[Read page one: Occupying Ferguson]
At that time in 2014, I was tangled deep into the black web of Tumblr. The power of online social justice warriors stretched its arms wide and kicked its feet under the nose of the sleeping giant that has become this country. Organizers posted meetings, discussions, lived feeds, think pieces, poems, dates for secret protests and marches, historical context for our pain and links keeping the community that was #woke, informed. The biggest march in Atlanta was to circle around Centennial Olympic Park just across the street from the headquarters of CNN. Thousands of citizens of all backgrounds come to march and I was proud to be one among them. The pouring rain that day couldnt even stop our will to show up and be heard. Over and over, we shouted “Hands up, Dont Shoot!” with the audacity to hope it could bring down the walls of hate. Here, I saw that the sheer numbers were undoubtably impactful, gaining national media coverage alongside the huge peaceful marches in New York, Ferguson, and Washington D.C. However, the individuals that made up these crowds were essentially on the front lines of a war they weren’t prepared for. Unmarked cars were parked nearby every time we organized in Atlanta thereafter. Reports spread that of one of our young female organizers was hurt and detained by police without so much of a whispering of her rights being read! The media was framing victims in limited context to tell half truths and outrage across the social justice movement. Dozens of people were being arrested across the country with bail being set as high as half a million dollars. And the Mike Brown’s best friend, whom was present at his death, went missing. I was shook. Spooked. Was this what I had to look forward to? Was this how I was to be made most effective?? To be taken for a rough ride like Freddie Gray and never heard of again?
The morning following our organizer’s reappearance, I told my boss I needed to speak to her in private. There was little time to explain why or even how I would pull it off, but I needed to get to Ferguson, immediately!!! I needed a leave of absence until further notice. I clearly remembered in high school how people occupied Wall Street and I fully intended to occupy Fergusson. There I was, seven days after Brown’s death, my grim face staring at my manager and God could not have placed a more stereotypical trope in the room with me. Tall, blonde and beautiful, I’d always affectionately called her my Barbie, but in this moment I resented it. Inexplicably, I wanted her complete understanding of my history, her support of my community, her blessing for me to leave. In that moment, she gave me the best she could. She gave me a simple, “ok.” My mom, on the other hand, shut the entire idea down completely and rightfully so. She knew I was no fighter. I was a lover, from the bottom of my feet to the top of my curls. So much so, that my emotion took over me with each shooting and with each announcement that there would be no justice for the unarmed 1100+ black people that were and have been murdered each year in this country. “Say their names!, Say their names!” Damn, how will I remember all of them?? They were all weighing on my heart, living in my dreams, and becoming my cross to carry. In a way, I allowed myself to be momentarily defeated. My anger festered, mutated and lived in a silent uproar within my heart. Doing nothing and allowing my emotions to go unaddressed was now killing me.
Every day, every month, every year, the unarmed murders continued. Philando Castille, a shining bright example of what it is to be a positive community influencer, was murdered in front of his very young daughter, LIVE on Facebook last summer. “Its okay, mommy,” her tiny little four-year-old voice called to the woman in the front seat. Her mother was screaming at the trigger happy officer who had just murdered the love of her life. Both of them in the car with nowhere to hide, watched the head of their family take his final breaths. Quite literally, I couldnt get out of bed, the little girl’s voice ringing in my ears, “its okay, mommy. I’m here with you!” Did she even understand in that moment she’d never see her father’s smile again? Regardless of her understanding, a gunshot was fired no more than a couple feet from her and she remained calm enough to offer counsel. Her tiny little soul was brave and I needed to be like her.
[continue reading to page three: Woke & Positive]