One Woman’s Witness: 24 Hours In Ferguson

It is arduous to describe the trepidation one feels when purchasing a fuel mask for the first time.

As I sift via the choices, the disturbing images which have flooded the nation’s Tv screens for more than per week flash by my thoughts: the countless expended canisters of tear gasoline, the riot gear-clad army personnel, the fury that flashed in the face of the policeman cameras caught screaming to the peaceful crowd who had assembled to protest the killing of an unarmed teenager simply steps from his grandmother’s dwelling:

“Convey it, you animals… I do not give a f***!”

Men's Chewbacca Custom Long Sleeve Tee ShirtI shudder at the memory of his rage and add security goggles and an empty spray bottle to my Wars cart. I am going to use the latter to hold the mixture of Maalox and water that helps to revive imaginative and prescient if you’re hit.

I’m within the midst of Manhattan as I assemble these things, nearly 900 miles and a world away from the uprising in Ferguson, Mo. I notice the pinnacle of a fellow buyer jerk again in shock when i ask the hardware store workers about which of their merchandise is best suited to battle off the consequences of tear fuel. I assume someplace inside I’m somewhat stunned too… I file this below things I by no means thought I might need to do. Once i get dwelling I pack my new purchases, my freshly-charged digital camera and laptop and a change of clothes into a small waterproof backpack. I will not carry anything else.

It could appear loopy that I am voluntarily choosing to enter a zone where any of those protective preparations are crucial, however as I’ve spent hours on my sofa in Brooklyn watching the protection of this case, it just seems like I can and should do something extra. It is a second that deserves witness and work. I should be there.

10:00 p.m./ My condominium in Brooklyn

I discuss with an attorney buddy who lately made the trip to ask her what it was like, and focus on how I can use my background in human rights and the arts to be helpful. She connects me with some native organizers and warns me to not underestimate the volatility of the repression happening. She seems like she has PTSD now.

After our dialog, I can’t rest. I tune again into the live feeds streaming from Ferguson. At four a.m., I force myself to lie in bed.

8.20.2014/ 10:30 a.m./ Crossing the BQE

I take within the NYC skyline from the backseat of the taxi to the airport, and marvel what is going to happen earlier than I see it again. Last night associates of mine were chased from a peaceful protest and made to lie flat on the bottom as policemen pointed drawn guns at their prone bodies.

My Facebook timeline is lighting up with messages I think about soldiers would possibly hear as they’re deployed to a battle zone: “Stay protected.” “We need you alive.” “Thanks to your service.”

Though I acknowledge the privilege of having a return ticket that affords me the option of leaving in 24 hours, it only takes 24 seconds for s*** to go left.

Three:00 p.m./ Within the sky between Chicago and St. Louis

Few of my fellow passengers on the aircraft seem to be talking about the epidemic of violence happening in the 2 cities we’re touring between. I assume I might anticipated that there may be hushed conversations and even loud debates, just like once i flew again into the nation from South Africa in the wake of 9/11. However for thus many, these incidents and the systemic inequities that root them only occur on the margins of their lives. They’ll change the channel, not click on on the headline, choose out. And that is a large part of the issue. The younger people who find themselves rising up in St. Louis, and the forces that patrol them, know that they’ve been tracked right into a phase of society that is marginalized, criminalized and written off. Mere miles from the gravesite of the plaintiff in the landmark Plessy vs. Ferguson case, their lives are nonetheless separate and unequal.

6:00 p.m./Canfield Inexperienced Apartments, Ferguson

I’m standing in the smoldering street where Mike Brown’s 18-yr-outdated, bullet-riddled body was left to lie in state, while guarded by agents of the state, for over four hours of public viewing. Within the fast wake of his dying, it has been reported that police vehicles crushed the burgeoning memorial and let one among their dogs urinate on the flowers his mom had positioned at the site. As students have noted, the group trauma inflicted by this sequence of events was harking back to leaving lynching victims to rot in the trees as a warning of the repercussions of resistance. Right this moment, this notion of public punishment operates hand-in-hand with the biggest, largely privatized prison industrial complex in human history, the place entire segments of our populace are secreted away. That is what I know. What I really feel is a profound sense of sadness. For Mike Brown (St. Louis), Eric Garner (Staten Island), John Crawford (Ohio), Jonathan Ferrell (North Carolina), Ezell Ford (Los Angeles), Aiyana Jones (Detroit), Oscar Grant (Bay Area), Sean Bell (Queens) and all of the others who’ve fallen.

I be part of the steady stream of holiday makers in whispering prayers for them, for their beloved ones, for us all.

