It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since then-Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson’s bullets plowed through the body of 19-year-old Michael Brown Jr.
One year since the teen’s slain body was left lying in the middle of Canfield Drive in the sweltering heat for four hours, his warm blood trickling down the pavement, the responding rage exploding in the air.
Before Ashley Yates, Tef Poe, Erika Totten, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie became high-profile names; before we knew to turn to Alderman Antonio French for updates via Vine; before Kendrick Lamar hit us with another freedom anthem, “Alright,” building on 2011’s “HiiiPower“; before we even knew Brown’s last name, #BlackTwitter rose up like a tidal wave and amplified tweets from Ferguson locals spreading the word that their homie #MikeMike had been gunned down by a white cop with a happy trigger finger.
This is so sad like RIP Mike Mike you didn’t deserve to get shot 9 times AT ALL!
— JND✨ (@JassyArab) August 9, 2014
— JoJo Lowkey 1/15 (@iLoveJaiKyra) August 9, 2014
Smh R.I.P mike mike.! ????????
— Track Phenom (@athletic_chicc) August 9, 2014
What the hell is going on in Ferguson?! pic.twitter.com/S5Yjnns6bU
— Tammie Holland (@TammieHolland) August 9, 2014
“You just doing too much,” said Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s distraught mother, on the scene after her son was gunned down, her lacerating gaze filled with unspeakable pain. “You just shot all through my baby body.”
The subsequent uprising to seek justice in his name was just the beginning of hyperfocus on a place that would become ground zero for a fully intersectional social-justice movement focused on the dismantling of white supremacy and its attack dogs: police departments across America.
There have been many apt comparisons made between the Watts rebellion of 1965 and the Ferguson uprising, which happened almost 50 years later to the day. Still, the small Missouri town became this generation’s Selma, Ala., a sacred place, a mecca to which social-justice warriors felt compelled to trek. Michael Brown became our Jimmie Lee Jackson, Darren Wilson became James Bonard Fowler and we became filled with the “fierce urgency of now.”
My feelings this time last year were clear: “The anger—hot, hard, fast—intensified until the words ‘[F–k] the police’ burst free. That guttural call-to-arms, which has seared the Hip-Hop generation’s consciousness since N.W.A. put our collective frustration into words, found a home amid the cacophony of rage building on social media and the streets of Ferguson where a community unchained refused to be silenced, even as police tanks and dogs tried their best to intimidate them.”
Those feelings remain firmly intact.
Brown’s state-sanctioned killing led to the intensifying of a perpetual struggle for black safety in a land where our flesh is more valuable as a commodity than as shelter for our humanity. Even though malicious pundits and politicians insisted that the Ferguson teen wasn’t worth the effort, his will be remembered as the death—among so many; too many deaths—through which the mechanisms of anti-black racism were illuminated as if under a black light in a dark, filthy room.
From militarized tanks and rubber bullets to curfews and the unlawful arrests of a free press, this country proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it demands our docility even in the face of relentless brutality or else we immediately become enemies of the state.