Three years ago, today, I was driving in heavy stop-and-go Atlanta morning traffic. Per usual, I expected to reach maximum frustration 90 minutes after leaving my house, when I could make the final left turn into the parking lot of my workplace. That Monday, August 10, 2014, V-103’s DJ Frank Ski stopped all the music on the station to report a story of a young man visiting his family over summer holiday. This young man, Michael, was going to become not only the first of his family to go to college, but one of the few in his community. That Monday, the 10th, would have been his first day at his college campus. It would have been the day he saw an escape from the unfortunate normalcies he grew up around in his neighborhood. He would have gone on to meet a girlfriend, attend frat parties, use his ID for student discounts and work hard to acquire a degree to jumpstart his future. None of that happened because he was gunned down while unarmed by officers in Ferguson, MO. He ran for his life in flip flops, held his hands up in the air in surrender, allegedly struggled with officer Darren Wilson in defense, and was shot 12 times dead. The 18 year old, college-bound, young Black man never stood a chance. His bloodied body laid there in the street like road kill until nightfall. It had happened less than 48 hours prior to my hectic morning commute.
The story hit me so hard, I was shamelessly wailing in tears inside my car as I signaled to switch lanes. “MOVE!!!!! You SEE me!!!” The impact was made and nothing had ever hit me so hard in the chest as the death of Mike Brown; not since my friend from church had suddenly dropped dead during a game of basketball in high school. Not even two years prior, Trayvon had been put on trial for his own murder at the hands of George Zimmerman. An unpunished murder that was hushed up by the media and only gained significant coverage during the trial, so many months following Trayvon’s death. The wound from the injustice of Trayvon’s murder had never closed and now 12 bullets sent my blood rushing towards an exit. Here I was complaining about traffic and a young man was never able to reach even half of his life’s potential. It was devastating! In that moment, he was my brother, my cousin, my father, my uncle, my best friend, my husband. It could have been anyone I loved!
Despite the fact that 2014 was already a personally trying year, this young man’s death took over my heart and pulled at all of my attention. Black Twitter was ablaze with links to live feeds streaming the unrest of Ferguson.
The military tanks that arrived in Ferguson Monday night under the guise of crowd control, rounded up the residents and cornered them like cattle in their own neighborhoods. The rubber bullets flew past the faces of small children and cut through bystanders’ flesh.
Fires were lit on people’s lawns, not by the protestors, but by the uniformed men meant to protect that community. Eardrum bursting sirens blared and police shouted through the middle of the night. Tear gas bombs were expelled into the streets, scattering the crowds of citizens that had gathered to mourn the loss of one of their own. This was night after night after night. Was this Iraq or Missouri? No, it was a Black American suburb.
[continue reading to page 2: Conquering Fear]