By Ben Kabuye
The air isn’t different in St. Louis, but you breathe differently in the show-me-state. It is the tension riding the air after a Black boy’s body breathed its last. Michael Brown’s spirit animates the streets and even the empty night air surrounding United Church of Christ. The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has answered the call from Ferguson, MO. Black Lives Matter, at least to the bodies huddled in the shelter offered by Pastor Starsky Wilson. Local and national churches stand at the juxtaposition of another cross road filled with political questions. For United, all roads lead to Ferguson and @LostVoices14, @TefPoe, and @Nettaaaaaaaa; youth on the ground with platforms to chart the path. The “Politics of Jesus” are being resurrected. That is something.
The pews are filled now and we have yelled origins as far as Canada and as near as Ohio and John Crawford’s body. Moments of silence give way to whispers of ancestors and their names tear the heavens with the urgency of the collective demand. Those who have gone before are remembered and present. Near trembling the room hums with whispered anticipation of what this shared space can mean. We are animated by outrage at the public brutality that removed Michael Brown from this plane and laid his body in the street for hours. Somebody near by talks about being unable to listen to Lesley Mcspadden, the mother of Michael Brown, speak. None of us could honestly but despite being unable to hear her pained tones we have responded and the room is filled with many Lesley McSpadden’s. A few hundred organizers from around the country and the overwhelming majority are Black women. So many women, present, doing the necessary work. We are all here for Michael Brown; Patrisse Cullors shares the stage with Darnell Moore and we are told this is not Bayard Rustin 2.0 and no one will have to hide who they are for the sake of the collective. If Black political thought is to mature into a new movement it must mean that all black bodies matter. We know this, we say this; do we do this? This has yet to be seen.
Once we state our shared principles that all Black Lives Matter it is left to discuss the particular demands. These are organizers and the mass is quickly separated into groups, by sections, and skill sets and the days roll by. In there we learn about the way the police displayed the body publicly, disrespected memorials, and showed complete disregard for the community in the initial hours after the murder. The act then is echoed again into the minds of the children who watch us march and stand on their laws in eyesight of where the body rested without peace. We learn how the formally and informally organized community members worked to keep the police out of the neighborhood on the day of the murder. Then as organizers do we discuss demands, legal procedure, power leveraging, and chest-mounted cameras for the police.
There is a disturbing discrepancy between the actions of a grieving community and our policy ideas that we can not yet speak to. Not now at least, not while we are building our campaigns. We have to change the antiblack media narrative, we need to establish police review boards like in New York to curtail state sanctioned violence. However, our thinking there is the understanding that this is only the beginning. With reports on the frequency of police violence, some are charging genocide, and here at BAJI we support those efforts and offer at the very least ideas. What will this next wave of movement become? It can be a new more interesting movement or something all too familiar and we have not yet decided.