Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ferguson & Beyond...Ethical Society of St. Louis Podcast

The Ethical Society of St. Louis has graciously posted a podcast of my speech last week. Even though watching the film "Selma" the night before caused me to go completely off script, I think I managed to get my main points across. Please take a listen if you have time. It speaks to the challenges the Sweet Potato Project plans to address with your help and involvement. Click photo below to start podcast:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Redemption Song

Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom? -
'Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

How do we redeem ourselves with this generation of youth? For most of their lives, they've been taught that they must be held accountable for their actions. We've told them that America stands for equality, human rights, democracy and freedom and justice the world over. Yet many of our youth believe “justice” has been denied in Ferguson and the nation’s other metropolitan areas.

Many adults have justified the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice and countless other unarmed black teens and men killed by police. This justification, however, runs counter to what we've taught our youth about the consequences of our actions. Believe me, they are not oblivious to rules and procedures engineered to exonerate policemen and solidify their roles as on-the-street judge, jury and executioner.

Based on what we've taught them, our youth valiantly stood strong in the face of slathering dogs, militarized police forces, flash-bang grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. Still, they summoned the moxie to say “no more!”

Although their actions reverberated around the globe, they have been dehumanized, criminalized and portrayed as “looters” (even though looting was an insignificant fraction amongst the hundreds of national demonstrations). With the media’s help; they've been targeted, arrested and ludicrously portrayed as domestic terrorists with ties to Isis and an agenda to kill police.

The saddest tragedy of the Ferguson melee is that this generation of young people has to grapple with the racial injustices that their parents and grandparents endured. How do we help them make sense of a world that arrogantly decries; “black lives really don’t matter?” How do we save those who have lost faith or are on the brink of disengaging from society? How do we take their bold start and turn it into something powerful and long-lasting?

How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!

As I wrote in my commentary, “TheLong Fuse to Ferguson,” the region’s problems didn't start in St. Louis County. We have a 115-year-plus history of racial redlining, displacement and economic exclusion that has left most African Americans living in pockets of poverty throughout St. Louis. In many of these areas, the poor are regarded as stereotyped pawns to be used and misused to pump profits into city, county and municipal coffers.

Many demonstrators and activists have opted for systematic change through protests and politics. This is all well and good but we must face a few harsh realities. We are fighting against a stubbornly ingrained mindset. Recent polls show that whites and blacks are severely divided on all matters pertaining to race and police brutality. Most whites believe that “the system” works, that cops are fair and unbiased and that racism is dead. In fact, based on surveys, most whites believe that they are the real victims of racism today.

Those fighting to change the system must contend with the fact that it will be slow change...maybe. Remember, right after slavery, America used the prison system (arresting and detaining blacks for minor and/or nonexistent crimes) to continue using them as free labor. More than 150 years later, this “system”-with the addition of private prisons-still rounds up, charges, detains, oppresses, profits from and even allows the killing of black and brown men and teens at disproportionate rates.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.

The educational, economic and criminal justice systems are all broken. Many white adults are hesitant to disrupt systems that are not negatively impacting their lives. God bless those speaking out and standing up for justice but, again, as polls indicate, their numbers are far too few to enact immediate change.

Make no mistake about it; poverty is the root cause of much of the decay and dysfunction in many Black communities today. The African-American poverty rate (12.7%) is more than double the rate among whites and only 1.4 percent higher than it was in 1966. Nearly half of poor black children (compared to a 10th of poor white children) live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.  The black unemployment rate in 2012 (14.0 percent) was 2.1 times higher than the white unemployment rate (6.6 percent).

Passage of civil rights legislation in the late 1960s was regarded as a huge gain for black people. And perhaps it was; but it came at a huge cost when working class black adults and entrepreneurs abandoned their neighborhoods to seek the shining opportunities that “integration” promised.

We cannot deny that almost every other ethnicity-East Indians, Asians, Jews, etc., have developed their own systems within the American system. While they participate in society, they have built independent educational, political and economic mechanisms so that their children will understand, protect and propel their cultural values and to make sure they are never reliant on outsiders for their survival.

