Today (Aug. 9) marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the 18 year-old who was gunned down by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9 2014, sparking national outrage and protests. Brown, who was unarmed, was left lying in the street for four hours before his body was removed from the scene. Wilson was not indicted for the shooting.
Brown’s death, coupled with the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012, helped to propel a national dialogue on race relations in America and the state sanctioned police violence against black people and gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. In the two years following Brown’s death, the list of unarmed black people killed by police has continued to grow. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford II, Sam DuBose, Natasha McKenna, Freddie Gray and Walter Scott are just a few who made national headlines—according to The Guardian, the final total of people killed by US police officers in 2015 shows rate of death for young black men was five times higher than white men of the same age. That reality has left an exploited, historically oppressed community, outraged, grieving, and at some especially low points, feeling hopeless, particularly when police officers are continually not held accountable for the killings.
Just last month, the nation was rocked again by the back to back killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, sparking a fresh round of outrage, a call for communities of color to become more involved in state and local elections and even a push to move money to black-owned banks as means of solidarity and community-oriented financial empowerment, spawned by rapper/activist, Killer Mike. The move was supported by rappers nationally, many of whom have been incredibly vocal about the police violence against the black community in the wake of Brown’s shooting, and have openly supported Black Lives Matter with music, money, statements and by attending protests themselves—Drake, Nick Cannon, Talib Kweli and The Game, Jay Z and Beyonce among them.
On the cusp of a national election, the discussion has become even more heated, as racial tensions continue, drawing responses from people who had previously been content to remain silent, including superstar Michael Jordan, who recently wrote an open letter denouncing police violence against communities of color and just recently donated $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Amid the continued struggle for recognition of the humanity of black people and justice, we remember the life of Mike Brown.