By Shavonne Taisha
Being black never struck me as a disadvantage, and it never will. Despite all odds it has been the most beautiful description for all that I embody, belonging everywhere and nowhere at once.
As long as I could remember, this land didn’t feel like home. Tension rose in the shoulders of my brothers as we passed police, knowing that the story behind the hashtags was our forbidden reality.
Beginning with the killings of Trayvon Martin, followed by Eric Garner and not ending at Michael Brown, leading to Freddie Gray and countless others made these realities even closer to home. This sacred vessel, becoming a visible target for all who’d wear it. August 9, 2014 was like no other, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old teenager, was fatally shot by 28-year-old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Michael Brown’s death spearheaded the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot.” Ferguson’s uproar could be heard internationally as we struggled to find the reasoning of leaving his slain body in the streets for hours.
Four and a half years later, this story hasn’t ended. Since 2014, six known Ferguson protestors have suspiciously died and it has fallen on silent ears. But the death of activist is not only happening in Ferguson, it’s happening everywhere.The culture of fear has numbed this news.
In 2014, on the same night protests ignited over the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Wilson in Brown’s death, the charred body of Deandre Joshua, 20, was found. He was shot execution style and then burned inside his car. Police have yet to uncover leads in Joshua’s murder.
In September 2016, Darren Seals, 29, was also found dead in a burning car. He was shot multiple times, and once again police have no leads in his assassination.
In February 2016, MarShawn McCarrel of Columbus, Ohio, was found dead outside the entrance to the Ohio state capitol building. Police have stated that his death was a suicide. He was an activist in the Ferguson protests. One year later, in May 2017, Edward Crawford Jr., 27, who famously was seen throwing a tear gas canister back at police during protests, death was also marked as a “suicide.”
Months after the death of Edward Crawford, on Oct. 17, 2018, Danye Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree in his backyard. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, is a member of the organization “Lost Voices” that protested Michael Brown’s death. McKinnies has remained adamant that Danye Jones was lynched after a series of death threats. When Rolling Out interviewed Sgt. Shawn McGuire, the public information supervisor with the St. Louis County Police Department, about Jones’ death, he said all indications pointed to a suicide.
The deaths didn’t stop there. A month later, in November 2018, Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old Palestinian-American who live-streamed videos of the Ferguson protests, collapsed on a bus and could not be resuscitated. Police said that he died of an apparent fentanyl overdose in February 2019, according to a toxicology report.
More and more people are fearful that the life of an activist only leads to two results in the United States, mysterious deaths or a lifetime in prison. Seeking freedom and justice is a full time job that many aren’t prepared for. As race relations heighten daily, there has been a push to keep our current leaders protected. Although Republicans argue that, we are codependent in society, every time we have made an effort to be unified there have been drastic results. Black liberation
In 2015 Freddie Gray died in police custody. After his death his best friend Juan Grant, took a leadership role in the demonstrations demanding accountability. On Saturday April 27th, Juan Grant, Freddie Gray’s best friend was killed. After Juan Grant’s car collided with a motorbike Juan got out of his car to check on the biker, when he was fatally shot. Although there is no evidence proving this a murder, many are in uproar that this activist was slain heartlessly.
I bring this up not to evoke more fear but to enlighten us on how powerful we are. Our unification has always been seen as a direct threat to national security. When an activist is murdered people react in one or two ways. Either out of anger or out of fear. When truthfully we all have the capacity to rebel. What you do daily, is a testament to every hashtag on your life. When Black Lives Matter they don’t stop with one killing. They don’t stop at brutality. They flourish in the sun, they break grounds in every lane and territory, they diminish the misleading concept that they aren’t phenomenal.
The fight begins within our homes as we unpack traumas, and within our spirit. Even when the hashtags disappear, like the marathon, the fight continues.