Two months ago, not many people knew where Ferguson, MO was, let alone cared about the people who live in and around the St. Louis Metro area. But, the time had come, the fuse was lit and we were all over the media. Racism in “post racial” America had made it to the front pages, cable and network news. Maybe, but for how long?
This was only news to those who lived in some sort of bubble or refused to look too closely at a system they benefited from in one way or another. It was not news to those of us who live here and pay attention to people and neighborhoods outside our own comfort zone. It most certainly was not news to those who live with its’ effects day in and day out.
If you watched closely, the “outrageous acts” tended to happen just in time to make the 11pm news on both the East and West Coasts. It made my job, as a legal observer and community activist dedicated to non-violence, a lot easier as I knew just when I and those like/with me needed to leave the protest venues each night. And once the flames died down, the police corrected their course of action more than a few times and people were allowed to protest peacefully, albeit with a few flare ups, most of the nation went back to sleep.
What you didn’t see were those dedicated people who were posted out in front of Ferguson Police Department and the QT day after day and night after night, from day one. They didn’t have fancy pre-printed signs, banners, T shirts for sale, fund raisers or even bull horns most of the time. They are the unsung heroes of a protest action.
There is a lady who makes cake, a man who brings water, a young man and his father who clean the protest areas each night, an artist, a local independent journalist, a retired teacher, clergy, couples, elders, young adults, middle aged folks, children and babies. In other words, the actual people, not just the “pretty” ones. They came and stood, sat, chanted, sang, prayed, lit candles, marched a bit, fed each other and talked TO each other about what was going on and how they felt. Those dedicated to the long, slow grind of an ongoing protest action. Those are the ones who, whether they will or not, made this into a movement.
The cause was taken up by organizations both local and national and the “Ferguson October” was born. It’s advertised as a “Weekend of Resistance” and people and organizations from all over the country have come to town to see and be seen. By Monday, most all of them will be gone, and we’ll see what happens to the “nationwide movement” then.
Funny thing, just as soon as the paid, fully funded, organized “protestors” showed up, legislators, pundits, media and some people have started to ask, “How long is this thing going to go on?”. Sort of like the hot, bored kids in the back seat, constantly ask, “Are we there yet?”, the answer is simple, “Not yet.” and complex, “It’s about the journey.” For us, here, it will go on until justice, not revenge, justice prevails. Not only for Mike Brown, but for the millions like him, here and around the country.