With the absence of engaged, working class black adults; underfunded, disconnected and inadequate “systems” have become stewards of poor black children for generations. Growing into adulthood, most became little more than statistics and stereotypes. It’s a lot easier to lock up, lock out or shoot a stereotype than it is to protect and nurture human beings.    

We forward in this generation…triumphantly.

African Americans don’t have the luxury to wait on systematic change. Yes, fight that fine fight but as you do, implement new, alternative systems-especially for the generational poor. We don’t have time to wait for those whose minds are still stuck in ‘60s to change. As far as I’m concerned, there's only one solution; Blacks must work with those who truly “get it” and go back to that post-integration period when we had no choice but depend on ourselves.

WE must adopt a "do-for-self" agenda. Neither the government nor whites can give us mental or economic freedom. In fact, in today’s political climate there’s a concerted effort to relieve government of its obligation to poor people of color. We step on the path of redemption by listening, responding and empowering our youth to be the aggressive, independent change we seek.

This is the mission of the Sweet Potato Project. We recruit urban youth; teach them how to plant produce on vacant lots; provide summer jobs where they learn marketing, branding, sales, product development and much more. They sell products made from their produce. Our goal is to raise a generation of urban entrepreneurs who will lead in transforming long-deprived neighborhoods into independent Mecca’s of food-based economic activity.

This year, we will launch a landownership initiative where young adults and city residents can secure land to grow food that will be turned into marketable products. We have a buyer willing to purchase all the sweet potatoes we and our partner gardeners can grow this year. This is only the first step toward building an environment where food grown in North St. Louis can be sold at farmers markets or packaged and distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hospitals and consumers in and outside the region.

For the past three years, I have been inspired by the ideas, hopes and dreams of the youth we serve, some of whom are involved with the Ferguson demonstrations. The region is exploring dozens of efforts to rectify the deficiencies that led to the eruption in Ferguson. My prayer is that these leaders not ignore the youthful energy that ignited this call for sustainable, positive change. It was their resilience, passions, voices, artistry and bravery that brought us to this valuable place in history.

Let us not blow it…again.

While we promote and pour money and resources into the ideas of those embedded and reliant on the current system; let us also use, employ, fund and follow the lead of young idealists intent on creating new, more inclusive systems. Let us challenge them to go beyond protests and into that glorious, mystifying realm of unexplored possibilities.

We’re living in that rare, magic moment and we need to thank the activists and youth of St. Louis for sparking an opportunity to redeem ourselves. To them, I say if you find yourselves dismissed, demeaned or disregarded, we at the Sweet Potato Project have a place for you.

Come; help us rebuild and create sustainable jobs and small businesses in our own neighborhoods. Come; bring your youthful creativity and audaciousness and let us work with activists, churches, organizations and those of like minds. Come; help us fulfill a mission designed to empower the powerless and once and for all create alternative systems where accountability and responsibility is revered and respected and where sustainability is in our ever-lasting control.

Yes, some say it's just a part of it:
We've got to fulfill the book.
Won't you help to sing?
These songs of freedom
'Cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs 

Sylvester Brown, Jr., journalist and executive director of the Sweet Potato Project, will speak on the topic:"Ferguson and Beyond; Building Communities Where 'Race' Matters" this Sunday, January 18th at 11:am at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Rd, St Louis, MO 63117

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

After the Betrayal:

Rewarding the Young Soldiers of Justice 

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” 
 – Alabama Gov. George Wallace

by Sylvester Brown, Jr. 
Dec. 2, 2014 

The privileged and powerful possess a certain kind of arrogant ignorance. It prevents them from seeing how they will be viewed by the world or recorded in history. Remember that look of obnoxious righteousness the late Governor George Wallace's face during his stupid attempts to prevent black kids from integrating Alabama elementary schools? Think back to the jubilant faces of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam after they were acquitted of murdering 14-year-old Emmett Till? A year after the 1956 trial, the pair (because of double jeopardy) publicly admitted to killing Til. They were paid handsomely to tell their stories to publications like LOOK Magazine without repudiation. 

