Just as protesters in Ferguson, Missouri began this week’s first night of peace, Columbians gathered in Speakers Circle for a National Moment of Silence honoring Mike Brown and other victims of police brutality.
MU seniors Ashley Bland, Kailynd Beck and Naomi Daugherty used Twitter and Facebook as a conduit for informing the time and place of the gathering. The movement adopted the hashtag “#MU4MIKEBROWN” and the Twitter page @MU4MIKE.
“I want this to be a catalyst for other things,” Bland said. “It’s just a start. This is so much bigger than Mike Brown, than Trayvon Martin, than Oscar Grant. We’re tired of seeing this happen to young black men.”
The vigil attracted about 200 people. Attendees made signs and tied red ribbons to their wrists. Peaceful protestors hugged each other and at one point reached out to put a hand on the shoulders of black men standing near them. Two students performed original poems, and the Legion of Black Collegians Gospel Choir led the group in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Speakers stepped forward and spoke of change, the importance of staying informed and the need to keep the movement going after Ferguson slips out of the mainstream media’s attention.
“This issue is greatly affecting black bodies and it’s affecting the black community, but it’s not our exclusive problem,” Bland said. “It’s not something we should have to solve on our own. It’s deeper than that. It’s a human issue.”
Moberly Area Community College student Aaminah Muhammad said she felt compelled to be part of something. Muhammad said she used to live minutes away from Ferguson and she is familiar with the aggression of the police in that area, but the shooting of Mike Brown still felt surreal to her.
“I’m not surprised (by the way St. Louis County Police handled the situation),” Muhammad said. “My mom always used to tell me that when a group of oppressed people come together demanding change, it’s always going to fill the oppressor with fear, causing the oppressor to do whatever they can to silence those being oppressed.”
Muhammad said she believed that a similar situation to the Mike Brown shooting could happen in Columbia.
“There are people with the same mindset of that police officer everywhere,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad said that if people want change, they have to keep moving and organizing.
“We really need to be willing to live by the (phrase) ‘by any means necessary,’” Muhammad said. “This needs to be a tireless movement, and it’s got to keep going if we want change. We have to keep going by any means necessary.”
Local activist Joel Reed attended the vigil. He spent Wednesday in Ferguson, holding up signs and showing his support. He said he left at sundown before the police started spraying tear gas at peaceful protesters.
“I came tonight because I just wanted to support the cause and show that you don’t have to be a black person to value a black person’s life that was taken unjustly,” Reed said.
Speakers included Jonathan A. McElderly, director of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, Mary Ratliff, president of the Missouri NAACP, and others.
The movement will carry on with the “Don’t Shoot” Photo Challenge at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Francis Quadrangle and an open session at the Black Culture Center at 3 p.m. Sunday. McElderly encourages anyone to come and provide input and suggestions for what needs to happen next.