Eight:00p.m./ Better St. Mark Church, Ferguson

Handmade indicators that dangle subsequent to the doors of the church read: “Nobody goes out alone.” Those of us who’ve gathered there write the number for legal counsel in permanent marker on the inside of our arms, and arrange ourselves into small groups geared up with medical provides. We’re suggested to keep any protective gear in our luggage unless and until we’d like it, so as not to draw unwanted attention.

The sister hosting me on this trip is six months pregnant. Individuals who’ve skilled the brutality that happens throughout the nighttime demonstrations insist that it is too harmful for her and the child to be out there — but staying on the church is not an option either, as it has been repeatedly raided. We see her safely to her automobile and head out to West Florissant Avenue, where our call and response chants ring by way of the rain soaked air of the St. Louis night:

“Arms up! Do not Shoot!” “Show me what democracy looks like… That is what democracy seems like!” “No justice? No peace! No racist police!” “What’s his identify? Mike Brown!”

The evening that I march is the primary one where the crowd is not gassed or chased away. I am thankful. However the absence of conflict is just not the presence of peace. The rows of armored tanks lining the streets, the navy personnel peeking out of the tops of camouflaged autos with assault rifles in hand, the flash-lit police checkpoints, the officers that rim the location of our protest geared up with canine and batons — these remain.

8.21.2014/ 12:00/ Greater St. Louis

The surreal daytime dynamics we have noticed makes it really feel just like the militaristic occupation of this American city is being sold as a brand new normal. Troopers lining up their riot shields within the taped-off Target parking lot. Households strolling past bomb resistant army tanks without a second glance. Earlier, I witnessed a policeman encouraging a younger lady to pet the large German Shepherd caged inside the police Ok-9 unit van. I’m dumbfounded by the sight. It stays with me as I travel residence.

8.25.2014/ 7:30 p.m./ A brownstone in Brooklyn

The day of Mike Brown’s funeral, the Monday that ought to’ve marked the beginning of his college profession, I take part in a report again from Ferguson for residents of my neighborhood. We focus on the calls for issued by native groups like the Organization of Black Wrestle and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, as well as nationwide teams just like the Dream Defenders. We speak about the importance of organizing where we’re, in addition to sustaining our support for Ferguson through donations to the Brown family or bail funds for protestors through We mull methods for sustaining group pressure on the authorities accountable for charging and convicting Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown.

8.28.2014/ 6:00 p.m./ My residing room, NYC

The clearest lesson of my transient journey to Ferguson is that this a love story… It is in regards to the deep and abiding love of a family for their son and the love of a group for their buddy and brother. It is a couple of folks’s love for all of our Mike Browns and for the black and brown our bodies we are available in. It is concerning the love of life itself. This love is what permits us to make beauty where there was blood.

With indicators that declare “I am a man, I am a girl, I am not a number,” the folks of Ferguson are demonstrating that we have a desire to stay — not merely survive encounters with the police. We wish to live. We do not settle for that our lives are expendable.

At its core, it is a righteous indignation, a resurgence of the human spirit in opposition to atrocious situations, a declare to the human rights we are all entitled to. I consider the young boy so moved by the flower strewn memorial to Mike Brown that he took off his little baseball cap and added it to the positioning, while his mom shook her head in satisfaction. I think of how the native residents, even in their mourning, seized each opportunity to affirm their humanity — to each other, to the visitors, to the police, to the media that now floods their town.

I consider the courageous folks organizing peaceful protests night time after evening. How outstanding it’s to push through your grief, repeatedly enter into hostile situations knowing tanks, guns, batons and fuel await you, and to do it with nothing however gumption in your aspect. But this is our tradition. By means of enslavement, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, and into the twenty first century, Black individuals have traditionally shown a commitment to the ideals of the American mission and a fierce desire to push this nation to actualize them.

Because the news cycles have begun to show, hundreds of latest college Freedom Riders from around the country are spending Labor Day weekend in solidarity with the people of Ferguson to show that #BlackLivesMatter. People from across the country have committed to maintain a spotlight on these points, to take collective motion in opposition to injustice, to declare a communal vision for the longer term. With the leadership of the Ferguson group, we are driven by love to say “one other world is feasible” and here is what it would appear like.

That love is why, despite it all, I imagine that we’ll win.

Shani Jamila (, a Ford Basis Public Voices Fellow, is a new York-primarily based artist and the Director of the Human Rights Project on the Urban Justice Center. For extra details about the right way to assist native advocacy teams and the Brown family, please visit

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