Fast forward to 2014. With public demonstrations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Washington D.C., London and elsewhere, St. Louis’ powerful and privileged seem oblivious to how they’re viewed around the world or how backwards the region will appear in the nation’s history books. With stubborn determination, brute force and legal trickery, they exonerated Darren Wilson-the Ferguson cop accused of killing an unarmed black teen. With one fatal swoop, St. Louis, Missouri became the new Selma, Alabama and Darren Wilson (as he makes his media rounds) as the new  Bryant and Milam

Once again, the region has missed a magic moment: Demonstrators-many of them young and newly activated have creatively, audaciously and consistently given us potent scripts: “Don’t Shoot, Black lives matter, No more killer Cops!” With the “no-indict” grand jury verdict, the status quo provided a dangerous counter narrative: “We will shoot; Black lives don’t matter and we will protect ‘killer cops.’” 

No matter what side one falls on regarding Wilson's guilt or innocence, the judicial process was tainted. If you or I shot an unarmed suspect and more than one witness said the man had surrendered, we'd be in a trial trying to prove our innocence. Wilson, simply because he was a cop, was coddled by the powerful, allowed to skip due process and is celebrated by many as a "hero."

Arrogant ignorance prevents the region’s elected and appointed officials (and those who tolerate their racial nonsense) from seeing the damage they've wrought. Young St. Louisans struck an international chord that's resonating with millions around the globe. We taught our young to side with human rights, to stand against tyranny-no matter the source. We drenched their brains with the mantra of “liberty and justice for all.” Yet, when they stood up for justice; we treated them like domestic terrorists and assaulted their sensibilities with sanitized chicanery and legal subterfuge. 

The privileged and powerful don’t seem to realize that our youth-future lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists, writers, technicians, construction workers and more-are not stupid. They know what “justice” looks like and, with all the resources of the Internet, they can quickly detect, dissect and discard the establishment's manure as soon as they smell it. 

They saw it moments after Mike Brown was shot; when cops left his dead body on the ground for four hours. They felt it when police responded to their angst with dogs and automatic weapons. It was crystal clear when commanding officers used tanks and tear gas to stifle citizen frustration. They knew the “huge, dangerous black man” defense was again in play when Ferguson Police Chief, Thomas Jackson, released an edited video of Mike Brown stealing a pack of cigarillos but refused to release the name of the cop who shot him. They sensed the anatomy of injustice when supervisors failed to order Wilson to turn in a mandatory incident report after applying deadly force. With no written statement, he had the unheralded advantage to craft an after-the-fact story based on witness accounts. 

They sensed the anatomy of injustice when supervisors failed to order Wilson to turn in a mandatory incident report...with no written statement, he had the unheralded advantage to craft an after-the-fact story based on witness accounts. 

They instinctively knew the whole grand jury process was a sham orchestrated by a biased prosecutor, Bob McCullochWith a mother, brother, uncle and cousin that worked for the St, Louis PD and a father-a city cop killed by a black suspect in 1964-those calling for justice expected none from the county prosecutor. Rarely will defense attorneys allow their clients to appear before a grand jury. Protesters understood Wilson’s appearance before the grand jury was a signal that he had a friend in the prosecutor’s office.

They called for a special prosecutor because they knew McCulloch would use the process as political cover to exonerate Wilson. An example of the prosecutor's misuse of the grand jury system was reported by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell who noted how assistant prosecutors handed jurors a copy of a 1979 Missouri law that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1985. This is why St. Louis attorney and president of the National Bar Association, Pamela Meanes, publicly expressed concerns about the way McCulloch mis-handled the grand jury process. The "why" was explained by award-winning author and journalist Bryan Monroe in this Huffington Post commentary: “’s clear prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch never had any intention of indicting officer Wilson. Never.”

Young people gave St. Louis the grand opportunity to grow beyond its segregated, backwards and predatory ways. Through their actions and media coverage, the region was exposed as one that has failed its citizens.  

St. Louis County Prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch delivering the grand jury verdict

It’s sad, really. Young people gave St. Louis the grand opportunity to grow beyond its segregated, backwards and predatory ways. Through their actions and media coverage, the region was exposed as one that has failed its citizens. The world learned that our 90 or so municipalities (some generating 70 percent of its revenues) where profiting off poor people of color. It was mostly brave young people who shoved the issues of police shooting unarmed black men and out-of-control “militarized police forces” upon our national consciousness. Young people, willing to sacrifice their “freedoms” for ours, helped us confront and correct our demons. In return, we villainized, brutalized, targeted and detained them.

