Protests and police clashes in Ferguson, Mo., aren't just news headlines. To Nelly, the story is personal. As a proud St. Louis native, some in the community saw it as his responsibility to be one of the first people to speak up about the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
Nelly Mo broke his silence about Brown's murder and the subsequent unrest that has followed during an interview with hometown radio station Hot 104.1 Thursday afternoon (Aug. 14). The rapper encouraged Ferguson residents not to resort to more looting and rioting. "Sometimes when you are so angry, instead of reacting, that's the time when you really need to take a deep breath," advised the St. Lunatic, who noted that using anger as "a weapon," won't "accomplish anything."
The Grammy winner was in Helsinki, Switzerland, when he found out about Brown's death. In the days since, he privately contacted the teen's mother, Lesley McSpadden, to put together a scholarship in Brown's name. "So brothers can go to school in his honor because he paid for that," he explained.
Nelly's goal was to figure out a way to not "disrespect" Brown's legacy by taking the "focus off the issue." He believes that the non-peaceful protests have done just that. "You don't use your last resort first," explained Nelly. "We gotta do something different. Black boys have been dying since we came to this country, ain't nothin' changed. He [Officer Darren Wilson] will not be the last cop to shoot an unarmed black man."
Within hours of Brown's slaying last Saturday, the story spread over social media and by the following day, the city of Ferguson was making international news. Brown getting gunned down turned out to be the last straw for the community. More than 60 percent of Ferguson's residents are Black, while the police force is over 90 percent white. The lack of diversity and accounts of racial profiling occurred long before Brown was gunned down.
Ferguson police have no dash cam evidence of the teen's shooting. Out of 18 patrol cars in the city, just two dash cams and wearable body cameras were purchased for officers. The cameras have yet to be installed.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has since ordered state Highway Patrol officers to take over for Ferguson police. The decision has already calmed tensions for the first time in nearly a week.
For now, the people of Ferguson must wait for the justice system to run it's course, Nelly said. If Wilson is not held accountable for killing Brown, only then will it be suitable to strategize the next step. "Right now, it's a murder," continued Nelly. "The injustice comes if the verdict is not sufficient or we think the penalty is not stiff enough."
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(Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)
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