On August 9th one year ago, Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, was fatally shot by police officer, Darren Wilson, and I, along with the rest of the nation, was suddenly surrounded with the word Ferguson. From August 9th onward, Ferguson was no longer a city in Missouri, but rather the alarm that awoke what many thought was dormant in this country: racism and its repercussions. Ferguson, for me personally, became the embodiment of lessons that I, and I’m sure many other black youth, learned from my parents and my parents’ parents. These lessons came from stories of racism and how it can attack at any moment, whether it is in the form of being pulled over for unknown reasons, or being avoided when walking down the street. Stories like these, prior to Ferguson, were just that, stories, memories from a generation that I believed would be the last to suffocate under racism’s stench. Just as Ferguson had awoke many to the cruelties of racism, it revived and personified the stories of racism from my childhood. In this way, #FergusonTaughtMe what I already knew, but was too naive to fully believe.
It is a common bad habit in this country to think that we are a post-racism society, and despite personal family accounts of the contrary, I suppose I was beginning to adopt this belief. It’s funny, I’ve learned about undeniable displays of racism in this country; I’ve read about the African slave’s hardships and Langston Hughes’ struggles, and I’ve seen pictures of MLK’s marches and of the KKK’s white hoods. Why is it, that it took the fatal shooting of Michael Brown to fully convince me that racism is still alive? Thinking over this question, I’ve concluded that until you see your own undeniable display of racism, it is incredibly easy to believe that your generation has evaded racism. Ferguson for me, and for many others I’m sure, popped the bubble of safety that I believed shielded my generation from the racism of my parents’ time. Ferguson reminded me that we are not immune to this disease that has persisted for so long in this country, and we as a generation should not stand idle against it. I truly hope that those who were not aware of the continued presence of racism before Ferguson have been informed that it remains, and therefore we must continue the fight to eradicate it. Ferguson has not only taught me, but it has equipped me with the necessary information to do my part in the war against racism. #FergusonTaughtMe that racism is not dead, and that information alone is what validates the lessons of generations before me, and what guides me in my personal fight against racism today.
The Sparks of my Broken Heart
A year ago yesterday – on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot, and murdered by policeman Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The horrific tragedy was met by powerful protests – and subsequently, it started a movement. My prayers are with Michael Brown’s family today – and everyday.
Prior to that day, I did not know much about the police brutality, the justice system, or the institutionalized racism that exist in this country. I had grown up in Princeton, New Jersey as a progressive Muslim-American teen advocating for justice, but I was never adequately educated about or aware of the systemic oppression that Black Americans face. In retrospect, Ferguson taught me more than I can ever articulate, and has shaped me into the activist I define myself as now.
I started redefy the summer before my 9th grade year, but it wasn’t until the movement began that I started to truly identity as an activist. The protests that erupted in the wake of Darren Wilson’s lack of indictment sparked something within me. I began to use twitter as a news source, to regard activists as role models, and to educate myself beyond what the mainstream media was feeding me. I didn’t really understand the scope of how whitewashed, unfair, and biased our media is until last summer. I had no idea about the ways in which African-Americans suffer in this country. The death of Michael Brown hurt my heart, and the lack of indictment broke it.
Late August, I became the first teen member of the board of Not in Our Town – a local racial justice nonprofit doing amazing work. Since then, I have built upon my work, and made it redefy’s mission in 2015 to reduce racial prejudice and hate. I will spend the rest of my life working towards racial justice. The horrifying reality is one that no one should ignore. No mother, no child, and no person should have to fear for their lives because of the pigment of their skin. Black Lives Matter, and I refuse to stop saying it – in fact, I intend to scream it.
– Written by Ziad Ahmed (redefy founder)
Some of my #FergusonTaughtMe tweets (https://twitter.com/ziadtheactivist):
As a 16 y/old boy living in #Princeton I have not always been aware, but #FergusonTaughtMe it is my DUTY to stand against #PoliceBrutality.
#FergusonTaughtMe that racism unchecked is racism condoned. It is my duty to call out racism when it manifests in its many ugly forms.
#FergusonTaughtMe that as a teen I must try and explain to my peers that social justice advocacy is so important bc #BlackLivesMatter.
#FergusonTaughtMe that it’s not enough for me to vocal – I must inspire #NOISE to provoke change. #MichaelBrown #BlackLivesMatter #CHANGE
Most profoundly #FergusonTaughtMe to recognize my #PRIVILEGE and the flaws in our #SOCIETY, and empowered me to demand a better reality.