The conservative mainstream media and the stoic, “powers-that-be”stubbornly dedicated to defending one cop, played mind-numbing games, changed the rules of civic engagement and spent millions to arm an already over-armed police force. In the annals of history, St. Louis 2014 will be seen as a continuation of 1960's-era police brutality. 

In the annals of history, St. Louis 2014 will be seen as a continuation of 1960's-era police brutality. 

Conservative and Corporate media tried in vain to keep the focus on the few incidents of violence and "looting" while minimizing the power of peaceful protests here and around the world. Demonstrators didn't confront tear gas, batons, flash bomb grenades, tanks. jail time and cops with military-grade weaponry to be demeaned by the press. They didn't ask Governor Jay Nixon to create an “Office of Community Engagement” staffed by employees with six-figure salaries. Manning yet another "commission" to study the “underlying social and economic conditions” of Ferguson and the region was not on their request list. 

No, our young people, guided and supported by seasoned elders of the movement asked for one thing: JUSTICE! 

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

We failed to reply to that simple, moral appeal. With the world watching, the status quo sided with “injustice.” In light of this betrayal, the region should embrace the challenge of utilizing the refreshing energy of its young people. Their genius was evident in their slogans ("Hands Up!"), protest tactics, T-shirts, poems, lyrics and songs about the killing of Mike Brown. We don't need to appoint the already politically and economically-connected to "fix" Ferguson. How about empowering and employing the youth who boldly and creatively confronted injustices in St. Louis? 

How about empowering and employing the youth who boldly and creatively confronted injustices in St. Louis? 

In late August, NPR journalist Michel Martin, Beyond Housing's  aCEO, Chris Krehmeyer and I were guests on Don Marsh’s St. Louis on the Air program. In that conversation, I said St. Louis’ real challenge is not only stamping out segregated neighborhoods in the region but tackling “segregated thinking” as well. 

The privileged and powerful are victims of this malady. In city and county police departments and municipal offices this sick, seeded notion that black lives and neighborhoods don’t really matter is woefully pervasive. But it doesn't stop there. No matter if its development in Ferguson, Clayton, the Central West End, Grand Center or downtown St. Louis, “segregated thinking” makes it OK to disproportionately exclude blacks and minorities from the social and economic benefits of inclusion and participation. The segregated mindset will spend more money on incarcerating black and poor people than it will in investing in their neighborhoods or their potential.

I have little faith in the federal investigation or follow-up that will rectify the damage done. Later this month, the Sweet Potato Project will announce a venture that can utilize the bold, diverse passions of conscientious soldiers (young, old, black, white and “other”) who have incited much-needed change in our region. If no where else, they are welcome to help us build strong, safe neighborhoods where their talents, skills and dreams can flourish.  

I pray for real, substantial and sustainable solutions that will embolden our young. My hope is that history doesn't record our region as a backwards rendition of the “new south.” Let us insure that the final version of the “Ferguson Tragedy” not be scripted by the privileged and powerful but by the empowered young emissaries of real JUSTICE.

Friday, October 10, 2014

...Of Baseball & Blood

by Sylvester Brown, Jr.

