My mother was a civil rights activist. She marched with Dr. King. She marched with Abernathy. She marched with people who never even made "the list". She was a freedom walker (the lesser known cousin of the freedom riders). She was a nonconformist. She was a fighter.
She was arrested for her defiance. She was disowned for her defiance. She stood up and was beaten for those who could not stand for themselves. She bore the fullness of Bull Connor's batons, dogs, and hoses. And, for years after her civil rights marching was over, her fighting continued. In fact, she lived out the rest of her life with the scars from the physical beatings on her body and the scars from the "experience" on her spirit.
And, all the time she was marching and fighting for civil rights, there where throngs of people (Black people and White people) who sat in the safety of their homes and refused to do anything. There were even more of them who, from the comfort of their couches and recliners, criticized her and those like her for what they did. What my mother, and the people like her, did was not popular. They stood up against the police force. They stood up against an established and empowered ideal. They stood up against the government and the "laws of the land". They broke the law. Do not allow people to lie to you. Not all Black people marched for civil rights, and not all White people opposed it. It was not a "kumbaya" experience. Yet, and still, there were those who were brave enough to do it.
Now, over fifty years later, the children and grandchildren of those same people who took issue with what my mother stood for, reap the benefits of her jailing, beatings, and suffering. Those same people who refused to do anything, now live in a better America because "those people" stood up for what they thought was right. Some of you reading this blog have had opportunities that you would otherwise not have been afforded because of those "thugs and criminals" who marched through the streets of Selma, Birmingham, Jackson, Chicago, Watts, Nashville, and a sundry of other American cities.
My mother told me this. My mother talked about this to me. And, in all of her discussion, I never once heard her say anything negative about the people who did not march. She never attacked those who exercised their right to not march. She only said that if there were not people like her; people who were willing to stand up for what was right, regardless, the America that we know would not exist.
I said all of that, to say this. Mike Brown was not the perfect poster child for a movement. He was not selected the way Rosa Parks was. He was not planted and prepared prior to his engagement with the police officer. There was no church meeting to "set it up." However, he was a living young man. And, his death highlighted something that many people know to be true. Mike Brown may or may not have had his hands up. But he was unarmed. And, his death highlighted something that many people know to be true. Mike Brown struck a police officer inside of his vehicle. He was not acting the way I would advise my young men to act. But he was moving away from the officer when he was shot. And, his death highlighted something that many people know to be true. Mike Brown was a thief who assaulted an officer. However, Chris Lollie was just picking up his children, Tamir Rice was playing in the park, and Eric Gardner was just trying to breathe. Consequently, Mike Brown's death highlighted something that many people know to be true. "Jesse, if there were not people like me; people who were willing to stand up for what was right, regardless, the America that we know ...[will no longer] exist."
I am standing up for right. And, even if you choose to shoot, I wont stand down. I love you each.