by Diamond Latchison
I’ve grown up in and out of the Ferguson-Florissant area of St. Louis, Missouri for nearly 17 years of my 21 years of life. I have seen the police act as though black people don’t matter. I’ve seen police mistreat black people in every aspect of racial profiling, including what we call ‘driving while black’. My father and brother have been victims of police harassment for ‘driving while black’, arrested multiple times because of it. My mother was arrested and held a day and a half in county jail because she had one tail-light out while she was rushing me to the hospital because I was having serious heart palpitations. Ironically, the cops had a missing tail-light as well. I can go on and on but I’m sure a lot of people have the same stories, and even gruesome ones, at that. Many people have lost family members at the hands of police. Like Michael Brown’s family.
The Ferguson Police Department has always been known for its lack of diversity. Three percent of the cops on their police force are African American but Ferguson’s residents are nearly 70% African American. There should be a police department that reflects the whole community but the Ferguson Police Department from what I remember since I was child has never done that.
Because of this, the Ferguson community has been on shaky ground for YEARS. The killing of Michael Brown finally ripped that ground out from under this small county. The moment Officer Darren Wilson decided to execute Michael Brown and leave his body in his own pool of blood for 4 hours like he wasn’t human was the point where Ferguson residents had enough. The people started to revolt. Never in my life have I seen things change so drastically. What was once home to us has now turned into a war zone and that can never be erased from our memories.
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The first days of the protests, I couldn’t join in because I had to work, but hearing the stories of the people down there being tear-gassed, rubber bullets being thrown at them, pretty much the police treating the people, my people, like they were less than human was just so appalling. When I finally got out to the protests it was during the time where they were throwing out tear gas the most. The media was only just now rolling in. It had been Twitter that had helped bring attention to what was happening. If it weren’t for Twitter, millions of people wouldn’t have seen Michael Brown’s lifeless body left lying on the ground by police for 4 hours, uncovered. If it wasn’t for Twitter, the people outside of Ferguson and even in Ferguson wouldn’t have known what was developing. The people wouldn’t have seen the looting, the rallies, the heavy military action, any of it if it weren’t for the people on the ground that were on Twitter. I live in Ferguson and if it weren’t for people taking to Twitter I wouldn’t have seen half the things I saw.
Now there’s a whole social media activism movement. Hashtags like #HandsUpDontShoot, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and #Ferguson, show support of Ferguson and Michael Brown coming in from around the world. Seeing people from all walks of life, including black, white, Asian, Native American, Latino, show their support in just simple gestures like their hands up in the air, or chanting or marching in solidarity, was very emotional and such powerful moments to see. We even got people from Palestine giving us tips on how to properly use gas masks and little mixes with milk to help people who are tear gassed. So, while people may think social activism is wack and not helpful, it is to Ferguson.
Ferguson will never be the same and in a way maybe it’s a good thing. We, as the Ferguson community, can change the way the laws are made and can change the way the law treats us. Now we have a voice. Not only a voice that we use each day when we’re protesting but a voice on social media, a voice that people from all around the world want to hear. And it will be heard loud and clear because when all of the media is gone and everybody goes back to the places they’ve come from and back to their ‘normal lives’ we, the people of Ferguson, will still be here because this is now our ‘normal’ life. We have to live here so we have to do all we can to change things, make it all better, and not let everything that we’ve done thus far waste away. We can’t do that to ourselves, we can’t do that to Michael Brown. He could have been one of our kids, our nephews, our cousins, and our grandchildren. He was someone’s kid, someone’s nephew, cousin, grandchild. Black life matters. Black life is beautiful. Things may get harder these next few months as we all fight for justice for Michael Brown and his family but we can’t give up. We’re fed up and tired and have been for a very long time. Now is the time to change things. Now is the time to start a revolution.
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Diamond Latchison, an African American woman, was born in Chicago, IL but has been raised in St. Louis, Missouri for the last 17 years. She’s an avid music fanatic listening to all types of genres from Jazz to Hip Hop but also loves to write stories & poetry during her leisure time.