On Thursday evening, thousands of people around America protested, demonstrated, and marched in honor of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a police officer on August 9th.
Here in Cleveland, a city with similar demographics and racial history as Ferguson, many protested knowing that what happened in Ferguson could have happened here. Instead of people here mourning what happened 560 miles away, my community members here could be weeping for the loss of their son, their nephew, their dearest friend.
The shooting of Michael Brown does not merely represent another teenager who was shot. It represents the ongoing reality of oppression, discrimination, and police brutality that Black America faces.
At Cleveland’s demonstration, despite being 560 miles away, community members feel the injustice acutely. Among the resounding voices singing to (Something Inside) So Strong, a popular song in Cleveland’s inner-city education system, there were still people weeping for the loss of yet another black boy whose life was cut too short.
These grassroots efforts, as with protesting and marching, ,that aim to have community voices be heard are still as important today as they were 50 years ago.
Too often, some form of “social-media activism” which involves hashtags, retweets, angry and impassioned statuses, and online petitions takes the place of actual on-the-street protesting and rallying.
However, let us be clear in saying that social media has truly played an indispensable role when dealing with situations like these. The events in Ferguson have been brought to light by those on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr even while news media outlets were slow to engage the situation.
Even as the police in Ferguson blocked press, photos and stories were still being shared, tweeted, and instagrammed by those on the ground. But during crises like these, it is important that we support those in Ferguson with our presence and manpower.
Here in Cleveland, and all over America, that is what we need to do: physically show our support by marching, not merely using hashtag activism to reach people.
With the Michael Brown shooting, yet another black man was a victim of the system of racism that degrades and devalues black and brown bodies and lives. Yet another instance of police forgetting their duty and using excessive force has occurred, in a seemingly infinite list of examples of police committing evil against those whom they are sworn to protect and serve.
This is why we must march, rally, and protest. Activism shouldn’t end at the keyboard. Using your networks to speak out against police brutality in the flesh not only can reach more people than a tweet can, but it can reach people who don’t engage with the internet or television and thus aren’t aware of the situation
Spread information, speak out, and stand in solidarity with the people in Ferguson and Michael Brown. Here in Cleveland we protest not merely the shooting of “another” black boy, but for the respect of people’s humanity everywhere. We protest because what happened in Ferguson could have happened here.