This weekend, St. Louis’ Baseball Cardinals will glow in the national media spotlight as they square off against the San Francisco Giants for the 2014 National League Championship. Internationally, however, it’s more likely the media’s attention will be focused on a city embroiled in civic unrest. Tensions have escalated in the region, partly due to the fact that Ferguson MO policeman, Darren Wilson, has yet to be charged for the fatal shooting an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, two months ago.
Ten days after that August 9th shooting, two St. Louis City police officers gunned down a knife-wielding young man, Kajieme Powell, 25, fewer than three miles from Ferguson. Then on Oct. 8th, two days after the Cards beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series, an off duty St. Louis cop shot and killed an 18-year-old teen, Vonderrit Myers, in south St. Louis.
Police, according to local media, are expecting a “hot” weekend. They’re gearing up for large and possibly violent confrontations with protesters downtown and throughout the region. Protesters, like they did at a recent Powell Symphony Hall concert, are making plans to visually and creatively disrupt, make “the comfortable uncomfortable” and generally draw the world’s attention to what they view as an out-of-control and deadly police force.   
 “Baseball & Blood” is an appropriate title for this weekend’s activities. Since the Ferguson shooting, race relations, political and police power has been heavily scrutinized by media from all over the world. Our region has unexplainably become the lynchpin that’s exposing the pitfalls of whites who dominate police departments in mostly all-black neighborhoods and majority white municipalities profiting off “driving while black.” 
It’s because of St. Louis that politicians on Capitol Hill have held hearings on militarized police departments and we’re the reason why police chiefs are fumbling to explain inhumane and flawed policies and training. And, finally, we’re holding real conversations and having constructive dialogue about our region that’s famously known for still being segregated in the 21st Century.
It may sound callous but we should celebrate the duel monikers of “baseball & blood.” Just as the Red Birds earned their place for playing and winning hard, St. Louis deserves a thorough analysis of its hard-headed tolerance of institutionalized, discriminatory behaviors. Police officials still don’t understand that policies that result in the deaths of unarmed black men are not OK. Since the Ferguson shooting we’ve heard or seen several graphic cases nationwide of police unloading their guns or roughing up citizens for offenses as trivial as “seatbelt violations.”
There must be a reckoning for blood loss in the name of “law enforcement.” Hopefully, whites who sympathize and defend police-many who wore “I am Darren Wilson” wristbands-will understand that these sentiments fuel the “us vs. them” mentality of cops and reinforce the concept of killing without consequence.
The explosion in our region has been a long-time in the making. We need to ensure the region’s “talking heads” or the media’s appointed “leaders” do not dampen the revolutionary spirit of powerful protest and meaningful progress. As Dr. Cornel West pointed out in a recent op-ed, we are experiencing a “leader-less” movement, buoyed by youthful angst-not traditional religious or political stoic rhetoric.
The euphoria of strike-outs, stolen bases and home runs should run parallel with our support of bold protests and public acts of righteous indignation. Under the media’s glare, civic leaders and police officials will have to think about more than just the millions they’ll make off baseball. They’ll have to give serious thought before strapping their officers in military gear, rolling out the tanks, unleashing the dogs or hurling flash-bang grenades and tear gas canisters at downtown crowds.
I marvel at this particular moment in St. Louis and not because “our team” may be headed to the World Series. I’m prouder of the long-awaited mix of young, middle-aged and old, black and white and “other.” I stand in solidarity with the radicals, the religious and the regular folk defiantly bringing “people power” to the living rooms of the powerful. I am inspired by their willingness to say “no more” and risk it all in a region that’s in desperate need of holistic change.

It is with these thoughts and more that I gladly welcome this weekend’s unofficial theme of “baseball & blood.”

Friday, September 26, 2014

"We are the police. We can do any damn thing we want to you!"

I had nothing to fear. I was wearing a suit, had two jobs and a brand new car. Surely the officer would realize I wasn't one of “them.” 

Reflecting back on those thoughts that ran through my mind almost 30 years ago, I realize how futile they were. You see today, I recognize that racism is an illogical act, fueled by an irrational mindset. The idea that skin color makes anyone superior or inferior makes no sense whatsoever. But when confronting it for the first time, the response can be surreal. At least it was for me.
The year was 1988. I was employed at Laclede Gas Company and had just started my new business, Take Five Magazine, a monthly news publication. I was 31, had two jobs and my wife (at the time) and I both had brand new cars. Mine was a tricked-out Mazda RX-7 convertible.
To be honest, I thought I was hot stuff.  Why wouldn't I? Since I was a boy, people-especially white people-told me “I was different” or I wasn't like “them.” I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. Six days out of the week were dedicated to studying the Bible, learning how to proselytize or going from house-to-house trying to recruit "unbelievers." I was a enthusiastic reader who could hold decent conversations with adults. Therefore, I was constantly told "you’re different.”

Anyway, on this particular night in 1988, I was supposed to meet a potential advertiser in North County. I lived in Jennings at the time and the client’s business, on West Florissant Ave, somewhere between Ferguson and Dellwood, wasn't far from home. I changed from my work clothes, put on a suit, climbed into my car and headed for my appointment.

