by Kenya Vaughn, Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
“I just want to give love to my family and my friends – my new friends and my world,” Michael Brown Sr. told the crowd. “Y’all are my world.”
His remarks were the briefest among those selected to speak in honor of his son Michael Brown Jr.’s life on the first anniversary of his death.
At 18 years old, Brown was killed before he could truly live.
Yet the phenomenon of prolific unrest that his death incited reignited the conversation on the broken relationship between law enforcement and the Black community – and assured he will never be forgotten.
As the sun beat down at the very spot where Michael Brown Jr.’s life ended at the hands of former Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, the commemoration and silent march served as a reminder that the fight was not over.
“This year has been so hard. No accountability, no justice. And police are still killing us,” said Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner.
She was in attendance, as were the family of Oscar Grant, who was killed by an Oakland transit cop on News Year’s Day 2009.
Erica has become an activist in the wake of her father’s death, which took place a mere three weeks before Michael Brown Jr. was fatally shot by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. His death was captured on video, though the New York police officer who administered the choke hold that ended his life would not face criminal charges.
“It’s a crisis that’s going on. People like Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose – that shouldn’t happen,” Erica said. “We’re being killed on camera. Females are dying in jail cells with no explanation.”
As hundreds piled into the Canfield Green Apartments, acknowledgment was given by Michael Brown Sr. and others for starting a movement from the ground up –and refusing to let Michael Brown Jr.’s death get swept under the rug.
“I’m not speaking to nobody but the street brothers,” said Anthony Shahid, who has worked closely with the Brown family since Michael Brown Jr.’s death. “I want to give acknowledgment to them for starting this up. If it wasn’t for these youth in these streets, none of us would be out here.”
Sunday morning’s march was preceded by four –and-a-half minutes of silence, to symbolize the amount of hours that Michael Brown Jr.’s body would lie in the street.
As residents looked on at the gathering, the trauma of what happened a year before was still on their faces.
Before he could be quiet Shahid, or Brother Shahid as he is known in the community, had some choice words for those who speak against the protests, the family and demonized Michael Brown, Jr. in death.
“We’re not anti-police so don’t try to get that off – I’ve got brothers in my family that are police,” Shahid said. “We’re talking about people like Darren Wilson – who are shooting us down in the streets and stripping us of our human rights.”
Shahid promised to commence to silence at 12:02 – the moment Michael Brown Jr. was killed – he made his feelings known until the very second it was time to pause.
“What’s the lion’s name…Cecil. Cecil got treated better than us. Quit dogging us,” Shahid said. “You ask us how we feel, how the hell do you think we feel? Then you wanna put the mic in my face and think I’m gonna be out here playing with y’all. Y’all wanna tell us about being peaceful, you be peaceful. You the ones shooting us down.”
Activist Bree Newsome, the family of Oscar Grant and Dr. Cornel West were among those who came to pay their respects. Renowned spoken word artist Jessica Care Moore moved the crowd with a tribute.
“I see Michael Brown’s face in my son’s eyes every morning,” Moore said in her poem.
Leading the second march in as many days, Michael Brown Sr. and Chosen For Change Foundation that he works with in his son’s honor, the pain had him almost beyond words. Tears streamed from his wife and Michael Brown Jr’s. surviving siblings who sat near the front of the podium.
But through his pain, it was easy to recognize the sense of pride that he felt for a community that refused to allow his son’s death to be in vain.
“Y’all made this happen,” Michael Brown Sr. said. “Y’all are my new world.”