Snapshots from Ferguson


It’s August 9th, 2015. Indiana looks strangely idyllic. A blanket of fog hangs a few feet over the cornfields and makes the trees look purple against the brightening sky.

A thousand other people are awake and driving to the same place I am. We are going to Ferguson.

Florissant looks like 38th Street in Indianapolis. The only difference between where I shop for groceries and where the riots took place is a burned out building and a few empty concrete lots.  On the burned building, someone has spraypainted – The anger of man does not bring about the justice of God.

There is a steady stream of people walking down Canfield for an hour before the memorial service starts. Some of them carry Black Lives Matter signs. The press is set up in a tight semi-circle of cameras pointing at a spot in the middle of the crowd where I assume the family will be. I can’t see through the people. Rap music is playing.

We wait and stare around at our fellow protesters. Nobody smiles. Sweat is running down my back within minutes.

A year’s worth of anger and grief and incredulity and hopelessness and fearlessness and resolve and exhaustion is making it’s way through the crowd, until I can’t tell one feeling from another, can’t tell which are mine and which are not. My hands shake, and I wonder which of my neighbors would be least offended if I threw up on their shoes.

Ceremonies begin. People are singing, speaking poetry, preaching, chanting. Then, for four and a half minutes, silence.

A little boy in front of me, dark skin, maybe eight or ten years old, looks unsure of what to do, what’s going on. His mother stands beside him, fighting for his life.

We separate out of the street to let the speakers and family through.

I can’t remember what Michael Brown’s father looks like, but it doesn’t matter. I know exactly when I see him because of his eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like that – deep, ungodly pain, pools and rivers and oceans of it. My legs shake, but there’s no room in the crowd to sit down.

We march.

Behind me several black women tell each other stories about the places we pass by, stories from the riots last year.

“They was tellin’ us to get off the sidewalk. An’ at that point I was ready to throw down. Can’t tell us to get off the sidewalk!”

“They was arrestin’ people just for bein’ there. I saw one guy on a bike try to get up out of their way. He wasn’t even there for the protest, just tryin’ to get through. They ripped him off his bike there and threw it on the ground.”

Beautiful young black men weave in and out of the crowd, talking, smoking, finding their friends. One has a fire in his eyes. Dressed all in black, dreadlocks hanging to the middle of his back, he chants By any means necessary. A few others join in, and I think if there is a right way, a just way to deal with the sins of white America, that is it.

But justice requires more death, and we’re sick of death.

The rest of us march in silence.

We trickle back down Florissant after the march is over. Cars honk and some people hold out their fists as they pass by in the symbol of the movement. I throw back a peace sign. That’s not my symbol to take.

In one of the empty concrete lots, someone has spray painted Don’t make us shoot back.

Back in Indiana I suck down a cigarette. The sun is setting and the cornfields still look picturesque and I don’t know how to process what just happened. My hands are still shaking.

As I sleep that night another black child is shot – in my town, by my police. His name was Andre Green.

He was just fifteen years old.


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