April V. Taylor
As protesters gathered at Michael Brown’s memorial Saturday night, the mood was solemn. Protesters chanted as they waited for Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden, siblings and other family members to arrive. As they pulled onto Canfield Drive, protesters asked media to respect her as they swarmed her car. As she emerged, she was clearly emotional and overwhelmed by the large crowd of hundreds of people from all over the country. As she walked to the spot where her son took his last breath, she was clearly still grieving.
When she turned to acknowledge the crowd, people screamed, “We love you!” She replied emphatically, “I love y’all too,” smiling widely as if she found comfort in the embrace and support of the crowd.
McSpadden marched with her surviving children from the memorial where her son was killed to the Ferguson Police Department. As she marched the two miles, she kissed her young daughter, chanted with protesters, holding her hands in the air as the crowd changed, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Hearing the crowd thunderously yell, “Who are we? Mike Brown!” Seemed to renew her strength.
Once the crowd arrived at the police station, a family spokesperson led the crowd in chants, including, “Show me what democracy looks like, This is what democracy looks like.” Before the family departed, the crowd pointed towards the heavens, yelling, “Mike Brown, Rest In Peace.”
As a mother of two black boys, watching Leslie McSpadden’s range of emotions from grief to reassurance to joy, I reflected on how her journey of being strong for her remaining children and seeking justice for her dead son is representative of the strength all Black women carry within them; the strength to move forward when so many things about their lives are painful and tragic because of racism and oppression. No matter what each new day brings, we as Black women must face the next one with the courage and hope necessary to continue to care for our families and raise our children to believe that the world can be a place of freedom and opportunity. That hope is often in stark contrast with the reality of institutional racism, mass incarceration, police brutality and criminalization of black men, women and children.
As I watched her embrace and kiss her young daughter during the march, I thought of my own young daughter. Though I am sometimes discouraged about the world I have brought my children into, seeing her smile despite her pain and having her march in solidarity with her family and protesters from across the country gave me hope that we as a nation are strong enough to fight and overcome racism once and for all. No more black children’s blood should be spilled in American streets because of systemic oppression.