At the Corner Coffee House on North Florissant Road, Ruffina Farrokh Anklesaria and a group of community members gathered to collect donations for a local youth initiative and to help rebuild local businesses, sign up volunteers and distribute T-shirts and yard signs with "I [heart] Ferguson" printed on the front.
"It's a beehive of activity here," she says.
The coffee shop is about two blocks away from the spot on West Florissant Road where many of the riots and protests have occurred in the wake of the shooting and killing of Michael Brown. Anklesaria says their goal is to help reshape the image of their small, once-sleepy, town after recent headlines have painted a picture of hate, poor race relations and police brutality.
"This is small town USA, Ferguson is, and this could have happened in any community," she says. "It happened to be in ours."
Anklesaria has lived in Ferguson for the last 11 years, but she's originally from Trinidad.
Courtesy of Ruffina Farrokh Anklesaria
She came to the US 15 years ago and married her husband, Farrokh, a lawyer originally from Mumbai. They eventually settled in Ferguson, bought several properties, established a few businesses and raised their two teenage daughters.
"When I moved here, I had to get used to the fact that there are two distinct cultures co-existing in here — where you have 'African American' and 'other.' But in my country — my home country of Trinidad — there is an integration that I do not see here. It's not as evident here."
"For example," she says, "you even have the term 'African American.' Why don't you just have 'American' as in Trinidad we are all Trinidadians. We don't have African Trinidadians, and Indian Trinidadians, we are all Trinidadians. But I find as a result the tensions between the two are more evident here in the United States. Not [just] in Ferguson, but in any part of the United States you go, you will find this divide. It just so happened that that incident sparked what is already existing all over the United States."