On behalf of the annual Ferguson commemoration committee, we would like to cordially invite you all to the nine-year anniversary of the rebellion.
Just saying that makes me say “My god how time flies by when you’re doing the work.” In some ways, I cannot believe that it’s already been nine years since I was involved in a moment in Black History that helped ignite our 21st-century movement toward Black Freedom. There is sheer disbelief that I, a young Black man from the west side of St.Louis went through a metamorphosis from a high school teacher and a local football and basketball coach into a leader in the movement. Where we are from, things like this don’t happen to people like me so I’m forever grateful to Black America for believing in the actions of some people (mostly youth) in a small suburb in the midwest of the United States of America.
We weren’t handed the torch for this moment either, we found a blueprint to an invention under the rubble of the LA 92 uprising and reconstructed it. Piece by piece. Like a young Louis Latimer, we saw our people needed a source to light the way and invented one to fit the times. We met this challenge at a time in history when most Black people thought that the second term of President Obama was something similar to the second coming of Christ in a post-racial world. Boy was Toure and others were wrong about that one. Ferguson was truly remarkable from a Black historical perspective considering who actually lead and organized it. Ferguson was made up of leftovers. The stone that buildings refused and Black youth who have been intentionally underserved by their government and the Black community. This uprising at its core was compromised of those who were no longer disillusioned with the school system, a rigged two-party electoral process built on disenfranchisement and an economic system orchestrated to keep us below, at or just above poverty in every way.
We are the data that Pew couldn’t survey, the negros that the NAACP and Urban League historically could never organize and who the grant was written for and about but the philanthropic dollars never reached in any impactful way. No matter what mainstream media or so-called movement journalists have told you about Ferguson, we were multigenerational. We taught, learned, organized and held space for each other so that we could be mentally, spiritually and physically strong for the task ahead. Our elders may not be famous as Beyonce, rich as Oprah or more institutionally educated as Michael Eric Dyson but when a Mama Julia, Baba Dhati or Anthony Shaheed speaks, the entire Black community listened to get the information we needed to move as a community.
No, we were not trained through the traditional systems that created SNCC nor were we schooled at the Highlander Center like Rosa Parks or Dr. King. But our baptism through fire, tear gas and pepper spray fortified us intrinsically to lead the longest civil disobedience campaign in American history with over 400 days of direct action against the state for justice.
What we unknowingly ignited in Black people worldwide was something of biblical proportions. We were the Jeremiah generation leading our people away from Pharaoh’s made-for corporate sponsorship style of activism and into a wilderness of organizing that most say is impossible to achieve but we did that fearlessly and pragmatically. All with the same amount of money as the Montgomery Bus Boycott did nearly 60 years earlier. No cap.
Our money and support in the first year came from those who practiced what they preached and from some who never preached it but knew our people were ready to change our conditions ourselves. Our generation had Talib Kweli and Snoop Dogg bailing out protestors and funding programs to empower and uplift the people. We had “spooks who sat by the door” to kick us a small grant or purchase a ticket or two so we could spread the news of what was possible in our lifetime. Those names will remain near and dear to our hearts but will forever remain nameless.
Through many trials and tribulations over the last nine years, we figured out how to organize every segment of Black society. Even if they could only be organized in moments to assist us, we learned how to do so while not putting more on our people than they could handle at their stage of transformative development.
The proof is now in the pudding. Culturally in St. Louis, Black resistance is now the norm. We are moving our people through DEI into ownership, the way it was supposed to be all along. This has now led to a doubling of Black businesses not only in Ferguson in particular but in the St.Louis metro area as a whole. And politically, yes we have more Black elected officials than in any other time in Missouri history but we still have a long way to go to pushing people like St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell and Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones to deliver on their campaign promises that they still have not delivered on til this day. But at least our Black political Northstar is a Ferguson protestor by the name of Cori Bush who is fighting for us in the halls of Congress like she did on West Florissant next to me fighting for justice for Mike Brown back in 2014 and every action after. Feels good to see ya homies shine on them like that in that sphere.
Oh yes family, we’ve learned a lot about this here movement thing and as the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility” so we are obligated to share it with the masses. Or at least that’s how we see it.
So with that being said, I humbly and cordially invite every Black activist, professor, influencer, elder, clergy, entrepreneur, politician and every other walk of Black life to attend the nine-year commemoration of the Ferguson uprising to be held the week of August 9th, 2024 here in St. Louis, Missouri.
On my mama, you don’t want to miss it.
Peace and Black Power,
Tory Russell is a Ferguson Uprising Organizer, Internationally recognized Black Movement Leader and Director of Organizing for the International Black Freedom Alliance.
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