Hundreds of people gathered inside Greater St. Mark Family Church Saturday morning to mourn and celebrate the life of Ferguson activist, Darren Seals, whose death shocked the region.
“I first met Darren on August, 9 2014, Michael Brown Sr. said. “He showed a lot of love to me and my family – and I just wanted to come up here and show some love to him and his family.”
Brown was the first of many speakers who came forward to remember the young man who was remembered mostly for his activism in response to the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown Jr. Family members, fellow activists and civic leaders were among those to come forward to honor his memory during the funeral.
Seals, 29, was found dead on Sept. 6 in the north St. Louis County neighborhood of Riverview. Seals’ body was discovered in his jeep, which was set on fire. St. Louis County Police said Seals suffered from one gunshot wound. His death was ruled a homicide by police.
“I want people to know that Darren Seals was a Ferguson frontline activist. He was a rebel with a cause.” Ebony Williams, a Ferguson activist and friend of Seals, said. “His only objective was to learn from his mistakes and teach other boys from the hood like him that there is hope in the future.”
Seals was a factory line worker at General Motors in Wentzville, Mo. He was also a hip-hop musician who also took on the role of managing artists. On that fateful day in August of 2014, Seals was on the scene in the Canfield Green Apartments to protest the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown – who was fatally shot by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson – soon after the tragic incident took place.
He was a mainstay in the movement. Because he began calling for justice immediately after Brown’s death, Seals was considered a “day one” activist. Dr. Cornel West and Louis Farrakhan are just a few black political leaders Seals has conversed with and stood alongside with in Ferguson.
During the funeral Seals’ mother, older sister and younger brother – who all referred to Seals as “Man-Man” – spoke on fond memories they had of him; all mentioned how Seals had an unbreakable love for the movement and black history.
Byron Seals, 14, is Seals’ younger brother. Byron says Seals was “like a father” to him; always taking him places in his jeep and teaching him about black historic figures like Malcom X and Nat Turner. Byron said there wasn’t a day he and Seals didn’t talk.
“Ya’ll know him as King –King D Seals.” Byron said at the funeral. “I know ya’ll loved him. I loved my brother too…but, ya’ll still got a king, it’s me.” Byron’s speech was followed by a standing ovation with black power fists in the air.
Although Darren often clashed with other Ferguson protest leaders on social media, his loved ones said he never grew tired of speaking out against police brutality and social injustice.
“He shared so many stories about what you guys were doing,” his older sister Latoya Seals said. “I thank you guys for standing in the gap while I couldn’t be here, for standing on the frontline with him when I was terrified that something was going to happen to him – I want to thank you for having his back.”
Also in attendance at the funeral, was Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle to Oscar Grant. Grant was fatally shot in 2009 by a police officer in Oakland, California at a transit station. Grant’s death was later retold in the cinema movie ‘Fruitvale Station.’ Uncle Bobby said Seals was the second person he met upon arrival in Ferguson following Michael Brown’s 2014 death.
“All I can say is represent what he brought to us. About the injustices that are happening to our people that will be the demise of our children. This is about our babies.” Uncle Bobby said at the procession. He went on, encouraging people to “put on their gear, stand up and fight the system.”
Chants of “black power” and “power to the people.” echoed the church after his speech.
Seals’ funeral was held in church that served as a meeting hub for the Ferguson movement. Immediately following Mike Brown’s death community forums and marches were held at Great St. Mark family Church.
In 2014, Al Sharpton stood on the pulpit where today giant pictures of Seals’ face where placed and declared that this Ferguson had become the spark of the new civil rights movement. During Seals funeral session, a black panther meeting was held in the basement of the church. Members of the party would file in and out of the funeral ceremony periodically.
Seals’ mother, Mary Otis, said Darren would’ve loved to see all the people who came to show condolences to him and celebrate him for his efforts in Ferguson.
“To be able to see him stand up for justice [for Michael Brown] and what he believed in…I thank God for that,” Otis said. “He went hard to make a difference and I loved the way that he loved his people.
My son said he would never let Mike Brown’s name get swept under the rug. Will y’all please do the same thing for my son?”