Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts, emotions, and awareness…

Longtime readers know that I’m a bit addicted to the history of social justice movements. After this week, I can’t help pondering how the distance of time informs the way events are viewed. I have lived through more than my fair share of before and after events…those moments that shift everything and never fade away. Ferguson now joins that list…and the only thing I’m certain of is that nothing will ever be the same.

Thoughts…
Nothing like a rapidly unfolding social justice happening to remind the masses why the press matters, that black radio has a unique and important role in our community, and that citizen journalism matters. 

For folk following around the world, coverage from journalists on the ground have helped them better understand what’s going on in Ferguson and how we got here.

For those of us who live in the St. Louis area, many of us are grateful even as we accept the reality that this level of coverage will not hold…even as the fear of what the eyes of the world shifting away hovers over every day.

For now, the whole world is watching and that is a good thing.

Emotions…
Last night I finally took a moment to have a serious cry.

Not quiet or delicate, but ugly and intense. 

I let all of the emotion of the past week roll over me until my lungs hurt and my hands curled into a fist so tight my nails left marks.

I needed that…even though it didn’t make it all better, even though it didn’t purge a damn thing.

I just needed to release the pressure, because we’ve got another week ahead of us, and long road left to march.

Awareness…
Years ago, I wrote about the death of Anna Brown, a young black mother who was denied healthcare at a local hospital then arrested for trespassing only to be left to die in agony from blood clots on a jail cell floor. When I shared the post on Facebook, I also linked to an article in our daily newspaper and cautioned readers not to read the comments. One reader asked why I added that caution…why I didn’t read the comments to find out how other folk felt about the incident. And I told her that my experience was that many comments were awful, callous and cruel celebrations of oppression, assault, death or humiliation…and I added that it is extra painful, somehow more jarring, to know that the people saying horrible things are my fellow St. Louisans.

Fast forward to the now…and I can’t dodge those comments. There is no filter at the grocery store, waiting at the Walgreens, reading Facebook or Twitter hashtag feeds.

And its more than just a lot of opinions about the killing of Michael Brown or the events still evolving in Ferguson…there’s more here than just a difference of perspective.

There is that same celebration of oppression, assault, death and humiliation that dominates the comment section of my local daily newspaper…offered up without shame sometimes by people I’ve known for years.

This past week I’ve seen the best of many and the worst of more than I would have predicted.

Kind of sums up the whole happening that is Ferguson – our best and worst, our accomplishments and our failings, what we are getting right and what we need to fix, and why we can’t all just agree to disagree then move on as if nothing happened.

So…

Ferguson is now on my list of before and after happenings…

…and the only thing I’m certain of is that nothing will ever be the same. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meanwhile, in Missouri…

Hi, y’all.

I’ve been busy offline, but you had to know that I’d be back to write about the events taking place in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. 

Last night, Ferguson was filled with more protests…more teargas, rubber bullets, and the violent arrest of at least two journalists and one St. Louis city Alderman. As I write this, Alderman Antonio French is still being held in a Ferguson jail.

I woke up this morning pondering one of my favorite quotes…

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Aeschylus

Shall we?

I am a St. Louisan.

I grew up here…left for college as soon as my ass could…and then I moved back in my 30’s to be close to my family.

St. Louis is my home…all of it…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This past Saturday, 18 year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis city, just north of where I live. Michael Brown was unarmed. Witnesses report that he had his hands up and told the police that he did not have a gun…and then he was shot dead.

What has followed the killing of Michael Brown is a public demonstration of oppression – racism, abuse of power, denial of the right to assemble, and denial of freedom of the press, all wrapped up in one horrific happening.

I’m disgusted…alarmed, fearful, and angry. 

But I am not surprised.

This level of disdain and disrespect aimed at certain communities within the metro area ain’t breaking news for folk who live here. Thisis business as usual.

This is our America.

Where people of color are harassed for walking down neighborhood streets… Where far too many of those charged to protect and serve call us animals, pull us over for the crime of driving while black, use teargas against peaceful demonstrators, and muster in our neighborhoods prepared to shoot first and then play the odds that no one will bother with questions later.

It is important to note that St. Louis County and Ferguson authorities are well aware that the whole world is watching.

They know that national and international journalists are on the ground covering this story.

Yet, here we are…watching unarmed residents confronted by teargas, tanks, rubber bullets…tools used by a ragtag wanna-be army of police officers against the very population whose tax dollars pay their salary.

A lot of people are asking…if this is what the police do when the whole world is watching, what do they do when they think no one is watching?

The answer? They do whatever the hell they want to do.

After watching what has followed the shooting of Michael Brown, it isn’t hard to believe that a police officer approached two teens walking home without cause…it isn’t a stretch to believe that the shooting that followed was an overreaction, because it appears that hyper-aggressive overreactions are par for the course in Ferguson.

The takes us back to this being business as usual…to a history of unchecked authority, escalating harassment, and a total lack of accountability.

People are angry. We’ve been angry. We expect the killing of Michael Brown to go unanswered by a system unfamiliar with justice. Folk are condition to anticipate another sorta-investigation…another sensational trial (if there is a trial), complete with a strategic change of location to anywhere but North County and an artfully selected jury that will then hand down yet another free pass that sends the message to hunt at will.

After the events of the last five days, how the hell is anyone supposed to trust St. Louis County officials to find justice for Michael Brown? 

Right now, I doubt they even know the definition of the word.

Blink.

My condolences go out to the family of Michael Brown. May they find comfort in his memory, and may he rest in peace.