The Lives of Ferguson Activists, Five Years Later

By on August 9, 2019

From NY Times:  It wasn’t until the QuikTrip gas station was burned and looted on Aug. 10, 2014, that the protests began to take hold in the public consciousness. The day before, the body of Michael Brown, a young black man fatally shot by a white police officer, was left lying for hours on a street in Ferguson, Mo., while a disparate group of people gathered in anger.

What happened in Ferguson is often described as a catalyst — the beginning of a social justice movement that would sweep the nation. Five years later, the energy of the street protests has faded, but it carries on in national conversations about racial inequality, white privilege, reparations and police misconduct. It also lives on in the people who were there.

These seven women and men represent the broad array of activists who emerged from the demonstrations in Ferguson. Their stories show the steep price that many paid as well as the opportunities they found to effect change.

Michael Brown Sr. avoids “ground zero,” the patch of asphalt on Canfield Drive where he arrived to find his son, whose body had been left under a blazing sun for hours. Over time, and with great difficulty, Mr. Brown, who jokes that his stern demeanor sometimes frightens strangers, has transformed himself from grieving, angry parent to full-time peace activist.

The ability to forgive, he said, has been essential. “I turned my pain into purpose, and turned my anger into a positive,” he said. “And I’m not going to stop until I stop ticking.” After Michael Brown Jr. was killed, Mr. Brown and Lesley McSpadden, Michael’s mother and Mr. Brown’s ex-wife, shared a $1.5 million wrongful death settlement. Each parent has set up a charitable foundation. Mr. Brown now travels the nation trying to keep other families from experiencing the grief that only the parents of dead children know.

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