We are currently living in a time where progressive protest movements are co-opting each for the greater good of them all. This past weekend the #FergusonOctober march took place in the St Louis County city where an unarmed Mike Brown was executed by police officer Darren Wilson back in August. This protest took on greater significance in light of another police killing of an African-American man. Vonderrit Myers was shot and killed this past week by police in the neighboring Missouri city of Shaw.
Local and national activists who work daily to combat police misconduct were on the ground in Ferguson and they were being joined by several other progressive groups who are also constantly fighting for the own individual causes. American Labor was strongly represented by members of The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). Also in Ferguson a strong contingent of Palestinian Americans arrived to show their support. Back in August when law enforcement from the Greater St. Louis area bombarded Ferguson protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets they were aided with twitter suggestions on how to cope from Palestinian citizens in Gaza who deal with such horrors on an hourly basis.
The beauty of #FergusonOctober and it’s joining of people who are experiencing the highest levels of oppression is that it demonstrates what can be accomplished when those people pull to together. That is why those same groups and in particular those of us men who reside within the African-American community should once again come together to combat another one of America’s epidemics, violence against women.
Two gut wrenching stories have yet to make national headlines for various reasons. Last week a 27-year-old African-American mother of three named Mary Spears was murdered in Detroit while she was at a gathering with family members at a local establishment. Spears was allegedly shot and killed by a man whose romantic advances she had rejected, a man who she had repeatedly told she was in a relationship. This past Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia 22-year old Michelle Kelly, her 19-year-old cousin Adreena D. Gary and her two-year-old son Keytrell Kelly were shot and killed by her ex boyfriend and the father of her child Traymont Burton. Gary had been trying to mediate a domestic dispute between Kelly and Burton, Burton killed all three before cowardly committing suicide by turning the gun on himself.
These two stories have been underreported by the national media partly because America still doesn’t care enough about what women face in terms of domestic and intimate partner violence. We got all worked up a couple of months ago because there was actual video evidence of Ray Rice knocking his wife into an unconscious stooper and we became enraged because there was audio evidence of Alabama Judge Mark Fuller’s wife making a frantic 911 call after she was abused by her husband, but as the days and weeks continue to pass those stories become more and more distant and without the shock to the system provided by the audio and the video in those stories other domestic violence cases aren’t treated with the same concern.
The other reason that these two horrible tragedies are rather obscure speaks to America’s overall dismissal of black women and their well being. While they both suffered unspeakable abuse and were ultimately murdered by their football playing significant others Kassandra Perkins isn’t the household name that Nicole Brown Simpson is. Federal statistics between 2001-2012 stated that 55 percent of American women were killed by their intimate partners, but another 2012 study by the Violence Policy Center stated that while white women were killed by an intimate partner at a rate of 1.00 per 100,000, black women were killed at a rate of 2.46 per 100,000.
These numbers should make us all want to do better, particular those of us as black men. It is black men who are taking to the streets in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Beaver Creek, Ohio to demand full and equal treatment under the law from the people who enforce the law and black women are right next to them because we are their brothers, their sons, their husbands, their fathers. For whatever reason we don’t show that solidarity in return to our sisters, our daughters, our wives, our mothers when it comes to violence against women. During the aftermath of the Ray Rice incident social media was ablaze with black men who rose up to defend the multiple time pro-bowler and not the woman he claims to love, the woman he could have easily killed. Black women who voiced their legitimate gripes with Rice, the league he works in and the law enforcement officials who let him skate were characterized by some black men as bitter, hateful, and hypocritical because they were under the ridiculous notion that Janay Palmer somehow deserved what she got and or because they felt Rice was getting a raw deal compared to American soccer player Hope Solo who is still playing for the country’s national team while being under investigation for her own case of domestic violence.
Not all, but some of us don’t realize that black women fight this war on two fronts. Renisha McBride’s life was ended because some loon with a gun assumed criminality over who she was, yet the likelihood of her being murdered by someone close to her, someone who claimed to care for her was just as strong if not stronger. Conventional wisdom states that the outrage felt over a potential shotgun blast from her husband wouldn’t have matched the level of outrage that was directed towards Theodore Wafer.
The events in Ferguson have proven that America is nowhere near the post racial existence that so many people want to imagine. They also prove that alliances across a broad range of spectrums are what is needed to protect lives that are equally as important no matter the threat to them. The name Mary Spears should be at the forefront of every black person’s mind in the same way the way that Mike Brown’s, Trayvon Martin should be synonymous with Michelle Kelly and Adreena Gray for all of eternity. If the black men that marched in Greater St. Louis don’t understand that then this past weekend and everything that they put into it is significantly diminished.