When I arrived at my destination, I noticed that the lights in the tiny strip mall were out, except for those at a convenience store. There was a payphone in front of the establishment so I got out and proceeded to call the client. 
As I was on the phone, a police car pulled up next to mine. I watched as the young officer got out of his car, looked at my car then proceeded to shine his flashlight into my windows. I cupped my hand over the speaker part of the phone and very politely said; “that’s my car officer.” 
He ignored me, opened my car door and leaned in. I hung up the phone and walked toward him. Almost instantly three more police cars pulled up.
“Is this your car?” the first officer asked. 
“Yes sir,” I responded confidently. After all, I had nothing to fear. I was wearing a suit, had two jobs and a brand new car. Surely the officer would realize I wasn't one of “them.” 
He didn't.
“Where’d you get it?” he asked. I was dumbfounded by the question. In my mind, I thought, “I bought it, I have two jobs, what the hell do you think.” He pulled the camera off my seat and dangled in front of me: “Where’d you get this?” he demanded.
“I bought it,” I replied weakly.
By this time about three or four more policemen were surrounding my car, opening doors and rummaging through my belonging. I grew angry and shouted: “Hey, I told you; that’s my car. What’s the probl…”
Why the hell did I do that?
The officer snatched me by my suit lapels and slammed me against the convenience store window. To my horror, the lights in the store suddenly snapped off. The officer’s breath was hot in my face: 
“We are the police. We can do any damn thing we want to you!” he hissed.
They continued rifling through my car, throwing the contents on the pavement. The cop who threw me against the window went back to his car with my driver’s license in hand. When they were done; he walked back to me and flicked the license in my direction with two fingers:
“We’re looking for someone who fits your description,” he said. “Have a nice night.” They all climbed back into their patrol cars and left.
I remember standing there on that dark parking lot, panting, tears brimming in my eyes and overwhelmed with feelings of fear, betrayal, humiliation and helplessness. I realized that my suit, my two jobs, my new car and my professional demeanor meant nothing. My skin color made me “just like them.”
That incident really wasn’t my first encounter with racism. Ten years earlier, as one of the last “affirmative action” hires at Laclede Gas, we young black men had to deal with angry white bosses, most from the Missouri boonies, who did their dead-level best to let us know we weren't welcomed. 
But that’s gist for another commentary. The point is; I wasn't prepared for the illogical mindset. I was raised in a religion where white people were friends to my family, mentors and confidantes. Throughout my young life, it was mostly whites who told me I “was different.” Then, as well as now, many benevolent whites walk me to opportunities. Yet, as a child, I was too young and naïve to recognize the insult in those compliments and too needy of validation to realize I was being conditioned to think I was different or better than those who share my hue.
All these years later, the officer’s words still echo in my head. 

 I am Darren Wilson bands

Sadly, it’s a missive that's just as relevant today as it was some 26 years ago. It’s disheartening to realize that my 28 year-old-son, my daughters and my grandchildren have to deal with the deadly, illogical mindset that my parents and grandparents endured.
In class, I remember how our Sweet Potato Project youth reacted to the news of George Zimmerman’s exoneration for the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the slaying of Michael Brown this summer. Their comments reflected the sense of pain, betrayal and humiliation I felt on that dark, lonely parking lot in 1988.

What’s even sadder is that black kids today are in no way as naïve as I was at their age. Through news media, movies, music and interactions with white strangers they've already accepted the fact that they are “them”-the ones to be feared, detained, scrutinized and justifiably brutalized. 
Believe it or not, black kids do believe in "the system." They know if they or their peers screw up, they will go to jail. It's an insult to what we've taught them that the killer of an unarmed teen, Officer Darren Wilson, has yet to be detained or charged with a crime. It's painful for youth to hear people justify the killing of a kid eating a bag of Skittles or a teenager who might have stolen a pack of Cigarillos.  
It hasn't escaped me that Michael Brown was killed in the same area where I was detained and humiliated years ago. Recently, I read about Ferguson police officers who are wearing "I am Darren Wilson" wristbands. Do they have any idea what message they are sending to youth and people of color? It's illogical. It's a sick and sad irrational mindset. 
In reality, it's the same message I received almost 30 years:  
“We are the police and we can do any damn thing we want to you!”