April V. Taylor: Has Ferguson Provided The Flashpoint For The New Civil Rights Movement?

During a press conference last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon made a statement regarding the protests and police aggression that followed the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th.  Echoing words that have been used numerous times over the last six decades to protest police brutality and racial apartheid perpetuated by government entities, Nixon stated, “This is a test.  The eyes of the world are watching.”  While Nixon may not have completely understood the gravity of his statement, he was essentially stating that what has been happening in Ferguson is actually a test of how committed America is to her values, and people all over the world are watching and intent on holding America accountable for how it treats its citizens.  The phrase was first stated during the Civil Rights Movement when schools in Little Rock, Arkansas were attempting to integrate.

There are multiple events throughout American history that show that it is the forced accountability placed on America by international observers that most often lead to changes to racist policy, policy brutality, and suppression of Constitutionally protected rights such as free speech and freedom of the press.

Just as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s focused on issues faced by not just people of color but poor and oppressed people all over the country, Ferguson has provided a flashpoint for a new Civil Rights Movement as people of all racial backgrounds from all over the nation are standing up against racist policing policies, mass incarceration, police brutality, and criminalization, and the eyes of the world are doing more than just watching.  People from all over the world are joining people in Ferguson, Missouri.  Palestianians have tweeted to protestors suggesting ways to deal with tear gas, and Tibetan monks even joined protestors.  In addition, Amnesty International has been deployed to investigate human rights violations of protesters and to call for an independent investigation into Michael Brown’s death.

During a recent visit to Ferguson, a resident of the Canfield Green apartment complex that Michael Brown died in front of, spoke to me about the discussions her and other young people were having each night.  Young residents from the area would gather and talk into the wee hours of the morning about how the events unfolding around them were the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement for their generation.

Local residents are not the only people who feel that the protest and outrage about the loss of black life and the injustice faced by people of color in the criminal justice system has reached a boiling point due to recent events in Ferguson and provided an impetus for a new Civil Rights Movement.

candles lit

As residents lit the candles surrounding Brown’s memorial at sunset, I spoke with Cephus Johnson, who is affectionately known as Uncle Bobby.  His nephew is Oscar Grant, whose story was told in the movie Fruitvale Station.  Grant was shot by a BART police officer while his hands were cuffed behind his back and he was lying face down on the ground.  Johnson reiterated what residents had stated – that young people and the black communities they are part of are fed up with being stuck with a separate and unequal standard of justice when it comes to police brutality, mass incarceration, and criminalization.  Johnson also stated that it is the younger generations willingness to stand up that continues to give him hope that other parents and family members will not have to face the tragic loss and heartache that his family has dealt with.

A recent Pew survey underlines the fact that racism must be addressed.  The survey found that 37 percent of white Americans and 80 percent of black Americans believe that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.”  While blacks have made great strides since first being brought to this country in chains, there is still much more to be done.  Vicent Intondi summed it up well in a recent Huffington Post article stating, “Slaves who suffered and died for centuries never thought African Americans would receive the right to vote. Those who were beaten and jailed in Selma and Birmingham never thought an African American would be elected president. Like those who came before them, many today who are fighting from Florida to Ferguson are feeling frustrated, scared, angered, and unsure about the future and their own lives. But they must realize the time has come for a “Third Reconstruction.” The Black Freedom Movement began at the “Door of No Return” and continues today no matter how many racist cops, citizens, politicians, or media try to stop it. Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown will not simply be footnotes in history. They will be the names we look back on as those who united a new generation to sacrifice, endure, and fight for justice and equality and create a new Civil Rights Movement.”

stolen lives



16 Comment

  1. We still need God to leave the flesh pots of pharaoh

  2. Is it time for a civil rights movement? With recent murders of unarmed citizens by police, a change in voter requirements in some states, and a populace who have little understanding of where we were and where we need to be, we need to take steps to ensure a safe future for everyone.

  3. Black folks of all status and political persuasion need to vote everywhere and everytime not just when the presidential race is at hand.Change does not come just by marching and protesting but through the ballot box of voting often and boycotts.Black folks need to also vote in local and state elections for mayor,aldermans,judges,and chief of police.Finally,black folks need to encourage their black young men and women to pursue law enforcement careers especially in our black communities.This is my 2 cent worth of advice for my black people i hope we act instead of complaining!!AMEN!!

  4. The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri will not be the catalyst of a Civil Rights Movement unless there is a bigger issue to rally around that resonates with all American’s. In the sixties, the death of Emmett Till was a rallying point for Equal Rights in the south and the disbanding of Jim Crown laws that prevented Blacks from receiving all the benefits of white citizens. Fast forward fifty four years and you will find an America that still has unequal rights for its citizens but its more sophisticated about it. The 9/11 disaster and subsequent Homeland Security Act have given the Police and the government the right to do whatever they want once they decide that someone is acting in a terroristic manner. The means all of the Civil Rights laws and basically be ignored by the police if they think they’re in danger. And, as far as I can see there is no true charismatic leader that can organize millions of people against these inequitable situations. Sharpton speaks eloquently when called upon but is not seen as some savior for his people. Most committed people have been bought out and are afraid to lose their station in life if they challenge the status quo.

  5. Jay Nixon knew what he said and there nothing we the people took out of text is such a back peddling act of coward ass stupidity it been for us over 200 years and more and because we are tired of listening to the red whit and blue ideology and the founding father who taught slaver that slavery was live stock as cattle and pigs, well I see a pig with shit foaming from the mouth and it endearing police force should just wear swastikas on there sleeves and around the nation where these others are hiding. For the groups who support the officer who killed Michael Brown with contribution names should be called out like any campaign funds so we can see the faces of the racist hate monger it the American way or if they believe in the system have freedom of speech to stand out if not we know this is how a coward act because the judicial system is also the same. This is not a test and the old way was with old Ideas and the new we want the eyes of justice open and accountable not blind justice having 9 white jurors and 3 blacks it should be 2 whites 4 blacks 2 Hispanic 2 Arabic 2 Asian we need not to have white majority jurors on cases because they lean to compassion for their kind and other races they disfavor to consider us or other as worthy to being honest. Nothing will change me and how I feel the system must prove it self worthy of upholding the law to which it's written

  6. Can anybody out there read? You have no civil rights, don’t you know that? Your elected officials, including your “Black Messiah”, Obama have passed the National Defense Authorization Act. Have you heard of it? Have you read it? Did anyone ask you for your opinion about it?

    Well let me be the first to inform you: The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are in mothballs – obsolete. You are officially in a “police state” as attested to by the murders of two young black men in MO.

    If you cannot read, find someone who can. Get a copy of the National Defense Authorization Act and read it together so you can understand that there is a new sheriff in town and he is not kidding around. They have the authority now to shoot on sight anyone deemed a threat to the system. This means YOU.

    They have the authority to take you into custody, detain you indefinitely, without legal counsel and without telling anyone where you are. You will soon begin to notice people simply disappearing in your neighborhood and job. Just be observant and watch this thing develop. Hope you got a Plan B, cause Plan A is done. Shalom family.

  7. I certainly hope so.

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