Friday, August 7, 2015

One Year, Many Stories

It would be disingenuous of me to minimize the difficulty of the last year.

The family, first and foremost, suffered the most egregious loss imaginable.

Their firstborn son was not only murdered by the Ferguson Police Department, but his body was left in the middle of the street, to bake in hot August sun, for four-and-one-half-hours.

His mother was kept from his body.

His community had to look at his body.

Mothers in the community had to answer unconsciouble questions from their own children.

There were many whys.

The hours wore on and hell was breaking loose in Canfield.

While this was happening, I was first at a funeral and repass and then a later-night-dinner, celebrating and honoring the life of one of three family elder gentleman who went from life-to-reward. We all turned our phones off to be present, to mourn together and remember together. Family pictures were taken, cousins who lived across the nation from each other were smiling behind tears.

Then, sitting at a restaurant on Lindberg in Hazelwood, I turned on my phone.

Notice after notice was popping up about a boy who had been shot in Ferguson.

My cousins and I didn't even know where that was.

We ended our repass and found ourselves greeted on Sunday morning with news of the actions of the police department. We were supposed to be celebrating the going-away-party of a  young cousin who was heading off to Stephens College.

It was at her celebration that we learned there was to be a vigil that night, Sunday, up in Ferguson.

My son was still home from college.

We decided, after the party, that we should go.

We lived in Kirkwood and didn't know where to go, so we exited at New Florissant Road and found ourselves in the middle of a very long line of cars being directed around side streets by the Ferguson Police Department. It was impossible to drive straight through, so we parked across from the Subway Lot. Little did we know then that that very lot would be part of ground zero for more protests.

I did what would become something I would do several times in the next year, gather the children. We had the adults who did not have children to surround the children and parents. We prayed. That is what we do, we prayed for protection, for understanding, for justice, for answers, for peace, for so many things on that night.

When the children and I were driving back South, we saw over a dozen police cars zooming up North. We still didn't know where West Florissant Road was. We remembered hearing about unrest on West Flo, but didn't now what that was, just talked about the news crews packing up and leaving the women and children on New Florissant Road.

The news coverage was overwhelming. My son and I were riveted between twitter and facebook and MSNBC that I watched before a later spring storm would zapp my TV.

Day after day, night after night, it was Ferguson. We drove up more times, I managed the School of Peace in the Ferguson Public Library, I gave interviews. We talked, we tried to undertand, we knew we were in the middle of something big.

Weeks kept going, groups started to form, groups like Lost Voices were camping out to call attention to what was happening.. Their story became known to many when they work up one morning to find nooses at their campsite.

Mama Cat and Charles Wade with Operation Help or Hush were feeding hundreds of people for Community Sunday Dinners on the Andy Werm parking lot. That lot had become the new community center after the Quik Trip burned down.

My daughters and I showed up one of those first Sundays and asked where we could help. I was given a pair of plastic gloves and started serving. My girls were chatting with Ashley Yates and met KB, Faces that are like family to me now, faces that are now greeted with hugs of comrardarie, were strangers back then. We were living in Kirkwood and not from the region at all, didn't know anyone.

Black trusted black and became family across miles separating the region. Stories were shared, learning took place.

The early days long before t-shirts, buttons, and gofundme accounts, long before outside funders and tourist activists, long before action councils and outside funders picking and choosing, long before meeting spaces, television interviews, twitter celebrities, viners, livestreamers, before trips abroad, panel discussions, and before commissions, before any of those things that some still question now, there were simply people standing on corners with signs demanding justice.

Months and months were met with actions of many to keep striking the alarm that things were not right in St. Louis.

I am not unlike many who have been examining the last year through multiple lenses. Even as the day anniversary (Saturday) is fastly approaching the date anniverary (Sunday, August 9, 2015), there are likely thousands of thoughts in thousands of heads.

Chief among those has to be with Mike Brown, Sr.and his wife Cal. Lezley McSpadden and her family. The cousins, siblings, and relatives on all sides, all of them lost someone they loved and cherished. I can imaging those thoughts, feelings, numbness, and sheer exhaustion of the last year.

Many are planning to descend upon Ferguson, if they are not already here. Multiple groups have organized concerts, dinners, marches, talks, and other actions to commemmorate a moment that became a worldwide movement.

I hope the family has a chance to secret away and tend to the heart.

That first year was hard.

Many mothers have lost children since August 8, 2014.

Many fathers are in a club no one wants to be a member of.

My thirteen-year-old daughter wondered aloud if anything has changed since last year.

We saw uprisings in multiple cities as more and more black lives were shown to not matter. We saw young teen girls' bodies tossed about at a swim party, young black men shot in a toy aisle, a church shooting that rocked us to the core, a brave young woman demanding that the confederate flag come down now, a young woman murdered for changing lanes. The stories became too many to keep up with and too many assaults on the emotions.

I am probably not unlike many parents who have had to pick and choose how much to expose to their young children.

Mine have been to selected marches and events, vigils and meetings, panels and discussions. I've make conscious decisions not to expose them at night when the police were most dangerous, I've had to remember the over four hundred years of history and resistance of black people in this country. We are only fifty years post Civil Rights Movement, some of the older racists are still alive, some of the newer ones, the Millennials like the Charleston church killer (I refuse to type his name) learned from the decade of hate and fear the GOP/TP has spewed to their "base."

There were and are lessons about local politics and the importance of the vote. There were ideological shifts and tugs of what was once normal. Black Lives Matter became more than a hashtag and a political demand in the recent Netroots Nation stage taking from the progressive candidates. The polite racism of the democrats was called into question at the same time that white allies demanded that their white friends do white folk work. They learned to educate themselves on subtle bias and how their privilege makes black lives dangerous.

As this anniverary approaches within hours and we wonder what has changed, we also know there are those prepared to do harm prepared to arrest, and others prepared to make it another feather in their cap. What will happen in the next  year? It is an election year, will the demand be sustaining that justice prevail like what we learned happened to the murderer of Jordan Davis. We already know the policeman, Darren Wilson, has escaped accountability and remorse, but what about the others? Some have been charged like in Baltimore after what happened to Freddie Gray and others remain uncharged like the ones who killed Sandra Bland.

We all wonder what will happen and if we can ever just catch our breath from this collective trauma.

Many have tried to go on with their normal lives

One of my sons was married just a few weeks before Mike Mike was murdered. His infant son is now two weeks old.

My baby girl and last child has purchased her last school supply and is ready for middle school.

My youngest son got a job on campus and didn't spend the summer at home, he remained in Montgomery to start his senior year and fourth term as an SGA Senator.

We've had illnesses and death, babies and birthdays, weddings and graduations. Life in the midst and against the backdrop of a moment that changed everything.

It has been one year, there are many, many stories. Some may be told this weekend, others will just be something future grandchildren will learn about when they ask parents and grandparents of what they did way back in the New Movement. Time will keep ticking as Africans in America keep demanding the right to be fully human and existent in this land none of the ancestors wanted to be home.

Stories are told to commemmorate and honor, to remember and reflect. I hope to alive to tell my grandson about The Ferguson Movement, the New Movement. I hope that the world will be different, as my daughter said when she led her children's march, "so we don't have to deal with this when we ae your age." As there is nothing new under the sun, man's inhumanity to man will continue to be a wrestling match of a new era. We just hope there won't be more Mike Mikes, but sadly, already know the epilogue of this tale.


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