Tag Archives: mike brown

Justice and Exhaustion

4 Dec
Scene from a New York protest across the street from Rockefeller Center.

Scene from a New York protest across the street from Rockefeller Center.

Editor’s note: This is an off-topic post, not about physical health and wellness, but about mental anguish and exhaustion from recent events.

This is difficult. Writing is my medium of expression, yet I find it hard to convey how I’m feeling right now. The best I can come up with is exhaustion.

It didn’t begin as exhaustion. It began as anger, then morphed into frustration. Now I am lulled into exhaustion. Since the summer I’ve been working very hard to stay physically fit. But I haven’t been emotionally ready for the events that have taken place since then. Eric Garner, Mike Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley, all unarmed, have all died at the hands of the police.

To make those tragedies worse, the officers who killed three of them won’t face any charges (the officers who killed Rice and Gurley are still awaiting a grand jury decision).

The case that’s close to my heart is Mike Brown’s because it happened where I grew up. To see your neighborhood on the news, to hear reporters talk about West Florissant, to have to explain the anger and frustration that is happening in your community is an eye-opening experience. To watch the judicial system go through its process and still not work, over and over again, has been wearing me down.

Fannie Lou Hamer said it best: “I’m sick and tire of being sick and tired.”

I am worn out from crying, protesting, donating, explaining and fearing for my people’s lives. More than that, I’m tired of people listening to us scream and not hearing the reasons why.

Earlier this week, the St. Louis Police Officers Association took issue with a handful of St. Louis Rams players who decided to show their support for members of the community by walking onto the field using the “hands-up, don’t-shoot” gesture, which has become synonymous with protesters standing in support of Mike Brown’s family. Instead of respecting these players’ First Amendment rights, the SLPOA issued a statement asking for an apology from the NFL and the Rams and also for those players to be disciplined.

The NFL, rightfully, declined. The players were showing their support for a community—my old home—that was hurting after a grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson. Peacefully expressing your frustration is not only legal, but it is a protected right. It is a right that the officers of the SLPOA are sworn to protect. The Rams are members of the community that the SLPOA has sworn to protect. And instead of protecting those rights, the organization sought to punish the players for taking advantage of those rights.

I thought a lot about this incident a lot the day it happened and throughout the week. What would make a sworn police officer think he has the right and duty to infringe on another person’s rights? How did we get to this point?

The answer is that I just don’t know. I don’t understand where we go from here. But wherever we go, it’s got to be somewhere better.

Last week during our Thanksgiving dinner, we all went around the room to say what we are thankful for. My 15-year-old cousin, whose father owns a business right up the street from where Mike Brown was shot, said she was thankful to have her family with her. We have a lot of young black men in my family right now, with majority ranging from 14 to 22. She looked at them, and with tears in her eyes, said, “It could have been anyone in this room.”

My exhaustion occasionally tips back into the realm of anger when I think about this. That this 15-year-old girl is scared for her family that way pisses me the fuck off. That those boys’ parents fear for their sons’ lives that way enrages me. That a grand jury can have video proof and an autopsy report showing an unarmed man’s death was a homicide and still not send the case to court makes me want to scream.

It is senseless. It is cruel. It is unjust. And, unfortunately, it is reality.

Forever an STL Girl

14 Aug
photo: The Associated Press

photo: The Associated Press

Editor’s note: This will be brief because it’s off topic. But I have to share.

One night, many, many moons ago, my boyfriend at the time was driving me home from night at the movies. My boyfriend had a Ford Taurus, which at the time was the isht car to have.

It was about 12, 12:30 in the morning when we were pulled over less than a mile from my house. The officer asked him to step outside the vehicle without asking for license and insurance. They talked for what seemed like 15 minutes, then I had to pass the insurance info out the window. When my boyfriend got back into the car, he was seething.

One thing you’ve got to know about this guy is that he was and is one of the most easygoing people you’d ever meet. Sure, he’s he’s an enormous human being, but it takes a lot to get him to grit his teeth in anger. The officer pulled us over not because he was driving recklessly, not because he was speeding, not even because of some citywide curfew for teenagers that didn’t exist. It was because my young, black, teenage boyfriend was driving near the speed limit. That’s right: boo had the audacity to drive 34 in a 35 mile-per-hour zone in a nice car.

I tell this story because this light form of police harassment happened almost 16 years ago less than two miles from where an 18 year old, not unlike my ex in stature, was killed by a police officer working in North County St. Louis.

Not all police officers choose to be antagonistic toward the black citizens of North County. But I grew up not far from where the turmoil from last weekend started. I know the anger and frustration that the people there feel. I still have family living in that community. My cousin owns a business in that community. And my heart breaks every day that I see new stories come out.

I’ve met some of the journalists covering this story, one of whom was arrested, and I commend them for going after what appear to be war-zone stories. I have to watch from afar, relying on MSNBC, Twitter and the occasional family phone call to keep me updated.

What I can tell you is North County is not Iraq nor Afghanistan nor the Ukraine. It is my home, and it is hurting. I want justice for Mike Brown. I want peace in the home that I love so much. And I want a resolution that causes no more pain to a grieving public.

I’ll leave you with a song that has been on heavy rotation on my iPhone since my cousin suggested it the other day. I hope it eases you as it did me.