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In #Ferguson, A day to mourn, a movement to build

By Richard B. Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad -Final Call Staffers- | Last updated: Aug 26, 2014 - 8:12:39 AM

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Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, wipes a tear as she stands by his casket at his the funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Aug. 25. Hundreds of people are gathered to say goodbye to Brown, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer on Aug. 9. The more than two weeks since Michael Brown’s death have been marked by nightly protests, some violent and chaotic, although tensions have eased in recent days. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

Cries for action, justice punctuate home going service for Michael Brown

ST. LOUIS—The world watched via live television coverage as Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., buried their son and endured funeral services at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

Mourners hold tributes to Michael Brown. Photo: D.L. Phillips

The world also watched as speakers and civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton delivered a clarion call for justice for Michael Brown, Jr. and countless young Black men and women slain at the hands of police.

Rev. Sharpton said in his Aug. 25 eulogy the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. and the people’s fight for justice is about fairness and America must come to terms with the disparaging ways law enforcement agencies police communities of color.

Leslie McSpadden, Jr., right, and his father Leslie McSpadden, Sr. raise their hands in prayer during the funeral for Michael Brown, Aug. 25, at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to Brown, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer on Aug. 9. Photo: AP/Wide World photos
“America. How do you think we look when the world can see you can’t come up with a police report but you can find a video,” Rev. Sharpton said. “How do you think we look when young people marched nonviolently, asking for the land of the free and the home of the brave to hear their cry and you put snipers on the roof, pointing guns at them?” 

Rev. Sharpton reiterated the call issued by Minister Abdul Akbar Muhammad, Nation of Islam international representative, for people to support an Aug. 30 mass march in Ferguson. The march is a protest against police brutality, racial profiling, and legal cover-ups.

“I’m mad and I’m hurt and that’s a deadly combination,” said Ty Bridges, Michael’s uncles who said family strength is in God. Today is a day for peace and quiet, he vowed; the days afterward will be filled with protests and demands for justice.

People begin to line up to attend the funeral for Michael Brown, Aug. 25, in St. Louis. Brown, who is Black, was unarmed when he was shot Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson, who is White. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case and a federal investigation is also underway.
Bernard Ewing, Ms. McSpadden’s cousin, spoke to youth of Ferguson and St. Louis’ cries for justice before closing his remarks. “We have the family of Trayvon Martin—Tracy Martin. We have the family of Jordan Davis. And now we have the family of Michael Brown.  This generation stood up when all of this was occurring and said we have had enough … of seeing our brothers and sisters killed in the streets,” he said.

Mr. Martin, Mr. Davis, and Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson (uncle of Oscar Grant, III), traveled to St. Louis to embrace and support Mr. Brown and the Brown and McSpadden families in their time of mourning and beyond.

As her family member spoke in her stead, Ms. McSpadden rocked back and forth looking straight ahead at the deep brown and gold coffin holding her son’s 6’4 physique. He had declared “one day the whole world will know my name,” relatives said and no truer words were spoken.


Media flocked to Ferguson and St. Louis to report the aftermath of the day police officer Darren Wilson took the life of the unarmed teenager.  The 18-year-old affectionately called a gentle giant, was memorialized and martyred in the escalating war against police killings.

He was remembered as an aspiring rapper and recent high school graduate on his way to a technical college.

The funeral was also about much more than the Black teen who lay in the closed casket after being shot to death by a White police officer. The emotional service sought to consecrate the young man’s death as another in the long history of the civil rights movement and implored Black Americans to change their protest chants into legislation and law.

“Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this,” said Eric Davis, one of Michael Brown’s cousins.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called for a movement to clean up police forces and the communities they serve.

Two uncles remembered how their nephew had once predicted that someday the whole world would know his name.

“He did not know he was offering up a divine prophecy,” Bernard Ewing said.

Rev. Al Sharpton (left) and Rev. Jesse Jackson (right) touch the vault containing Michael Brown's casket during Brown's funeral at St. Peters Cemetery in Normandy, Mo., Aug. 25. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed Aug. 9 in a confrontation with a police officer that fueled almost two weeks of street protests.
More than 4,500 mourners filled Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis for the service, which at times seemed like a cross between a gospel revival and a rock concert. It began with upbeat music punctuated by clapping. Some people danced in place.

The crowd included the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, along with a cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old murdered by several White men while visiting Mississippi in 1955. Young Till’s killing galvanized the civil rights movement.

Also in attendance were several White House aides, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, moviemaker Spike Lee, entertainer Sean Combs and Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, children of the Rev. Martin Luther King.

The Rev. Charles Ewing, the uncle who delivered the eulogy, said the young shooting victim “prophetically spoke his demise.” And now his blood is “crying from the ground. Crying for vengeance. Crying for justice.”

