It was a funeral that encompassed the best in the Black church tradition. There were soaring sermons from a number of people. There was the pulsating music of the African-American church, with congregants playing tambourines as the choir and band sang “Every Praise Is to Our God.”
The service for Michael Brown drew a number of Americans to St. Louis, from director Spike Lee to the renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes. There were representatives dispatched from the Obama administration and members of Congress as well Claire McCaskill, the United States Senator from Missouri. A snarky Fox News reported that more White House officials attended Brown’s funeral than that of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
On the other hand, the homegoing service for Michael Brown in a cavernous church in St. Louis was a call to service, involvement and justice. After two weeks since the shooting of the young Black man, the funeral of Brown clearly signaled a new era in the events surrounding the teenager’s death.
The speeches and eulogies from the service on Monday made some clear recommendations of how to move forward. One of Michael Brown’s relatives suggested that young people and other residents use their conviction to start voting in Ferguson. It is a city of 22,000 residents that is two-thirds Black but has an abysmal voting participation of roughly 6 percent.
This is a time for the people of Ferguson to undertake a good many changes in their community as a way of honoring the memory of Michael Brown. It is time for community groups to band together to raise awareness of the need for local residents to take the reins of their community. Ferguson has a police department of 55 officers with just three Black officers. The mayor is white and the city council has one Black member, of a six-member board.
The wait for justice in the Mike Brown scenario will be long and deliberate. It will likely be months before there is a decision on whether to charge Darren Wilson, a move that frankly should have happened by now.
In the meantime, it would be highly fitting for African-Americans in St. Louis County and Ferguson to begin the serious work of self-determination. It would serve the people of those communities, including those underrepresented citizens in the area Michael Brown called home.
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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(Photo: Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post Dispatch, Pool/AP Photo)
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