Where should I begin? Should I list the accomplishments? Listing how quickly we were invited to the White House? Or how the Ferguson movement is nine months longer than the Selma campaign and will surely eclipse the length of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts? How people from Paris to Palestine have stood in solidarity with Ferguson? Or maybe how youth across the country are politically engaged in ways that haven’t been seen since the 1970’s?
Or maybe the disappointments? How former Attorney General Holder condemns Ferguson’s law enforcement activities on paper but not in action? Or how President Obama will only speak of mass incarceration in a systematic way but never acknowledging how people of color are disproportionately incarcerated at higher rates? How “Ferguson” was used as a bad word by Charleston clergy after a church was bombed by a White supremacist, as if we wrote the book on how not to react in the face of injustice? Or how the millions that have allegedly come into Ferguson has went to not those who have organized and protested but to those who those were bought and paid for prior to August 9th 2014?
A year later, we’re still getting killed by police, like a tragic version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” Black women like Brittney Ferrell and Alexis Templeton have been targeted, arrested, and overcharged following protests, as a Black woman sits for the first time as the United States Attorney General and another woman runs for President. They both are near silent on these issues. White vigilantes by the name of the Oath Keepers were allowed to come to a peaceful protest armed just 24 hours after Tyrone Harris is shot by undercover police officers from a unmarked car for possessing a gun in a open carry state. Clergy like Rev Sekou, Dr Cornel West, and Pastor Traci Blackmon were denied entrance into a public building to deliver a letter and were then arrested by Homeland Security. Ferguson protesters were again tear gassed and pepper sprayed once again, even after the United Nations has said that those acts were clear violations of the Geneva agreement.
These atrocities were caught on camera for the world to see and again, the world had turned a blind eye to Black pain and Black suffering. Anywhere else in the world if Americans were watching a fascist regime shoot and/or kill a few citizens a day while incarcerating hundreds daily, people would be outraged. If Americans watched pictures of people living in squalor, malnourished, deprived of adequate education, and not given access to a livable wage, we would be infuriated. If we watched as people had to not only be jailed for speaking out against state violence but were also being subjected to mass gun violence, we would say “Let’s go save those people. How can we help those people. Where can I donate?”
But those question never come to places like Ferguson. We get politicians telling us to wait until the next voting cycle to make a change. And we get the first black President of the United States ignoring our cries.
How do Black people stay optimistic? Being told to work your troubles away, vote your troubles away. pray your troubles away–everything but fight your troubles away. Well, we in Ferguson will not go silently off into the night. We will do what we were taught in overcrowded, underfunded public school classrooms. We put the foundation of this country’s morals and constitution on trial for the world to see. And we will do so with a word from one of the country’s “Founding Fathers,” former slave owner, Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Organize our power, we shall!
Tory Russell is a community organizer in Ferguson and the Greater St. Louis area. He is also a co-founder of a organization called Hands Up United. For more info on him or their work you can go to HandsUpUnited.org or find him on Twitter @HotepTNT.