In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. - Martin Luther King, The Trumpet of Conscience 1967Last week when the call went out for people to attend #NMOS2014 rallies, I looked for one near me. I felt the need to do something, to be with others who felt as I did, that Michael Brown deserved better than to be shot and left in the street, surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. I was angry. I was hurt. And frankly, I felt defeated and despairing because it seems, no matter how many times we see this story played out, it always plays out the same.
There was nothing planned in my small city. So I told myself that at 7:20 p.m. Thursday evening, I would observe that respectful moment of mourning and silence in my living room, by myself. I would, I told myself, be there in spirit. But that's not what happened.
When I went to bed Wednesday night, things were tense in Ferguson, Missouri. I knew that the police were in riot gear, and that two reporters had been "detained" earlier in the day. The situation was obviously one firecracker away from explosion, and that explosion happened while I was sleeping, hundreds of miles away. I woke in the morning to learn that overnight, police had fired on the crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets and, according to some reports, flash-bang grenades.
I went through my Twitter and Facebook timelines, following links and reading news stories and blog posts. I wish I could say I was stunned with disbelief, but it wouldn't be true. It was all too sadly, horrifyingly believable. When I saw the poster from Anonymous, calling on people around the country to join together for a Day of Rage against police brutality, it felt right and just.
I checked the cities listed and saw that, as expected, the nearest demonstrations were too far away for me to attend. I started searching to see if anyone was organizing one in my little city, but found nothing. This time, though, I knew that I couldn't "participate" from my living room. It's one thing to observe a moment of silence in privacy and still feel solidarity. There is no way to effectively express rage and outrage alone in your own living room. For it to have any effect at all, it must be declared publicly and it must be witnessed. And so, I declared myself publicly on Facebook:
The crowd adopts the "hands up, don't shoot" stance. pic.twitter.com/m1iGNR6vbb— Steven H. Foskett Jr (@SteveFoskettTG) August 15, 2014
The rally was powerful, but the aftermath was even more powerful. People made connections. shared resources and offered pieces of solutions. A representative of the local branch of the ACLU asked people to contact him with their stories. A school committee member talked about the school-to-prison pipeline and asked parents to attend the next public school committee meeting for a discussion of the zero-tolerance policy. There was discussion of the role of media in reporting black stories and police violence. These discussions and connections played out across the Facebook event page and reached out into real life.
In the week since that event, a group of people who attended have started planning a larger rally and walk through Worcester to take place next month. A community organization has offered us space to meet and plan next steps. And last night, with about an hour's notice, another group rallied 2 dozen people to join on the Common again for a rally and demonstration for a united community against police violence. And again, at last night's rally, connections were made and the community widened.
This is my first diary. I'm not writing it to brag about what I did. I don't want or need strokes for doing what felt right - I've gotten more of that than makes me comfortable. I'm writing it to encourage other people to take action, whatever action feels right, and to take it publicly. The only way to find others who want to make a difference is to make a public stand and see who comes to stand beside you.