.

“The community was in a state of anger and sadness and fear,” said 60-year-old Vanzant. “Anger that it happened again, sadness that their voices were not being heard and fear that nothing different was going to come out of it.”

In a whirlwind three-day tour, she visits the protest area and memorial, listening to those affected by the tragic events to help empower them to move past their anger.

“These young men that I spoke to were articulate, they were clear, they were concerned, they were outraged and they had ideas,” she said. “What they don’t have is leadership and direction.”

Not stopping there, Vanzant hosts a discussion with community leaders and residents, alongside pastors and rival gang members. Her main focus is the youth.

“I put together a group of young people, aged nineteen to thirty-four, young men, former gang members, and gave them something to do,” she said. “Keep the peace until this legal process unfolds.  I believe Ferguson is small enough to galvanize the people to do something different, so that it becomes a model we can spread across the country, which includes the voices of the young people.”

The bedrock of Vanzant’s work on her show and through her ministry has focused on resolving conflict and guiding people in crisis to move past their pain.

Still, the premise of Tuesday’s show has not been without critics. A screen shot of Vanzant, alongside besieged Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson and Michael Brown’s uncle, pastor Charles Ewing, has been recycled. The image has not gone down well with Black Twitter.

Vanzant is clearly hurt.

“I don’t have a history of betraying my community,” she said. “I didn’t set up the meeting with him [Ferguson police chief]. The family set up the meeting.”

In response to her critics, Vanzant plans to go back to complete her work without the fanfare or cameras.

“I am going back, absolutely, because of the group of young men I’ve put together. I don’t need the media to cover that. You don’t do your strategic planning on the news. The reason cameras went this time was because I did not see in the media the everyday person. The people I talked to, nobody else talked to. The places I went, nobody else went.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter @Kunbiti.