I am standing at Michael Brown’s memorial on Canfield Drive. I have seen this location repeatedly on my TV screen — the location where 18-year-old Brown’s life was taken. Three weeks later, the air is thick with an oppressive heat. Not far from me is Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, gazing down at the sea of notes, dried flowers and relics on the pavement for her baby boy. Her kind of strength is one that I have never had to muster. Have you ever seen a mother weep for her child? It is a kind of pain that billows and echoes across space and time. It will knock the wind out of you. Even as a stranger to this neighborhood and kind of loss, I am suffocated by the immensity of this moment.
This past Labor Day weekend, people from across the country traveled to Ferguson, MO in solidarity with the Brown family, to demand that Darren Wilson be convicted, and to mobilize in order to transform the inept justice system in this country that has never protected Black bodies. We were a group of Black healers, filmmakers, lawyers, coders, writers and community organizers. We held hands, provided services to the community, protested, threw up Black power fists and cried in church services and 20-hour bus rides. We traveled to Ferguson under the group name Black Lives Matter because we know this statement to be true, even if the rest of America does not.
But this weekend was not about us, really. It was ultimately about Ferguson, a working class, tight-knit community that simply wants what every living, breathing person in this world does: peace and the freedom to exist. Speaking to the residents of Ferguson, I know now what kind of pain seeps through its streets. The evening news cannot frame this type of visceral experience; only the people on the ground, living these tales first- hand can. The people of Ferguson are hurt, enraged, and the true seekers of justice. Teen groups like The Lost Voices have camped out in tents and organized since Brown’s murder, local rapper Tef Poe continues to be a voice for the community, and in the spirit of Ella Baker and so many other sisters at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement, Black women are putting their lives on the line in Ferguson in ways that the media has yet to explore or acknowledge. There is a storm brewing in Ferguson, and it is forcing America to rip of the convenient Band-Aid it has placed over racism and militarized police brutality for far, far too long. And if the law enforcement or the government does not address this festering wound, we the people will.
Ferguson is America’s past, present and future. The people of this community will not let us forget, and we never should. So as the news cameras begin to unplug and reporters stop writing crafty headlines, remember that the people in Ferguson are still fighting and so should we, because our lives matter.