We still have quite a way to go…
According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, police in the United States have killed 184 Black people in 2015.
It’s daunting to think of the murders of Black folk in this country in a statistical way when families have lost fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons. I hoped so many things would change as we approached a year since Michael Brown’s death. Ferguson currently has an interim police chief, Mayor Knowles is still in office and Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County Bob McCulloch still has his job.
I think of how most families don’t get to grieve the lives that were senselessly stripped from them. I think of my own family, about a thousand miles away. The fact that I couldn’t just drive to see them, physically hold them in an embrace. I can fight for them while they are still breathing but Michael, Vonderrit Myers, Kajieme Powell, Rekia Boyd , and Sandra Bland could have been anyone in my family. They could have been a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker. I will never know how it feels to lose a loved one to gun violence but I couldn’t stand by until it happened to me.
Mike’s death shook St. Louis to awaken its darkest demons. Race was never a conversation that was openly discussed, but instead silenced. Now, the country has taken to the streets in a movement that has pushed fed up young folk to changed the dynamic of what it means to be an American citizen. I think many of us struggle to feel like we could call ourselves Americans, as we’ve been treated like we don’t belong in a country where we are citizens.
I struggled with leaving St. Louis because I had never really lived anywhere else as an adult and I felt like I was letting folks in the movement down. I moved to New York City to work with one of the largest human rights organizations in the world. Dealing with the reality of having PTSD but also with the idea I may suffer from depression.
I had to remind myself that if Mike had the opportunity to do what he was called to do, he would’ve conquered any obstacle that interfered with his destiny. I didn’t really know what tomorrow would look like, I could barely pay my bills and I had to vacate my apartment after I lost my job in mid-August. I felt driven that this what I was meant to do but it was difficult to navigate in spaces as an openly Black gay man. I felt discouraged and felt at the time no one understood why I would shut down.
Today, I’ve continued because I know my role may be small but it is integral to the work that all of us nationally and globally are doing to end the lethal force of police towards People of Color. I know my role is to show other gay and queer men that your voices matter, your work and your life matters. You are an important part of this work…you have to learn to be self-aware.
In some capacity, I’m hopeful that one day we won’t have to take to the streets to end state violence.
Larry Fellows III is a community organizer from St. Louis, MO whose activism blossomed in Ferguson. Served as the first Young Leader Fellow with Amnesty International USA earlier this year. Currently works as social media manager in New York.