FERGUSON, Mo.–Fire still burns in Ferguson, not the fires that attracted mainstream media, but the fire and desire for liberation in this St. Louis suburb struck by an uprising and protests that captured the world’s attention.
Fire burns in the hearts of young people coming into a political and social awakening, in the hearts of so-called gang members who now see a common enemy and a system of racial oppression, and in the hearts of children who are hearing different messages from their parents, families and hip hop artists and sharing a different message with parents and grandparents.
The message? Things can never go back to where they were before Darren Wilson, a White police officer, shot unarmed Black teen Mike Brown down in the streets of the Canfield Green Apartments in early August.
It doesn’t matter that the cameras are gone because there weren’t enough physical fires, not enough tear gas filled encounters between police and protestors and not enough bloody conflict to hold the attention of White-owned media. Nothing more to see here, they said. They have moved on.
But the people of Ferguson and Black America have not moved on. There are still protests and demonstrations, like a major highway shutdown for 4 minutes and 30 seconds set for Sept. 10 to mark the 4 hours and 30 minutes “Mike Mike’s” body lay in the street.
The traffic shutdown isn’t an ending; it is a continuation of a march of 10,000 people in the streets of Ferguson on Aug. 30 through misty showers to downpours of rain. Nothing put that fire out. The Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition organized that demonstration and backed the traffic shutdown. That coalition includes street activist Anthony Shahid, A. Akbar Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, Zaki Baruti of The Universal African Peoples Organization, State Senator Jamilah Nasheed, Atty. Gerald Christmas and others.
Other groups, like the Organization for Black Struggle, have held protests and rallies. Groups like Lost Voices, an organization of young people, are street soldiers ready to do battle for justice and an end to daily indignities, denial opportunities and targeting by the White power structure–from the police to the media to apologists for the system.
Protests have been held shutting down streets in Washington, D.C., and other cities as the chant “I am Mike Brown!” rings and bounces off of buildings.
What is needed and what is happening is greater action, greater organizing, greater leadership development and, we pray, a deepening commitment.
The shutdown of Interstate 70 in St. Louis is part of the civil disobedience campaign and demands that Officer Wilson be charged, tried and convicted, that the county prosecutor step away from the Brown case, that small municipal police departments be subjected to federal scrutiny and that the extortion of Black people through tickets, fines, court appearances and racial profiling end and end now.
The FBI is now looking at Ferguson Police and St. Louis County Police, but our call is for federal scrutiny of all departments because the problem exists in police forces across the state, said activist Baruti. The point person for the highway shutdown was attorney Eric Vickers.
Ferguson is a “test case for the entire country” and Missouri needs to be the Show Me State for how to deal with racial profiling, Mr. Baruti added.
A Canfield Green town hall sponsored and organized by The Final Call and backed by the Mighty Fruit of Islam, who handed out fliers, got the sound system and set up the meeting outside under a tree, was put together to focus on those who perhaps suffered the most trauma and who knew Mike Brown best.
His memorial lies on their street and throngs are now visiting almost daily. People watching, praying, taking pictures, marching. Some serve the neighborhood. Others serve themselves.
As I moderated the town hall, and shared words from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, I urged that community to organize to ensure their place at the table. Without organizing others will surely speak for them, reap the benefits and those who suffered will be left behind.
I talked about the need for strong political participation, not just registering voters but fielding candidates who can and will represent the people. Ferguson is 67 percent Black. Why should White minority rule be allowed? Why shouldn’t we govern ourselves since we are the majority and already separate from the White community? Ferguson must make that change or Blacks will continue to suffer under White oppression.
This is also not a time for spectators but a time for participants. We should be having I Am Mike Brown town hall meetings all across the country, calling for forceful federal intervention in Ferguson and crafting strategies to deal with the local problems of police brutality and police murder.
We need to build Black businesses and do for ourselves what others are doing and disrespecting us at the same time. We must change that ourselves.
We need to look at all the strategies and follow the money, or rather withhold the money as part of the push for justice. Anthony Shahid is already on that page and so are others. “There won’t be a Merry Christmas this year if they don’t handle this right,” promised Brother Shahid.
But America has more to lose than just X-Mas. If she doesn’t handle Ferguson properly, the entire country could literally go up in flames.
(Richard B. Muhammad is editor in chief of The Final Call Newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]. Find him on Facebook at Richard B. Muhammad and follow him on Twitter: @RMfinalcall.)