It’s been three years today since Michael Brown–an unarmed teenage boy, just a kid, still showing the signs of childhood in his face–was murdered for the high crime of being Black in Ferguson, Missouri. After the cop shot him, they left his body laying unceremoniously in the street for hours. They then threw his body in the back of a van and drove off. People were already gathered in shock and protest. And in the ensuing weeks, the protests continued to grow as the town rose up against the violence systematically perpetrated against them by the police and the state. People swarmed from around the country. Amnesty International sent representatives. The state of Missouri brought in the National Guard.
I, a young woman with a social justice bone to pick with the world but still no concept of just how ingrained into the system all the issues I saw were, watched. I logged onto Twitter the second I woke up in the morning, and left it open all day, for weeks, refreshing to see new tragedies and new victories as the resistance developed. This was not the first Black Lives Matter movement, but it was the one that began to radicalize me. I saw the way independent reporters on the ground and people who uploaded actual video footage of what was happening told their stories on Twitter, and I saw that in contrast to how the mainstream media was reporting the events. I saw the way the government spokespeople lied to our faces. I saw the way our liberal Democrat president, our first Black president, and someone I had once upon a time admired, did absolutely nothing to help a people he claimed were his own. I saw that what got global attention, what began to change hearts and minds, was this mass movement. I saw solidarity from around the world; the way the people even of war-torn or impoverished countries sent messages of support and unity to the people of Ferguson, showing that as divided as we are sometimes, at the end of the day we can all come together to fight for ourselves and each other. I saw, for the first time, a connection between different oppressions, and a glimmer of hope for actually challenging them at their root. I changed.
It took me a while to find Marxism after that, but when I did, it didn’t take much deliberating to know it was the answer to the questions I was asking because of Ferguson.
Michael Brown didn’t deserve to die. Neither did Trayvon Martin, or Philando Castile, or Freddie Gray, or Sandra Bland, or Eric Garner, or Quanice Hayes. Neither did any of the other Black and Brown people murdered by police and immigration and the other agents of force the state employs. That, to me, is without question. And how do we stop these deaths? We fight. We organize. We gather. We protest. We move. We do not stay silent.
This is my gentle reminder to you not to give up, even when things feel down. Movements come in waves, don’t get discouraged in the down times. Take care of yourself, and then get up and keep fighting. Remember Michael Brown, and the people of Ferguson who stood in the face of rows of armed riot police, pointing military-grade weapons in their faces. Who poured milk into each other’s eyes after being gassed with leftover cold war-era military stockpiles. Who kept taking to the streets in righteous fury despite the risks; despite the opposition.
There will be days when it doesn’t feel like we could ever win. But we can…I believe that with all my heart, mind and spirit.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.