On Aug. 9 2014, I was in my apartment packing for a weeklong trip to Chicago. I had been asked to host a fundraiser in my hometown and had decided to use this as an opportunity to take some time away from work. The past year was starting to catch up with me: I had a 1-year-old daughter who refused to sit still, a childhood friend had recently died unexpectedly and burnout was fast approaching.
At some point that afternoon, the images of Mike Brown’s body lying on Canfield Drive hit my Twitter timeline. I was vaguely familiar with Tef Poe because of his music and knew Vandalyzm threw an ex-boyfriend and through their tweets, I was able to follow what was going on. But I was afraid to get too consumed by what was happening because I remembered the sleepless nights after the death of Trayvon Martin and feeling like I could not function normally for weeks at a time, totally consumed with this poor child and frustration over everything that happened.
“No, I need this break,” I told myself. I wasn’t going to get on work mode. I’d been handling EBONY.com’s news coverage almost entirely by myself for almost three years, and the emotional toll was real.
And then, August 10th happened. We saw the smear campaign begin against the deceased and how the complete unwillingness of the Ferguson Police Department to treat a grieving community with respect had set off a series of events that would make protest inevitable. We saw how various other local police departments were militarized and deployed against the people of Ferguson who had came to demand answers in the death of an unarmed teenager.
That was the end of my vacation. I got on work mode. I was consumed and obsessively followed the story as best as I could from my mom’s living room. I took Naima to the local National Moment of Silence rally. She had on a “Black Girls Are Magic” onesie. I cried, knowing that while she is magic, she’s also unprotected and will eventually be seen as a threat to armed police officers.
The following Saturday, I boarded a plane to St. Louis for the first time ever. I wanted to see what was happening for myself. I wanted to tell the truth about what was happening to people who may not have been able to see Ferguson outside the lens of mainstream cable networks. And I wanted to amplify the voices of the people who were doing work.
This is just my story. It’s not the important one. The important ones are those told by the people responsible for making “Ferguson” more than a hashtag or a moment. You can read a lot of those stories here.
My life and my work will never be the same. In the past year, I have connected with young folks who are being written in history books as the leaders of the first post-Civil Rights/Black Power movement in our country’s history. I was privileged to bear witness to unrest, to resistance and to a rebirth of Black radical thought and action, one our people needed so desperately and I am privileged to be back here this weekend for the eight time, as we mark the events of last August and remember the young person whose death changed the world.
Today, I say thank you to the people of the Ferguson movement for your resilience and for challenging us all to shed our complacency.
Thank you to the family of Mike Brown for being unforgiving and unbowed.
Thank you to the families of all victims of police violence who have raised your voices in this fight.
Thank you to the Organization for Black Struggle for both being consistent and ready to expand.
Thank you to the Lost Voices for being loud and turning up.
Thank you, Hands Up United, for providing opportunities.
Thank you, Millennial Activists United, for demanding intersectionality.
Thank you to folks like Rev. Starsky Wilson, Pastor Traci Blackmon and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou for continuing the tradition of radical Black theology.
Thank you, We The Protestors, for tools and resources.
Thank you to Black Lives Matter for making it plain.
Thank you to the journalists who let their experiences here led them on a quest to interrogate law enforcement.
Thank you, Ferguson. Thank you!
Jamilah Lemieux is EBONY.com’s Senior Editor. Views expressed here are her own.