The photo, and the reaction to it, crystallized Ferguson’s uprising this month in all its anger and strangeness: a demonstrator in an American flag shirt, holding a bag of chips in one hand while hurling a canister of tear gas back at police with the other, leaving an arabesque of smoke in his wake.
The image became so well-known that a man who said he was the demonstrator put details for booking requests on his Twitter profile. He got thousands of new Twitter followers.
So too with Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman and budding celebrity, who in the space of 10 days gained more than 100,000 Twitter followers due to his relentless documenting of events good and bad after the police shooting of Michael Brown. People are wondering what higher office French might seek. And they say as much about Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, once a low-profile officer, placed in charge of maintaining security in Ferguson.
It’s become apparent that anyone who has played a contributing role in this city’s unsteady vortex has been reshaped in it. Along with fostering celebrity, events here have taken on a ritualistic quality, with protesters gathering night after night along a small stretch of West Florissant Avenue. “During the day, it’s a spectacle. At night, it’s a war zone,” Wes Suber, a 26-year-old sociology student from Ferguson, said one night this week.
There’s no one guiding events — Ferguson has been like a barreling train without an engineer — and the difficulties in organization were apparent. On Tuesday, community leaders halted a protest march to hold a prayer and lead some chants; they told demonstrators to go home and rest up for a protest outside the county justice building in nearby Clayton the next morning. But the crowd refused to go home. Instead, people milled around until there was another standoff with police.
As everyone knows, the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the unrest, protests and investigations that continue to unfold in the wake of this tragedy are mightily affecting (and hopefully redefining) the national conversation on racism, abuses of power and overbearing, militarized police action against citizens.
As the editor of a website dedicated solely to providing and promoting Good Black News, it has been admittedly hard in the past week to bring myself to post what were starting to seem like frivolous accomplishments and events in the wake of a soul-stirring grass roots movement against tyranny and injustice. This unrest in particular feels like it has the makings of a sea change from the status quo into a new era of human rights, where systemic and commonplace brutality is voted down and rooted out of any and all policing bodies that are meant to Protect and Serve, not Terrify and Dehumanize.
But, even though the eventual outcome could lead to something positive, how can any of what is happening day-to-day (tear gassing, unprovoked arrests, pockets of protester violence, autopsy results) qualify as Good Black News? But not posting anything about Ferguson did not feel right, either. Thus, aside from a few tweets, GBN has been silent for days.
Upon serious thought and reflection, I’ve come to believe that publishing Good Black News is more important and necessary than ever. The achievements of people of color are still woefully under-publicized and reported, and the only way to change minds or inspire pride in those who internalize the “less than” narrative, is to keep putting as much GBN out there as possible.
Thus, going forward, in addition to our regular mix of GBN, we will also post items, tweets, stories and pictures that cover the Ferguson story — the GBN philosophy will still be in place and nothing will be incendiary or negative — in fact, non-violent protest, speaking out, photos, tweets and the like that continue to highlight the injustices still prevalent in this country ARE, in my opinion, Good Black News. Granted, nothing will bring back Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Oscar Grant or countless others who have suffered the same unjust fate, but positive, insistent protests and actions do have the power to prevent the next young man or woman of color from being victimized, and that we uncategorically and unreservedly support.
Onward and upward —
Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Founder and Editor-In-Chief