Usually, during this time of year, we are dishing on the hottest trends for students who are headed back to school. But with the tragic killing of Michael Brown, it doesn’t seem appropriate for me to give the latest scoop on style and fashion trends.
Despite the sadness surrounding the injustice that has taken place here, young Black youth throughout the St. Louis area have taken this tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to make a statement to confront the despicable, racist practices that not only the police throughout our region practice, but that the larger racist institutions in our society promote.
Specifically, the now famous photo of the young man throwing the tear gas canister back at the police while holding a bag of Red Hot Riplets potato chips will forever be synonymous with the “We are not going to let you mistreat us anymore!” tone of the times. Other pictures of protestors in various statement T-shirts – branding slogans like “Justice for Mike Brown,” “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and “Stop Killing Us!” – will be forever engrained in us.
Instead of pop or political figures being the face of a movement, the youth of St. Louis have now been seen and heard. They are not out here just posing for the cameras. Their sincerity and authentic disposition has been documented for history to tell how when faced with blatant injustice, there can be no pacifying us with what they think we want to hear. Local faces are national heroes and are now the face of the movement.
For me, being on the ground in Ferguson since the Sunday after Michael was killed has afforded me a firsthand account of not how the police botched their relationship with the community by treating us like hostile insurgents instead of tax-paying citizens. It also put in perspective how fed up we as black people are with being harassed, mistreated and ultimately preyed upon by law enforcement. And our frustration shows not only through our raw, unfiltered emotions of anger and outrage, but through our outwardly swagger that has a “ready for anything,” “no justice, no peace” tone.
Being privileged to share my own experiences with various media outlets throughout the country helped me try to process the horrendous events that have taken place. It also allowed those who don’t know the racial and police climate here in the St. Louis region to get a real unfiltered look at how the community refuses to be silenced, despite inaccurate media coverage, misinformation that has been concocted by police, and defaming details about Michael Brown’s life and the events that occurred right before his killing.
This tragedy has forced me to reengage with my passion for fighting for equality for all people. Being that it’s going down in my own back yard, I have had no choice but to be fully engulfed in making change within our community.