Poster-size photos of Michael Brown, wearing headphones, were on each side of the casket, which had a St. Louis Cardinals ball cap atop it. Large projection screens showed a photo of him clutching his high school diploma while wearing a cap and gown. Two days after his death, he had been scheduled to start training to become a heating and air-conditioning technician.

He was buried in a St. Louis cemetery and was unarmed when he was killed. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and a federal investigation is also underway.

Police have said a scuffle broke out Aug. 9 after officer Darren Wilson told Mr. Brown and a friend to move out of the street and onto a sidewalk in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Police said Officer Wilson was pushed into his squad car and physically assaulted. Some witnesses have reported seeing young Brown’s arms in the air in an act of surrender. An autopsy found he was shot at least six times.

At Final Call presstime, CNN’s Don Lemon was reporting about an audiotape on which 11 shots are heard.

The country is going to have to come to grips with the problem of police brutality and taking of Black lives, Rev. Sharpton said.

“We should not sit here today and act like we are watching something that is in order. In all of our religious and spiritual celebration, let us not lose sight of the fact that this young man should be doing his second week in college,” said Rev. Sharpton.

“What does it require of us? We can’t have a fit; we’ve got to have a movement. A fit you get mad and run out for a couple of nights. A movement means we’ve got to be here for the long haul, and turn our chants into change, our demonstration into legislation, we have got to stay on this so we can stop this,” he said.

“We need the Congress to have legislation about guidelines in policing. We need to have a fair, impartial investigation. Those that are compromised will not be believed. And we need those that are bad cops—we are not anti-police, we respect police—but those police that are wrong need to be dealt with, just like those in our community are wrong need to be dealt with.”

The Black community should be upset about high levels of Black-on-Black crime, he said.

Michael Brown’s death fueled nearly two weeks of sometimes violent street protests in Ferguson. His father, Michael Brown Sr., asked protesters to observe a “day of silence” to let the family grieve.

The request appeared to be honored. At the Ferguson Police Department, where a small but steady group of protesters have stood vigil, a handmade sign announced a “break for funeral.” On the day of the funeral, the West Florissant Avenue commercial corridor was also devoid of protesters, whose ranks have typically swelled as days turned to nights.

After the service, Corey Thomas, a 34-year-old St. Louis man, said the large crowd at the church reflected “that people are tired of being treated like dogs. They’re tired of being taken advantage of.”

Final Call editor Richard B. Muhammad and activist Anthony Shahid.
The mourners came to show their support because “it could be any one of us,” Mr. Thomas said.

Angela Pierre, a machine operator who once lived in Ferguson, said she hopes the funeral helps turn a page and eases tensions. Most important, she hopes it provides healing for Michael Brown’s family.

“I really wanted to just be here today to pray for the family and pray for peace,” said Ms. Pierre, 48, who is Black. “When all of this dies down, there’s still a mother, father and a family who’s lost someone. Sometimes a lot of the unrest takes away from that.”

Several members of Congress, including Rep. Lacy Clay, who represents the congressional district where the victim lived, and Rep. Maxine Waters, the Rev. T.D. Jakes, the Rev. Jamal Bryant were among the religious leaders on hand while Snoop Dogg and radio personality Tom Joyner, also attended. Other Black parents who have lost children or loved ones to violence came out to support the family of Michael Brown: The father of Jordan Davis, killed by a White man who felt his music was too loud; the mother of Sean Bell, killed by undercover New York police officers the night before his wedding day;  and the uncle of Oscar Grant, shot to death while shot to handcuffed on a California subway platform came to town and some attended the funeral.

Fifty-thousand people must come to Ferguson on Aug. 30 for a major protest, said activist Anthony Shahid, of the Tauheed Youth Group in St. Louis.  He organized protests, security and care for the family and efforts to help and organize youth as well. He arranged security for family, motorcycle escorts and brought in the F.O.I. to help with the family.

He also thanked Final Call editor Richard B. Muhammad for his work in the streets and had “never seen an editor work so hard for his people.” He thanked the Rev. Sharpton for keeping his word, working with the family and delivering a powerful message.

“I feel strongly that the people must continue to express their outrage. I feel that that there is probably a concerted effort to have them forget it and end peaceful demonstrations and let the ‘process’ take place,” said Abdul Akbar Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, who is part of the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition. The coalition is having a National March on Ferguson Aug. 30 to protest police killings, brutality, profiling and legal cover-ups. The opposition hopes the effort will lose momentum but the demands must be clear, especially with audio tape of the 11 gunshots, he added.

Once the pressure of peaceful protests end, they will go back to business as usual, he warned. James Knowles, mayor of Ferguson, and police chief Thomas Jackson must resign and county prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch  must step aside, he said. There should be an ongoing federal investigation. Darren Wilson should be off the payroll, arrested, and prosecuted, said the longtime St. Louis community leader and international representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)